Brand New to the Atkins Diet? 3 Essential Secrets for Success

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Are you brand new to the Atkins Diet? 


You've made a wonderful choice that can really change your life for the better.

However, getting through the first month or two on Keto can be a bit confusing or overwhelming. I know. I get a good amount of email from people who are just beginning a low-carb diet and are confused about the way Keto works.

Maybe, the diet isn't living up to your expectations.

Maybe, you haven't actually read Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution. You're just trying to implement the Atkins Diet from what you've read online.

Maybe, you've been recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes and you're looking for a fast way to get your blood glucose level under control, but were secretly hoping to shed some weight as well.

If so, then this post will clear up a lot of your confusion about going keto. You'll also get a peek at the three most important secrets I learned when losing over 100 pounds.

Don't Trust the Atkins Info on the Internet

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about the Induction diet on the internet. 

Everyone thinks they know what a low-carb diet is and what it can do for you. However, the Atkins Diet isn't just:
  • bacon and eggs
  • greasy cheeseburgers
  • and T-bone steaks
Fears vary from person to person, but can range from Atkins causing kidney problems and high cholesterol levels to Atkins being responsible for gallstones and heart attacks. None of that is true. 

Did you buy into any of these myths? 

Are you feeling a bit hesitant right about now? 

If so, you can put your mind at ease. Most of what you hear or read online is garbage because it's based on misconception or pure marketing hype. 

Journalists are more interested in getting high ratings, comments, and additional traffic than they are in sharing the truth.

Dr. Atkins' diet is:
  • healthy
  • perfectly safe
  • and extremely nutrient dense
But you do need to follow the Atkins Diet correctly. Atkins Induction isn't magic. Although beginners often experience quick weight loss, this is not true for everyone.
  • PCOS
  • insulin resistance
  • pre-diabetes
  • diabetes
  • metabolic syndrome
  • autoimmune diseases
  • food sensitivities
  • your ability to convert fat into energy
All of these conditions and factors play a large role in the outcome of Phase 1. So does the number of times that you have gone on a diet before. 

How Effective is Atkins Induction?

A low-carb diet is extremely effective for those who are brand new to the Atkins protocol. Even more so, for those who have been around the block a few times. If you are a second or third timer at the Atkins table, you still have a decent chance of shedding a large amount of weight during the first two weeks. 

There are sound biological reasons for this.

When you are new to a low-carb diet, the body has never made a generous amount of ketones for any length of time. It does not know how many to make or how many fatty acids it will take to support your daily activities and take care of essential body functions. 

The body has to gain the necessary experience in adapting to a low-carb way of life. For this reason, some beginners see a metabolic advantage to restricting carbs, but that advantage seriously weakens each time you go off the Atkins plan and then try to come back. 

If you are new to the low-carb lifestyle, carbohydrate restriction offers tremendous potential. Low carb is one of the best diets for weight loss. However, the price for not doing it correctly can be quite high.

If you are new to a low-carb diet plan, and especially the Atkins Diet, here is what you really need to know to be successful.

Being a Yo-Yo Dieter Comes with a Price

Most of the people who write to me have cycled on-and-off a low-carb diet for a long time. 

They are not beginners.

Red Yo-yo

Some of you have also abused Induction. 

If Atkins has stopped working for you, you're probably looking for ways to tweak the program. 

The body is super talented at adapting to whatever you're doing, and that goes for any diet, not just Atkins. Eventually, the body learns how many ketones it takes to support the brain. Once it knows that, it will only make the amount of ketones it needs to protect your life and:

No more.

When you reach that point in your weight loss journey, fat loss becomes a strict calories-in versus calories-burned phenomenon. 

Most low-carb dieters don't understand that.

Atkins Nutritional Approach Requires a Certain Mindset

Assorted meats, pickles, and green pepper slices
The Atkins Diet is for Life

The dietary changes you begin to make when you go on Atkins Induction really need to be for life. 

I wish I had understood that back in the '70s, but I didn't. 

Instead of taking the time to discover the amount of carbs it took to maintain my weight, I simply tried to live by intuition. My metabolism would be in better shape today if I had made different choices. The original Atkins book does offer suggestions on maintaining, but I ignored Dr. Atkins' advice.

Back in 1975, when I first discovered the original Atkins book at the library, I didn't have much weight to lose. I was only 40 pounds overweight, so it came off quick. 

It took 6 weeks max.

In January of 2007, it was much harder. 

When I re-started Atkins Induction that year, I had gone on and off of the Atkins Diet (or something similar) several times. I was about 150 pounds overweight then. 

With low carb, the body will usually give up 40 to 50 pounds easily before it begins to catch on to what you're doing. 

At that point, weight loss will slow down. It doesn't stop, although some people will plateau if the amount of food you're eating is all the body needs. Your body will adapt to whatever you are doing, so you either have to:
  1. accept that you are done
  2. or do something else
Many people have been able to shed 100 pounds or more. I don't deny that. I was one of them, but I had to move to a pretty strict diet that was low in both fat and calories to get there. Even then, most people still fall short of their weight-loss goal. 

Since I had rotated on-and-off of Atkins so many times over the years, for me, 2007 was too late to do a traditional Atkins Induction. 

The body gave me a fierce fight from day one. 

I only lost 2 pounds that first month and another 2 pounds for month two. 

The only way I could get the body fat to start coming off at a reasonable pace was to drastically lower my dietary fat to 60 grams a day, which resulted in a drastic reduction in calories. 

For me, there was no other way. I had pushed the body too far.

If you are brand new to the Atkins Diet, you have great potential for success. But you do have to stay mindful and firmly make up your mind that this is what you really want to do. That means making a firm commitment to turning Keto into a lifestyle.

To do that, make sure that you don't do what I did. Instead, embrace the following 3 secrets for success that I learned over the years doing low carb:

Secret #1: Add Carbs Back Just Like Dr. Atkins Said To

Carrots and Broccoli
Too many people try to live at 20 carbs for too long.
Your body will adapt to whatever you eat on a regular basis.
Don't fear carrots, peas, and higher carb veggies.

Do Atkins by the book.

The REAL book.

And by that, I mean:

add the carbs back into your eating plan in Phase 2 exactly like the book tells you to do. 

Don't stay on Atkins Induction indefinitely. Do the work. Find your own personal level of carb sensitivity, and then use dietary fat to dial in your calories, so you're eating at a caloric deficit.

Maintenance doesn't have to be just meat and veggies.

However, that's the type of diet you'll end up with if you don't find your personal critical carb number for losing and eat to that number for most your weight-loss journey.

Too many dieters make the mistake of wanting to get the weight off fast. Someone tells them that Atkins Induction is the quickest way to lose weight, so they stay at 20 grams of carbohydrates, or less, for their entire weight-loss phase. They believe that's the way Atkins is done. 

It's not.

If you have more than 40 or 50 pounds to lose, the body will eventually adapt to that 20 net-carb level you're eating at. When you try to add carbs back, later on, you won't be able to. Not without regaining weight.

There is a girl over at Low Carb Friends right now who is going through this very problem. 

She spent all of Atkins Phase 2 eating at 20 net carbs per day. She never returned carbohydrates to her diet. Now, she is gaining weight whenever she tries to add anything back in. 

And she is not an isolated case. 

Throughout the years, I've watched this happen over and over to many people. She is not an exception to the rule. She is the rule. 

If she wants to maintain her current weight, she will have to stick with 20-net carbs for the rest of her life because that's what her body has gotten used to using. Her body's ability to process and use carbohydrates has tanked.

The same thing happens to people who consistently go on-and-off of a diet. 

Any diet. 

The body looks at dieting like a famine. It handles weight loss as if you were in a famine situation. This happens with all diets, not just low-carb diets.

During a famine, the body is in protection mode. It does what it has to do to help you survive. It doesn't know that you are just on a diet. It believes that food sources are scarce. 

If you give up and return to your old style of eating, the body will believe that the famine is over. At that point, it will do everything in its power to put the weight back on.

You don't really start the Atkins Diet all over again when you come back after a lengthy, mindless, diet break. Adaption wise, you pick up exactly where you left off. Your body remembers. 

Each time you restart the Atkins Diet, the body appears to get more resistant to weight loss because it's more efficient at using ketones. It knows exactly how many ketones to make. The fewer the ketones the body makes, the less body fat gets pulled from your fat stores to make them. As a result, the fat comes off slower and slower each time you come back. 

In fact, some people have done this so many times that they don't even lose on Atkins Induction anymore. The body just expects you to quit again.

Secret #2: Your Weight-Loss Diet is Your Maintenance Diet

Maintenance Diet Plate - Meat Skewers, Zuchinni, Potatoes
Maintenance diets are similar to your weight loss diet.
While you might be able to eat a little more,
it won't really be that much.

How you eat while losing the weight is basically how you are going to eat for the rest of your life.

Protein, salad, and veggies will be the bulk of your diet. You can add other things in like berries or nuts, depending on your personal degree of carb sensitivity, your critical carb level for maintenance, but don't expect to ever be able to eat like other people do. That is never going to happen.

Think of carbohydrates as a treat. 

Save them for special occasions. 

If you have kept your carbohydrate level at just slightly less than what it takes to maintain your current weight, as Dr. Atkins advised, you will have a lot more wiggle room to play with at maintenance than someone who has eaten at the Induction level of carbs for several months or years.

Some people find they can have a baked potato when they go out to dinner. Others are able to handle 1/2-cup cooked oatmeal for breakfast or a sweet potato three times a week. Some can enjoy a couple slices of pizza on their birthday, and then they have to return to the basic diet they used to lose weight on.

Unless you are very young or extremely active, you'll have to severely limit the carbs you eat on a daily basis for the rest of your life. 

In addition, the amount of food you can eat and maintain your lower weight will be quite a bit less than what you could eat when you first went on the diet.

If you eat too much, you will gain weight -- even if you're only eating low-carb foods.

Secret #3: Set a Realistic Goal Weight - Don't Push Your Body

I am 5-feet tall. 

At one time, I wanted to get down to 125 pounds, and specifically, a size 7. 

I stalled out at about 165, which for me was a size 14. That was just shy of a 100 pound fat loss. 

Today, I wish I would have been happy with that level of success. 

I wasn't. 

I ran around trying all sorts of tweaks, punishing myself for not succeeding by pushing my body into losing more body fat in any way that I could.

For me, the results of that adventure were disastrous.

My body retaliated with a super-strong starvation response that I didn't expect. 

Today, the body fights any kind of weight loss. 

I have Grave's Disease, which I didn't know at the time. Grave's Disease is an autoimmune condition that causes the metabolism to race. While 90 percent of those who live with Grave's Disease get very skinny, 10 percent of us go into starvation mode. 

As a result, we don't lose weight. 

We gain weight instead.

In an effort to save itself, the body stores all incoming dietary fats and robs the muscles for the extra calories it needs. Eating at a calorie deficit only makes things worse.

In addition, I also pushed my body by going on the HCG Diet for 6 weeks. The HCG Diet is an extremely low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie diet.

During that time, I managed to get down to 145 pounds, but maintaining that weight loss was almost impossible. My maintenance level of calories dropped to below 1000 a day, so it wasn't sustainable -- for me. 

That was a shock. 

But it also brought a new realization I had never considered before:

If I could not sustain 145 pounds, how was I ever gong to sustain 125?

The truth was:

I wasn't.

After gaining back a few of the pounds I had lost, I panicked. I was never going to reach 125 pounds without starving it off and starving to maintain it. 

This was one the biggest insights I received by taking this weight-loss journey. Yes, I was able to shed over 100 pounds, but extreme hunger is one of the methods the body uses to replenish its fat cells once it believes the famine is over. 

That is why it is so easy to regain weight when you stop dieting.

The body's new purpose is to get you back to where you were before you started losing the weight. Your body's purpose is to refill its empty fat cells at any cost.

Bowl of Guacamole
Body's Purpose After Dieting:
Refill Its Fat Stores!
At that time, I still didn't get it, so I turned to Nutritional Ketosis for help. Or, what I thought was Nutritional Ketosis.

What I ended up using was Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis, one of the most popular low-carb diets at that time. I tried to literally save myself by switching to a:
  • low-protein
  • low-carb
  • very high-fat diet 
But I didn't get the results I was expecting.

Instead of losing body fat, I quickly gained back all of the pounds I lost on the HCG Diet -- plus TONS more.

In addition, since I was only eating 60 grams of protein per day, I also sacrificed a lot of muscle. I grew very weak.
  • I was starving all of the time. 
  • I craved real food. 
  • I also started experiencing negative reactions to all sugar substitutes. 
Granted, I didn't understand what a true Nutritional Ketosis diet was, as defined by Dr. Phinney, but the antagonism I experienced from the low-carb community due to the results I got was unbelievable. Most people didn't believe I had gained so much weight eating a very low-carb and high-fat diet.

Before I knew what had happened, I was back up to 180 pounds and the weight was still climbing. 

I didn't know that something I'd done had triggered Grave's Disease, as the doctor I was seeing at the time told me my thyroid was fine. The only way I got the body to calm down and stop freaking out was to totally go off all low-carb diets.

Before my nightmare totally ended and I learned that I have Grave's Disease, along with celiac disease and other stuff, I gained back almost all of my weight.

I finally stabilized at 20 pounds less than the weight I originally started at. After giving my body months to calm down, I had to practically start all over again.

So don't do what I did. 

Don't push your body to lose more body fat than it is comfortable giving up. You won't win.

My Best Piece of Advice for Newbies

So my best piece of advice?

Don't push your body to go further than it is willing to go. It will figure out a way to get even with you. It will figure out a way to put the weight back on. As Dr. Atkins has said:

"It will eventually backfire on you."

A low-carb diet isn't something to play around with. It uses the starvation pathway to accomplish what it does. While that isn't dangerous, the cold hard truth is this:

The body will only feel comfortable giving up a certain amount of its fat stores. Push it beyond its comfort level, and it will come out fighting.

In my own case:

The body saw the way I had implemented Nutritional Ketosis as a windfall of dietary fat calories and stored every single one! 

I lost tons of muscle and gained tons of fat on 60-grams of protein and 20 carbs per day. 

Although people have accused me of not following the diet correctly (because I didn't buy an blood ketone meter and spend tons of cash on those ketone testing strips), of being shallow, or having ulterior motives for going on that diet in the first place (due to our sister site: Life After Low Carb, which is focused on living rather than dieting), this is the honest truth.

Ketosis isn't magic. 

Its purpose is to lower your insulin and hunger levels and make it easier for you to eat at a calorie deficit. 

All low-carb diets do that, but there are also protection mechanisms and backup functions that will come forward if you don't respect your body. Energy output will change to accommodate what you're doing.

While some people are able to make it all the way to their target weight, many more do not. 

If you can't live with that reality, then you're better off choosing another way.

Additional Articles for Newbies:

Our Beginner's Guide to Low-Carb Diets
Will a Low-Carb Diet Ruin Your Metabolism?
What to Expect if You Cheat on Your Low-Carb Diet
The Truth About Ketone Testing Strips
6 Dieting Mistakes that Newbies Make