I’ve received a few questions lately asking me how I managed to make a low carb diet work so well for me. These questions are coming from individuals who have tried The Atkins Diet, as written, but have not found it to work as promised. With all of the various Atkins' diets to choose from – Atkins ‘72, Atkins ‘92, Atkins ’99, Atkins 2002, and the latest version called A New Atkins for a New You – which one did I use? Which version worked best for me?
Other questions have asked how to make a low carb diet work, period. What can people do when Atkins stops working or when it doesn’t work to begin with? How can you tweak a low carb diet to achieve success? So this first post is going to be an introduction to that topic, and then future posts will go more into detail of how I actually lost over 100 pounds following a low carb diet.
The Atkins Diet as written is an attempt to reach the greatest majority of individuals. It is a general guideline that works for most people, but it does not work for everyone. Why? Because we are not personal patients of Dr. Atkins. When Dr. Atkins was still alive, he did a few interviews that shed light on the overall process of low carb weight loss. In those interviews, he clearly stated that low carb products were for maintenance and special occasions only, not for the Ongoing Weight Loss portion of his diet. He also said that he had to place almost all of his patients on temporary thyroid medication to help them reach goal weight.
I saw similar problems in myself. If you have about 50 pounds or less to lose and you are new to a low carb diet, any version of The Atkins Diet will get you to goal. If you are not new to The Atkins Diet, or if you have more than 50 pounds to lose, you might have trouble. That is because the body adapts to the dieting situation we have created for ourselves.
The body quickly learns how many ketones it needs to feed the brain, heart, and other body systems and organs that use ketones for fuel. It remembers that number from dieting attempt to dieting attempt, which is why Induction tends to produce less and less weight loss each time we go on it. In addition, the body slows down metabolism, to protect our fat stores, so we burn fewer calories as the diet continues. If you have developed food sensitivities, allergies or autoimmune problems along the way, those health issues will keep the intestines inflamed and interfere with the way the body absorbs nutrients and converts food and excess body fat into energy.
Once the body learns and adapts, the metabolic advantages of a low carb diet disappear. There is still the advantage of burning a few extra calories that are involved in the breakdown of protein, but over the course of the day, that isn’t very many. What results is a diet that contains no greater metabolic advantage than a general low calorie diet provides. I saw this tendency right from the get-go when I only lost 2 pounds on Induction when I started low carb dieting, yet again, at the beginning of 2007.
That was my fourth attempt to reach goal weight, so I completely stalled out within the first couple of months – even though I still weighed over 250 pounds. Although I’d had good success with the old Weight Watchers’ exchange program several years prior, my heart belonged to low carb dieting. I knew that it worked, because it had worked well for me before. In the ‘70s, I had shed my excess 40 pounds within only a couple of months.
I also knew that the principles being preached within the low carb community in early 2007 were not the same principles that were taught in connection with low carb dieting at the end of 1999. At that time, Dr. Atkins was still alive, so occasionally the members of the Atkins newsgroup would post his personal answers to some of the questions the members had about his diet. That is my background. It differs from those who preach the concepts of high fat and high calories. At 250 pounds, even though I am only five-feet tall and disabled, I was being told by many members of various egroups and forums that I needed to consume over 2,500 calories per day to prevent starvation mode. In fact, whenever anyone had an issue with losing weight, the general consensus is always to eat more fat!
Now, The Atkins Diet was never intended to be the high-fat diet that many within the low carb community have turned it into. Dr. Atkins has repeatedly stated that in his books, plus you can easily see that by picking up any version of The Atkins Diet and looking at the recipes found in the book. For example, in the 2002 version of the diet, the recipe for cauliflower salad uses only a quarter of a cup of mayonnaise to a whole head of cauliflower. Plus, it divides that salad into six servings for 85 calories and eight grams of fat per serving.
Likewise, a typical Induction Diet menu given in that same book consists of an omelet made with lean ham, avocado and tomato for breakfast, a Caesar salad topped with grilled chicken breast strips for lunch, and a juicy steak, roasted asparagus, a small side salad with lemon vinaigrette dressing and diet gelatin made with Splenda for dinner. The snack for the day was a stalk of celery stuffed with some herb cream cheese. While this menu is certainly higher in fat than a typical low calorie diet, it was far less fat and calories than people in the low-carb community were telling me to eat.
A quick glance at some of the weight loss success stories discussed in Dr. Atkins’ books revealed very surprising tendencies. When placed side by side, those who ate fewer calories and less fat lost weight quickly; those who ate more calories and fat lost weight slower. While weight loss isn’t a race, I had reached a point in my weight loss journey where I wasn’t losing any weight at all and needed to know why. The difference in the pattern between the various individuals was clear: The daily calories consumed and the amount of dietary fat in the diet mattered more than the amount of carbohydrate.
So, at that point, I decided that I needed to do a thorough study of all of the Atkins’ books because I realized that what Dr. Atkins taught and what the low carb community in general was saying did not agree. Unfortunately, I do not have all of Dr. Atkins’ books anymore to refer too. A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law set off a couple of flea bombs in our house that contaminated all of my possessions. That included the books in my living room bookshelf. The only possessions I was able to save were the books I had placed in a small, fully-enclosed VCR cabinet in my bedroom, plus whatever was in my bedroom closet or the garage.
That means, I no longer have a copy of the 1992 or 1999 Atkins’ books. At this stage in my journey, however, I don’t feel the need to re-buy them. So I won’t be able to prove what was in them, except for perhaps the quotes I’ve used in previous posts. Since proving my position isn’t what the questions I’ve been receiving lately are about, I plan to just move forward with this series such as things are and be more forthcoming than I was in my previous posts.
Part 2: My First Attempt at Tweaking: Very Low Carb and Zero Carb Diets
Part 3: Atkins Versus Kimkins: Learning to Tweak My Low Carb Diet
Part 4: My First Experience with Low Fat Low Carb Dieting
Part 5: My First Protein Sparing Modified Fast
Part 6: What I Learned from Diet Breaks
Part 7: Lyle McDonalds Rapid Fast Loss Diet
Part 8: Weight Loss, Low Carb Diets and Sustainability
Part 9: Personalize Your Low Carb Diet with Atkins 72