Is the One Golden Shot Theory True?

Can You Eat All the Bacon and Sausage You Want the Second Time You Do Atkins?
Is the One Golden Shot Theory True or False?

There's been a lot of talk over the years about the One Golden Shot theory, but so far, no one has been able to demonstrate the truthfulness of the claim -- scientifically.

The theory says this:

You get one golden shot at losing weight the low carb way. Just one. The weight will fall off the first time you go low carb, without a lot of effort, but if you go off the diet and return several years later, you won't experience the same type of results. Dieting will be harder, slower, and more painful.


On the surface, I can see this happening to a lot of people. It does look true. But appearances can be deceiving.

People who come back to low carb two and three and four times often complain in the forums about how slow weight loss is this second or third or fourth time around. They talk about doing exactly what they did before, but for some odd reason, this time, they aren't getting the same results.

What these people are using to defend their position is the rate of fat loss they experienced the first time compared to the rate of fat loss they are experiencing right now.

The difference in the rate is real. I'm definitely not questioning that. I experienced this variance in rates myself.

But -- is that difference in speed due to the One Golden Shot Theory being true?

Or is it due to something else?

Which Atkins Diet are You Following? And How are You Doing that Atkins Diet?

The most important questions to ask yourself are these:
  1. Are you doing the exact same version of the Atkins Diet you did last time?
  2. Are you eating the exact same low-carb foods at the exact same time of day and in the exact same quantities?
Perhaps, you are. I'm not going to say you aren't. Your calories today may, or may not, be comparable to what you ate last time.

But what I want you to do is to take a moment and consider the possibility that you are not doing exactly what you did before. You're doing something related to what you did the first time around, but not exactly what you did before.

This is what I discovered about myself.

When I came back to the low carb way of living in 2007, I didn't eat what I ate in 1975. I followed Atkins 2002 as it was defined by the Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. (ANA) marketing company (which they call Atkins 20 today) because the members of the group boards I belonged to supported the ANA's version of the 2002 diet.

In fact, on one board, you had to follow the ANA version, rather than Dr. Atkins advice, or you were told to go somewhere else.

So I didn't do it by the book in January of 2007. I just followed the crowd because I assumed the new rules would be as effective as the old ones.

The next two questions to ask yourself are these:
  1. Can you really remember what you ate for each meal that very first time?
  2. Can you remember how much you ate for each meal?
If not, then how do you KNOW you're doing it exactly like you did the last time?

I can remember everything I ate in 1975, as well as how much, so I'm not trying to be argumentative here or say that you can't. I just want you to be honest with yourself.

Can you remember? 

And is your memory dependable?

Pinterest Image: Cheeseburgers with Green Chili

What I Remember About the First Atkins Diet

I first went on Atkins in 1975 after finding the original diet book in the library. The first Atkins Diet was biologically zero carbs at the Induction level, and it told you exactly what to eat at each level thereafter, and how much.

This made it easier to remember what I did back then, even with all of the time that has passed.

It was a completely different diet from the 2002 version, which required you to eat about 20 net carbs on Induction, most of which had to come from vegetables.

In 1972, and even in 1999 when some individuals within the low-carb community were in direct contact with Dr. Atkins, Dr. Atkins didn't believe in a high-vegetable diet.

Many of his patients had intestinal issues, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, along with blood glucose irregularities, so the original Atkins diet was skimpy on vegetables. It was created that way on purpose.

It was created to help the intestinal tract heal, as well as correct hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Today, we would call Atkins 72 a very low-carb diet, due to the 2 cups of salad you were allowed to eat per day. Authentic zero-carb diets don't give you the option of eating salad. They contain only meat, since everything else has some amount of carbohydrate in it.

The closest relative to a zero-carb diet are diets that allow meat, eggs, heavy cream, and cheese. These very-low carb diets come with a maximum intake of five carbohydrates per day, or less. Plus, fats of course.

At biologically zero carbs, on Atkins 72, which resulted is a low-calorie diet by default, I was able to lose at a steady downward pace of about 5 pounds a week -- with no stalls. When I hit goal weight, I wasn't even fat adapted yet. It took only 6 weeks.

I was able to do this because:

As I returned carbs to my diet, in the way the original Atkins diet recommended you do, the amount of meat and fat I ate went DOWN.

I didn't just add food to what I was already eating, which is what I think most low carbers are doing when they try to return carbs to their diet, but can't. At least, the ones I'm familiar with at Low-Carb Friends. They are big on posting their meals over there, so it's easy to see what they're doing wrong.

As my carbs went up, level by level, my calories went down, because low-carb foods like cottage cheese and strawberries are lower in calories than fatty meats and cheese. I didn't continue to eat fatty meat and cheese in the same quantity that I ate them on Induction, so the weight loss never slowed down.

This was how I naturally did it because that was just how people ate back then.

There was no supersized society.

Meatballs, 1/2 Cup Spanish Rice, Salad, onions
An average meal was about two cups of food.
Carbs were used for calories, after meat and produce.

A normal serving of almost anything was 1/2 cup. You traditionally ate from the four food groups each day:
  • 2 servings of protein (about 8 ounces a day)
  • 4 servings of produce
  • 2 servings of dairy (which added more protein)
  • 4 servings of carbs (only more, if necessary)
A Burger King Whopper, when it hit the market, was actually a whopper! 

There wasn't as much addiction to junk food back then, and processed foods were not designed to trick you into eating more. Chips were for parties or a side dish to your burger during the summer.

Snacking was rare. You only ate between meals if you were legitimately hungry.

Life and eating patterns were different then.

So when I tried to do the 2002 version of the Atkins Diet according to the new ANA rules, (Atkins 20), and after societal eating patterns had evolved into the much larger portion sizes that you see today, I was only able to lose at a non-steady pace of 2 pounds per month.

Why Doesn't Atkins 20 Work as Well as Atkins 72?

Why didn't the updated 2002 plan (Atkins 20) work as well as the Atkins Diet did in 1975? Because in 2007, when I came back to the Atkins fold, I was eating too many calories and too much fat.

How can these two very different low-carb diets (Atkins 20 versus Atkins 72) with two very different carbohydrate, calorie, and fat levels be compared to each other in any meaningful way?

How can you expect to lose weight on Atkins 20 at the same rate as you could when you were eating less?

You can't.

4 Oranges Compared to 1 Apple
Comparing Atkins 20 or even Atkins 2002
to Atkins 72 is like comparing a single apple
to a pile of oranges. They're very different diets.

These two diets as different from each other as apples and oranges. Sure, bodies change. Your basic metabolic rate will slow down as you:
  • age
  • participate in yo-yo dieting
  • try to eat at a huge caloric deficit
And many other things. This is a normal part of the body's adaption to what you're doing, especially once you cross over the threshold of having lost over 10 percent of your body fat. Adaptions speed up when you lose a lot of fat.

These adaptions occur at the unconscious level, so there isn't much you can do about them.

Plus, I also think there's a bit of body memory going on that makes adaption to ketosis and fat burning quicker when you return. There's not as much energy dissipation. Not as much waste. The body knows how many ketones to make, so it doesn't have to guess like it did originally.

That's the cost of efficiency.

What Happened When I Did Atkins 72 Like Before?

Overall, the effectiveness of the low-carb lifestyle and the ability of your body to adapt to your low-carb diet, by burning fat more efficiently, doesn't change all that much. You either have the genetics to crank up the enzymes you need to handle large amounts of fatty acid oxidation, or you do not.

This is why Keto works better for some individuals than others, and why lowering carbs doesn't strip hunger from everyone.

I learned this about myself when I went on Atkins 72 Induction in 2007. I lost 5-1/2 pounds that week eating exactly what I ate, and when, in 1975. Same foods, same calories, same routine.

Unlike what I was experiencing on the newer and higher-fat version of Atkins, I suddenly began getting similar results to what I experienced in 1975. This meant that on the altered Atkins 2002 plan, my glycogen stores had not been used OR they had been refilled.

The following week, I went onto Kimmer's Experiment (K/E), rather than moving to Atkins 72 Level 2, and I lost an additional 4 pounds that second week eating at zero carb.

That gave me a total of 9-1/2 pounds lost for that two-week period. (On 2002, I lost 1 pound for the first two weeks.)

What I couldn't do with the ANA's version of Atkins 2002, drain my glycogen stores, I could do it by using Atkins 72 and K/E, which were similar to how I ate in 1975 when the weight simply fell off.

My Conclusion:

After what I experienced, I can't help but ask:

What kind of One Golden Shot Theory does this type of replicated weight loss fit into?

If the One Golden Shot Theory were actually true, then I wouldn't have been able to replicate the weight loss I had in 1975, whether I ate the same things, or not.

My conclusion? Weight loss is different because either:
  1. You are different; or
  2. You're not eating exactly what you did before.

Consequences of Yo-Yo Low-Carb Dieting

Woman Bouncing Around and Man Dressed as Fred Flintstone Dodging Her Kick
Bouncing around from diet to diet comes with
consequences - physical, emotional, and mental.

I think what happens is that the bouncing around that professional dieters do, going on-and-off of a diet, or going from one diet to another (what some refer to as serial dieting), increases insulin resistance, but it also causes the body to get better at defending its fat stores.

So far, science hasn't been able to prove that the Insulin Hypothesis is true. Maybe, because when your body can't see high levels of insulin in the blood, it reacts as if your insulin level is low. This would make it easier for you to lose weight doing low carb, instead of more difficult.

What science has proven is that when you use the famine pathway, over and over again, when you don't take your dieting attempts seriously and create an on-and-off pattern of dieting, the body learns what that pattern is and adjusts to what you're doing.

The next time you find yourself in a famine situation, the next time you try to diet, the body will respond to that famine appropriately by trying to save your life.

If it didn't do this, you'd never go into ketosis and you'd never switch from burning glucose to fatty acids. The body would simply burn muscle tissue for energy when carbohydrates are restricted, eventually causing you to die. This protective mechanism is a blessing. Not a curse.

During caloric deprivation, the body prepares for the incoming carbs and calories it believes will be coming in soon, due to your past behavior. But it honestly doesn't know if you're going to quit this time or not, so it starts to hold water -- just in case you do quit.

When fat is emptied out of a fat cell, the fat cell atrophies and shrinks. The body doesn't want to do that if you're just going to quit next month and start eating carbs again, so it keeps the fat cells plumped with water for the time being.

Non-essential systems like hair growth are completely shut down. Metabolism and digestion slow to conserve calories. The body hopes the current starvation is only a temporary situation. And for yo-yo low-carb dieters, it is.

The body knows that.

It is not that low carb only gives you one single chance to lose weight effortlessly. The roadblock is what your body does to protect you from death the next time you use the famine pathway to try and achieve your weight-loss goals.

Obviously, a low-carb diet isn't starvation, but the body doesn't know that.

Perhaps, this adaption to carb and calorie restriction just happens quicker for some folks than it does for others. Either way, what you don't want to do is push your body harder than it's willing to go. In my own experience, and from what I've seen in others, that can backfire on you.

Has Your Insulin Resistance or Food Intolerance Gotten Worse?

What type of damage did you do to yourself by leaving the low-carb lifestyle?

Most people who give up on low-carb diets and go back to eating carbs, for whatever reason, don't move to a healthy moderate-carb diet. What they do instead is return to their old ways of eating, or they will begin eating high carbs but combine it with their new pattern of eating high fat.

High carbs combined with high fat causes insulin resistance to get worse -- IF -- you have it.

If you don't have insulin resistance and eat high-carb, high-fat, that's a recipe for heart disease and a whole bunch of other troubles. You can't combine the two major dietary lifestyles (low-carb high-fat OR high-carb low-fat) without suffering the consequences.

In addition, food intolerance can also come roaring back with a vengeance. When you remove food from the diet that you are highly sensitive to, and then put it back, you'll have an over-reaction to it.

If you had blood glucose issues before going low carb, those will return as well, along with any other challenges you had due to high insulin levels. High blood pressure, inflammation, and high cholesterol levels will all return.

Consequences always follow when you don't take personal responsibility for your health, which includes how you eat. These consequences must be paid for in some way.

I'm not saying that low carb is the only way to eat. It's not. Many people do quite well eating a moderate-carb, moderate-fat diet. I happen to be one of them.

But you need to take the time to educate yourself on the different lifestyles available today, and implement the one that fits your weight-loss desires and health condition the best.

Eating unconsciously, haphazardly, at the mercy of the food industry or even the media is what's dangerous for your health. 

Going back to how you ate before low carb is insanity. You're repeating something you've already tried and expecting different results this time. Not happening. You'll simply get fat -- again.

Sometimes, the extra damage you get by going back to the Standard American Diet, as it's practiced today, and then coming back to low carb, means you'll have to avoid certain low-carb foods that you were able to eat before. I've seen this consequence happen again, and again.

Some people have to avoid gluten or seriously cut back on complete food groups like fat, which you may or may not have been able to eat in abundance the last time you did low carb. I know folks who had to give up nuts, pork rinds, sugar alcohols, Atkins bars, and lots of other stuff to get the weight-loss results they wanted because their body couldn't tolerate those foods any longer.

Regardless of what your new version of normal is, there's little you can do to change reality. Getting angry and being resentful over how today is different won't change the situation.

It is what it is.

Is There Only One Golden Shot?

Black Cauldron Filled with Golden Coins - Graphic

In general, as Dr. Atkins used to say, if you aren't losing weight there is always a reason. You might not like that reason, but the reason is there.

Whether the reason is:
  • too many calories
  • a lower carbohydrate tolerance
  • a sluggish thyroid
  • food sensitivities
  • thyroid problems
  • increased insulin resistance
Throwing your hands up in the air and calling the game is a missed opportunity for evolving into a healthier and less stressful lifestyle.

Getting angry because you are not losing weight as quickly as you have in the past and trying to get even with your body by feeding it an overabundance of carbs (when you quit) isn't taking personal responsibility for your health.

It is abusing yourself.

So, the bottom line is this:

How much is being slim and trim worth to you?

You always do what is most important at any given moment. What you value most is your true motivation for everything that you do.

Everyone came to similar conclusions when we were growing up, due to the way our brains are wired genetically, so your fundamental purpose, your frame of reference for action, will be similar to everyone else's -- if you haven't seen what that motivation is and reevaluated the usefulness of adopting that purpose as the foundation for your adult life.

Regardless of what you try to tell your self and others, you do what you value. It's not about what you say or even why you think you're doing low carb. It's about a decision you made when you were young:
  1. Pleasure is always good; and
  2. Disturbance or pain is always bad
If you're like most people, you entered the dieting world because you believed that getting thin would bring you more approval, attention, and satisfaction than you were currently getting. You thought dieting would help you be different than you are.

You diet because not dieting disturbs you in some way.

You hate your body or people ridicule you for being fat or you think you have to lift your self up to some artificial standard that society or parents or a loved one has set for you. The fact that you don't measure up to that fantasy standard causes pain, and you want the pain or discomfort to go away.

However, chasing after the pot of gold at the end of someone else's rainbow won't work. That gold doesn't exist. What does exist is YOU. Your gold. Your consciousness.

Is there only one golden shot?

Only if you make it so.


  1. Interesting and insightful post. I know that due to about a billion years of dieting and the very strong metabolic resistance I have, I just HAVE to reduce my calories AND my carbs. That typically means, that I chose some lower-fat items, because by "nature" they have lower calories. It's a fine line and a bit hard to do, but it's doeable. Oh and I have to make the meals tasty enough for my family! LOL They don't like ICKY food! :o)

    I've been SOOO depressed the last week. I'm basically just maintaining my weight and at 224lbs that's WAY too big on my 5'4" frame.

    So thanks for the post, thanks for reminding me what I REALLY need to do, no matter how "hard" it is. If I want results I have to make MORE sacrifices.

  2. Excellant post! The bottom line is we do it to ourselves. Not every one can lose with out counting calories, I can't. We have to modify the diet to suit our own personalities.

  3. LC Band-It,
    I'm sorry to hear you've been depressed this past week. Experimenting and finding what works for us is hard. I'm 5ft 2in myself, so I know exactly what you mean. Sacrifice certainly is the name of the game, isn't it...

  4. We Do It To Ourselves, how true. I saw that yesterday when my sister-in-law came from an outpatient procedure, told to eat soup as soon as she got home, due to an empty stomach, and automatically on impulse asked for chicken noodle, rather than chicken egg-drop. Habits can be sooo hard to break.


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