Why the Original Atkins Diet Works Better for Weight Loss

Chicken Roasted Whole
Why I believe that Atkins 72 is the best
Atkins Diet for weight loss.

Are you struggling to make Atkins 20 work for you? Has weight loss slowed down to a crawl? Maybe, you've done Atkins before, but the current version just isn't working like you remembered.
If so, you are not alone. 

There seems to be an ever-growing number of low-carb dieters who find themselves metabolically resistant to the current Atkins Induction Diet. 

While that can certainly be frustrating, especially if you've had success with the Atkins Nutritional Approach before, there is always a reason why the diet doesn't work.

I have never had a case where the diet could not be made to work, Dr. Atkins wrote in 1972. “If the patient stops losing, there is always a specific something that is holding up progress. And invariably, it can be changed.”

That something can take ages to find and correct if you approach the problem by trying to figure out what that something is and then eliminate it. For that reason, it's often best to come at the problem from an opposite perspective.

Pinterest Image: Pork Steaks on the Grill

Can Eating Too Much Salad Prevent Ketosis?

One of the possibilities that Dr. Atkins discussed in his original diet book was the fact that eating too much salad can prevent you from going into ketosis.

In the original Atkins Diet, salad was the only carbohydrate allowed for the first week, and while it's rare for someone to not lose weight on an Atkins 72 Induction, the point Dr. Atkins was trying to make was that those who are metabolically challenged must be careful to not eat too many carbs or they might have difficulty going into ketosis.

In other words, the amount of carbohydrate you eat on Induction matters.

If you exceed the number of carbs for your tolerance level, your insulin level won't normalize, and you'll be hungry. 

Likewise, if you eat too many carbs on Induction, it can affect the body's ability to switch into predominantly burning fats for fuel. In fact, some of Dr. Atkins patients had to literally go to a zero-carb diet for a few days before their body would make the metabolic shift.

If you're having trouble making Atkins 20 work for you, the original Atkins Diet might be a better fit. And here's why:

Why Atkins 72 Induction is Set at Biologically Zero Carbs

Correcting stubborn metabolisms was one of Dr. Atkins' major goals, so he set the amount of carbohydrate you eat during the first week of the diet to a bare minimum. 

The minimum allows most people to get into the state of ketosis quickly, so hunger can return to normal, and you can begin to burn your stored body fat. Unfortunately, that isn't the way the current Atkins Diet is designed.

Instead of starting you off at biologically zero carbs and then introducing carbohydrate foods back into your diet super slowly, Atkins 20 makes it mandatory to start off at 20-net carbs. Since most of those carbs have to come from low-glycemic vegetables, the total carbohydrate load is much higher than 20.

For the metabolically resistant and those who break down fiber into fuel, net carbs – and even certain vegetables – can sometimes push the total glucose load so high that it interferes with getting into and maintaining the state of ketosis.

Granted, I'm talking about those who are severely insulin resistant and have an inappropriate response to vegetables. 

However, insulin resistance is becoming more common now. 

In 1971, less than 10 percent of Americans were overweight, but today that figure is closer to 70 percent, with 1/3 of all children in this country overweight or obese.

It wasn't until 1980, eight years after Dr. Atkins published his first low-carb weight-loss program, that things in this country went out of whack, so the average person who turned to a low-carb diet in the 70s was usually pre-diabetic or hypoglycemic.

Today, that tendency is different. 

People are literally addicted to food, thanks to the way the food industry formulates its products.

Weaknesses of the Current Atkins Diet

The older 2002 version of the Atkins Diet allowed 2 cups of salad and 1 cup of cooked vegetables per day. That is the version that I normally talk about on this blog because it still works nicely for a large group of dieters. 

However, it won't work for everyone, especially those who have been on the Atkins program several times before.

With the advent of Atkins 20, which includes the extra rules that Atkins Nutritionals added to the 2002 version of the diet in 2004, I've only seen a small group of people who have been able to do Atkins 20 successfully.

Most of the people who communicate with me through email are struggling to lose weight on Atkins 20. And even fewer have been able to succeed on NANY, A New Atkins for a New You.

When I first wrote this post, my guess was that the increasing problem was either the initial larger intake of vegetables or people were not doing the diet correctly. Those extra carbs on Induction are really the only change that's likely to have affected ketosis in the way that it has. 

However, the authors of A New Atkins for a New You have stated that it was actually written for the younger crowd of dieters.

The body becomes more resistant to weight loss each time you go on and off of a diet.

When you start your low-carb lifestyle at a carbohydrate level that's too high to correct your metabolic issues, you can erroneously think that the diet isn't working for you, but that's rarely the case.

For most people, beginning at biologically zero carbs and then returning foods to the diet one at a time, as Atkins 72 recommends, will work for almost everyone because it's personally paced to fit your own degree of insulin sensitivity and metabolic defects. 

For example, if you don't lose weight in any particular week, you either stay at the same carbohydrate level you're on for another week, or you simply drop back a level and see what happens.

There isn't any of the “you aren't in a stall until you've gone 6 to 8 weeks without losing either pounds or inches” found in the Atkins 72 philosophy.

While weight loss isn't linear, the body needs energy to survive. Fat loss is always going on, but hormonal imbalance can interfere with hunger and water retention can mask fat loss.

The aim of Atkins 72 is to correct any hormonal imbalance, so the body can begin to function normally again. 

The fastest way to do that is to eliminate almost all sources of carbohydrate for a limited amount of time, and then return carbohydrate to the body so slowly that the fire stays stoked.

Benefit of Tailoring Your Carbohydrate Level to Your Metabolism

Smashed avocado and scrambled egg on whole-wheat toast
Some people can eat whole wheat bread and still
lose weight on Atkins. What you can eat
depends on your individual carbohydrate tolerance
and how quickly you add those carbs back into your diet.

In 1999, I knew a couple that was doing Atkins 92. The major difference between Atkins 72 and Atkins 92 was the addition of 2/3 cup of cooked vegetables during Induction. 

That was the only major change.

This couple was eating 80 carbs a day, which included whole wheat bread, and still losing a pound or two of body fat per week because they added those carbs back extremely slowly.

It wasn't done using the method that Atkins 20 uses today. Instead, the couple used the recommendations that Dr. Atkins gave in 1972.

Those suggestions, coupled with a very low carbohydrate intake, allowed them to personalize and tailor their approach to match their metabolism. 

In the beginning, they could not go above 20 total carbs per day without gaining, so they stayed at that level of carbohydrate intake for a good 6 months. 

That's how long it took to correct their hormonal imbalances. I've been having the exact same problem lately.

Once their metabolism began working normally, they were able to add back 5 total carbs per day, for a total of 25, but the intervals between the additions, the speed at which they went from level to level, was still pretty slow

They paced themselves to only move up a level once a month or even two. 

In contrast, when I first went on the Atkins Diet in 1975, my metabolism wasn't as damaged as it is today. I didn't have Graves Disease back then, so I was able to move through the levels each and every week. 

In 2007, however, when I returned to the Atkins program for the third time, I didn't do well. I only lost a total of 4 pounds for the first two months that I was on Atkins Induction.

At that time, I was following the ANA recommendation of eating 20-net carbs, with at least 12 to 15 of those net carbs coming from vegetables. That didn't work for me, so after doing that for 8 weeks and only losing 4 pounds, some friends who were having similar issues questioned the ANA's stance on vegetables.

After hearing their explanation for the changes, I decided it was time to go it alone. I realized that if I continued listening to them, I wasn't going to get anywhere. I had to do what worked for me.

Atkins 72 Allows You to Create Your Own Weight-Loss Plan

Meat kabobs with no vegetables
Atkins 72 Takes You Back to the Basics

Some of you will be glad to hear I'm ready to stop using the Kimkins word. 

After re-reading the chapter in the 1972 Atkins book that talks about how to follow the diet – level by level – it struck me that the tweaking process Dr. Atkins talks about in that chapter is really what I did for myself.

The Kimkins Diet as posted at the Low Carb Friends forum in 2007 only provided some common sense advice, such as make sure you're eating:
  • 72 grams of protein every day, minimum
  • 20 total carbs instead of net
  • only enough dietary fats to make the diet work
The particulars within that basic framework, the macros that worked so well for me, were a result of my own personal experiments.

They were not dictated by Kimmer, or Dr. Atkins, or anyone else. They came about after discovering what worked for me, and what did not. 

For example, dropping down below 60 grams of fat per day caused my weight to stall. Going higher than 60 grams of fat did exactly the same thing. For me, 60 grams of fat was my personal sweet spot. For someone else, the number will be different.

The point of the Atkins 72 Diet, once you've passed through its very strict and severely limited Induction Phase, is that in order to make the Atkins Nutritional Approach a way of life, rather than a diet, it must include your favorite low-carb foods. 

If it doesn't, if you're eating what you think you're supposed to eat instead of what you want to eat and enjoy, it will always stay a diet for you.

It will never become a way of life. You'll always be dieting and never living.

Looking back now, I can see how the dieting mindset affected me, resulting in the limited amount of success I had then.

Yes, I managed to carve off over 100 pounds by the end of 2012, but that doesn't mean anything to me now because I couldn't be that person. 

I couldn't maintain that loss because what I was eating wasn't ME. My diet consisted of what other people told me I should eat.

Atkins 72 Maintenance

I always had the mindset that after I reached goal weight, I was going to start creating my maintenance diet. That's how Atkins 20 is set up. You start playing around with food when you're within 10 pounds of goal. 

Personally, that way of doing it was extremely dangerous, especially since I had to call it quits when I was still 35 pounds out. I was so focused on my weight-loss goal and so determined to reach that goal, I honestly didn't know what to do when I fell short.

Somehow, I missed the part in the Atkins 72 book where it talks about coasting into maintenance effortlessly because you've been creating your maintenance diet all along. 

Atkins 20 doesn't give you the luxury to do that. 

It tells you that if you haven't reached a particular rung of the carbohydrate ladder, due to your metabolic resistance, you have to wait until maintenance to experiment with foods on higher rungs.

Therefore, some of your favorite nutritional choices will be out of bounds during the weight-loss phase, even if they fit securely within your macros.

Maintenance becomes this shining light in the distance, something you can see, but can't taste or feel. It's separate from you. It's in the future, and as such, does not exist. It's imaginary.

It's an illusion.

Atkins 72 is right. The way to succeed isn't to wait until maintenance to start building the rest of your life. 

The way to succeed at your low-carb diet is to start rebuilding your life today by incorporating the low-carb foods and healthy techniques that you enjoy eating, right now.

In that way, those foods literally become a part of you, not only allowing you to smoothly move into maintenance while eating the same foods, but because raising your calories or carbohydrate level, a tiny bit, until you achieve energetic balance isn't something new.

It's just more of the same.


  1. Good post. I have a couple of questions to see if I understand this.

    First Issue:

    A relative who is getting older( past 70s) and she doesn't like carbs in the form of bread and sweets. She eats primarily chicken and seafood and veggies. Now what

    I find is interesting: her doctor says she is losing weight as she gets older. Her portion sizes are smaller than before. But by accident it sounds like she might be doing a LC diet without trying. According to the doctor, she now needs to gain weight because of age and frailty. So how would a person who wants to gain a few pounds change this low carb situation.

    Second Question:

    It sounds like what you're saying is that one can eat what they like for the veggies rather than waiting until maintenance. So it's the amount of carbs that is important depending on whether you're in induction or maintenance. What happens if someone stays in a maintenance phase( consciously or not) eating mostly protein, some fat and veggies of any amount minus refined carbs? Would they lose weight overtime or stabilize?

  2. Chicken, seafood, and veggies would definitely be a low-carb diet, if that's all she's eating. A person wanting to gain a few pounds or stop the weight loss would have to either up their calories and/or fat, or find some type of carby food they like. If your relative didn't start out overweight, then she doesn't have Insulin Resistance. Sounds like it could be a combo of eating low carb paired with smaller portions. In a Keto Diet situation, you up the fat calories at the end of the diet to maintain.

    The Atkins Carb Ladder includes fruit, starchy vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains. Many dieters who stall are eating grains in the form of low-carb tortillas and carb-blocked pasta, even though that's the very last rung on the ladder. I've even talked to people on Induction who are eating bananas and full-fat yogurt, wondering why the diet isn't working for them.

    Atkins 72 lets you eat whatever low-carb foods you want to, but you add them back into your diet one food at a time - like an elimination diet - so you can see how your body reacts to each individual food. Amount of carbs is only important to the extent that your tolerance to them determines your basic insulin level, the amount of insulin that trickles into the blood continuously. And you want that level to be normal, or nearly so. For those with Insulin Resistance, a lower carb amount is required to keep the insulin level normal.

    The average overweight person who eats mostly protein, some fat, and veggies would lose weight and then stabilize at the point where calories in equaled energy expended because the body normally won't let you get too thin. It will do things to lower your metabolism, shut down non-essential systems, and make you feel tired so you won't need so much energy. If you're lucky, you'll reach goal weight before that happens and can then up your calories, which calms down any starvation response you might have triggered along the way.

    If you're not so lucky, then you have to figure out what needs to be eliminated to keep the pounds coming off. At least, that's how the Keto folks do it.

    For me, I stabilized about 35 pounds above goal weight.

  3. If you're not losing weight on the original Atkins Induction phase then you are simply eating too many calories. There is a metabolic advantage to Atkins, of course, but too many calories in (regardless from which foods) vs. calories out will always result in weight gain or a stalling of weight loss. Also, Atkins IS NOT a high protein diet as is commonly thought. It is an adequate protein, high fat diet. You will do better on Atkins, always, with proteins that come along with some fat. If you try eating nothing but very lean meats and little fat and you will be super hungry and in the long-run tax your kidneys with way more protein that you need, and what's more, you'll stop losing if not gain weight. Do not eat two to three or more times your protein requirements AT YOUR GOAL WEIGHT for any extended period of time. DO NOT figure your protein requirements at your current, heavy weight. Virtually all of your nutritional needs are to be evaluated at your goal weight, anything else will result at one staying in their overweight state.

    1. Thanks for sharing all of that.

    2. This is my own view:


  4. Where can I purchase the original book? Is it the book that has him on the cover?

    1. Sorry, I didn't see this until now. They are available at used book stores online like Amazon or Abebooks. You have to be very careful when buying them online, though. Not all sellers understand that you are looking for the original diet book. Many tend to think the Atkins Diet is the Atkins Diet, and it doesn't matter when it was published. I personally emailed the seller and asked them to look at the book they were selling and tell me the publish date. Anything before 1992 will be the original diet book. The one I have right now was published in 1984, but it's falling apart, so after we move, I'm going to try and get my hands on hard cover editions of all the diets.


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