How to Lose Weight Faster on the Atkins Diet

Eating Lean Meats Can Help You Lose Weight Faster on Low Carb
Get the secrets to losing weight faster on Atkins.

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If you're not happy with how quickly you're losing weight on Atkins, you don't have to just grin and bear it. There are several ways in which you can take the pounds off faster. 

It just takes a few tweaks.

Are you searching for the secret to losing weight faster on your low-carb diet?

Yes, there's a way.

But first:

In general, the Atkins Diet doesn't cause you to lose weight any faster than a low-calorie diet does, unless you have a lot of body fat to get rid of and your caloric deficit is quite large.

People who fall into the obese category can lose a bucket-load of body fat during the first few weeks on any diet, but there is a biological reason for that. 

The body limits the amount of body fat it is willing to take out of storage because it doesn't know how long your dietary restriction is going to last, and fat mobilization rate depends on your physical needs. 

Instinct's role is to save your life, and it perceives dieting to be a famine situation. For that reason, the body begins adapting to the energy imbalance from the very first day you decide to restrict carbs.

If you have 100 pounds, or more, to lose, the body won't be as quick to slam on the breaks. Adaption will still take place, but at a slower downhill trend.

Child Snowboarding Down a Snowy Slope
Everyone adapts to energy restriction,
but for obese individuals, the downhill decent
into energy balance will be slower.

As a result, more fat will be mobilized because the body won't be as concerned with what you're doing until your fat stores become more depleted. This is why adaption is more of an issue when you only need to shed 20 or 30 pounds.

It's also why weight loss often slows and comes to a halt before you reach goal weight.

The bottom line?

People lose weight at various rates, even on low carb.

Sound disappointing? 

It doesn't have to be. 

Not if you're willing to do what it takes to speed things up.

While some people won't be willing to incorporate the following tips and tricks into their diet plan, you don't have to be one of them. You don't have to settle for losing only half a pound of body fat per week, or less. There is a better way to diet!

Pinterest Image: Woman Falling Fast

My Search for Truth Begins

In January 2007, after being on Atkins Induction for 4 weeks, I had only lost two pounds. 

Just 2 pounds. That's it! 

And the same thing happened again the following month. In fact, by the end of the first 6 months, I was only down 30 pounds.

I knew that 30 pounds was a lot of body fat to shed, but at least 8 of those 30 pounds were the initial glycogen and water you lose during the first week. That meant that out of the 100+ pounds of body fat I had to lose, I was less than 1/5 of the way there.

When I looked at how far I still had to go, I knew that losing an average of 2 to 3 pounds a month wasn't going to give me enough motivation to stick it out long-term. That's when I decided to go on a research mission to see why there was so much variability within the low-carb community. 

What made the difference? 

Was the speed at which you drop the weight only about individual metabolism, or was there secrets to shedding the fat that no one in the low-carb community wanted to talk about?

Here's what I found out:

Reflections on Atkins 72 and Atkins 92

My 2007 attempt at ditching the body fat wasn't the first time I'd ever tried going low carb. I already had several implanted notions about what a ketogenic diet was supposed to be.

These ideals and beliefs were the result of having effortlessly lost 40 pounds in 1975 on the original Atkins Diet

Back then, the task only took me six weeks to accomplish.

Since I was a newbie to the low-carb lifestyle, the body fat fell off so quickly that I was at goal weight before I had even become fat adapted.

I also had gathered a few ideas from my experiences with online Atkins boards at the end of 1999. In particular, several things Dr. Atkins had personally shared with some of the board members during that time.

I tried to overlay what I knew about Atkins 72 and Atkins 92 on top of what the Atkins Diet had evolved into by 2007, but I found the merger in my mind to be next to impossible. 

Originally, the Atkins Diet was not a high-fat diet. 

Dr. Atkins believed in eating a protein-to-fat ratio that mirrored what you'd find in nature, and there was no food – including high-carb foods like white potatoes – that were totally off limits. 

In 1992, he called that type of eating: real life. And even showed you how to work baked potatoes into your menu.

Baked Potato with Sour Cream and Chives was Called Real Life in 1992
In 1992, Dr. Atkins taught you how to include
a baked potato into your low-carb diet.

In fact, with sugar substitutes so unpalatable back then, some of the members of the Atkins group were using real table sugar in small amounts in their coffee and recipes. This practice did not affect their weight-loss efforts at all.

They did double the carb count for those cane sugar carbs to lessen the blood sugar impact, but today, the low-carb community would be horrified to hear that people were using any sugar at all, despite its non-interference in fat loss.  

In addition to real sugar, cornstarch or cream cheese was used for thickening because xanthan gum and guar gum were not available to the public yet. No one was criticized for eating breaded chicken strips when they went out to dinner, either.

It was a whole different low-carb world back then.

Going Back to Old School Atkins

For that reason, I decided to clear out the modern-day clutter in my mind, and return to the original Atkins book. If I wanted to lose weight as quickly as I did before, I'd have to DO what I did before.

This time, I didn't read with preconceived notions of what I thought a low-carb diet should be, or what the low-carb community in 2007 insisted a ketogenic diet was. This time, I simply looked at what Dr. Atkins said and what he showed the reader – with an open mind.

Kicking out that 2007 clutter and opening my eyes to what was really going on made the difference in my weight-loss success story.

Why the Atkins Diet Doesn't Require You to Count Calories

In the early '70s, Dr. Atkins claimed that counting calories on a low-carb diet served little purpose and would likely lead to feelings of deprivation, but why?

What lay at the heart of his idea?

Certainly, it was something more than just inputting what you ate into an online fitness calculator, such as Fitday or My Fitness Pal. It had to have more substance than just making sure that your daily macros didn't go over a certain number for the day.

Lots of people count calories without it making them feel deprived.

Watermelon Core Filled with Assorted Summer Fruits
Counting calories isn't what makes you feel bad.

After giving the idea some serious thought and watching how people were reacting to the Kimkins Diet at that time, I came to understand that our desire for acceptance and approval can cause us to do some pretty odd things.

For example, many people on the Kimkins Diet were so obsessed with weight loss that they got swept into the false idea that if a low-calorie low-carb diet generated faster weight loss than traditional Atkins, an extremely low-calorie diet would be even better.

That type of misconception can set you up for experiencing more than just feelings of deprivation, which can ultimately lead to diet failure. 

A 500-calorie diet isn't sustainable or healthy, except in short bursts like a protein-sparing modified fast – even if you're extremely short like me.

Although many people were taking things to that extreme back then, some even going as low as 300 calories a day, I decided not to join them. Instead, I took a closer look at Dr. Atkins' views on calories.

What was Dr. Atkins' Perspective on Calorie Counting?

To understand Dr. Atkins' perspective on calorie counting, you first have to look at his foundation purpose. The Atkins Diet didn't require you to count calories because its purpose was not fast weight loss.

Dr. Atkins' purpose was simply to show you that there is an effortless way to drop the pounds that doesn't require you to go hungry.

For that reason, the principles of how to lose weight quickly on a low-carb diet were somewhat buried within the context of his writings. He never spoke much about calories openly because losing weight quickly was never his focus.

However, in 1972, he did say this:

Of course, there's no question that a 1,000 calorie 10-gram carbohydrate diet will allow you to lose weight quicker than a 1,500 calorie 10-gram carbohydrate diet . . .”

The low-carb community, as a group, ignored that statement, as well as others, and focused on what was important to them at the time. 

The whole significance of what Dr. Atkins was saying here was completely lost to them because when most people read an Atkins Book, they read to discover things that support what they wanted to believe, rather than what is real.

In essence, they pulled out of the book the ideas they wanted to live with, and then ignored the ideas they didn't want to believe.

While there is nothing wrong with doing it that way, it didn't help those of us who wanted to lose faster than two to four pounds a month.

With Dr. Atkins admitting that a 1,000 calorie diet, which is lower than the 1,200 calorie minimum supported by the medical community by the way, would take the weight off faster, I kept digging into his writings to see what else he had to say about faster weight loss.

One of the most earth-shattering comments I found was this:

If you're in a hurry to lose, you're better off to restrict quantities . . .”

About the same time, I also ran into a quote online from Dr. Atkins' nurse who said that the Atkins Diet works best if you only eat the amount of food it takes to not be hungry, and no more.

Eat LESS? Really?

The general consensus among ketogenic dieters in 2007 was the complete opposite of that. 

Many of the Keto advocates were preaching that you had to eat 10 times your current body weight in calories, so you wouldn't go beneath your basic metabolic rate for the day.

I was constantly told that I needed to eat a lot of fat and calories to rev up my metabolism, even though eating that way caused me to gain weight.

What the Examples in the 1972 Atkins Book Actually Show

Dr. Atkins liked to use examples in his books to back up his various theories. 

One of the more popular ideas he presented to readers is the fact that you can eat more or less on a low-carb diet and still carve off the pounds.

However, if you look closely at the examples he used, an analyze them in terms of calories, a very different perspective begins to take shape.

For instance, one of the examples was used to demonstrate that you can lose weight easily without a lot of effort.

One of the women he talked about in the first Atkins book decided to give up sandwiches at lunch time in exchange for grilled meats and fish.

Salmon: Eat Lean Meats to Boost Fat Loss On Low Carb
Lean meats like salmon speed up weight loss.

The woman's choices, however, were low-fat low-carb choices.

She wasn't eating fatty meats like chicken wings and ribs for lunch. She wasn't eating greasy burgers or even T-Bone steaks for dinner. She was eating lean meat and seafood.

As a result, she lost weight quickly and easily.

Another man, which Dr. Atkins considered to be extremely resistant to weight loss, stayed at biologically zero carbs in order to lose 99 pounds that year. His food choices were very different from the woman who had lost weight easily:
  • He ate no breakfast, due to overeating the night before.
  • Lunch was scrambled eggs and bacon.
  • Dinner was 24 ounces of meat, all in one sitting.
  • Side dishes: salad or ½ cup vegetables and sugar-free gelatin.
  • He used sweetener and heavy cream in his coffee.
  • He ate hard cheese for snacks.
  • Sometimes, he ate again before going to bed.

Of special note was that none of his food choices were lean. His fat intake, and therefore his calorie count, was much higher per day than the woman in the first example.

Rib Roast and Other Fatty Meats Slow Weight Loss
Fatty meat slows down weight loss
because it makes your caloric deficit smaller.

He was happy with his rate of fat loss, and happy with the quantities of food he could eat and still lose 99 pounds by the end of the year.

To him, the slow weight loss didn't matter.

But when you analyze the details, coupled with the fact that men often lose body fat quicker than women do, a very different story emerges than the man being resistant to weight loss.

This guy was NOT resistant to weight loss. He was simply eating fatty foods, and therefore at a smaller caloric deficit, than the woman who ate lean meat and fish was.

Bottom line:

The rate at which you lose body fat is directly connected to the types of low-carb foods you eat, as well as the amount.

That was the lesson I walked away with from rereading that first Atkins book.

What I Did in 2007 To Speed Up My Low-Carb Weight Loss: The Secret

Traditional low-carb diets are popular due to the way they curb your hunger and make it easier to naturally eat at a calorie deficit, but many people bring their bad eating habits and mindlessness into their low-carb diet with them:
  • mindless snacking
  • going back for seconds
  • choosing mostly high-fat foods
  • adding tons of extra fat to your meals
are some of the habits that will affect the rate at which you drop the weight.

The trick is to find the sweet spot that will enable you to lose 2 to 3 pounds per week, depending on how much you currently weigh. Going too low in calories can be just as non-effective as eating too many.


On the Keto Diet, your protein intake is considered a target because if you don't eat enough protein foods, your body will burn muscle tissue to get the amino acids it needs. 

For this reason, I set my own bare minimum for protein at 72 grams of protein a day. I never went below that number, except for the 90 days that I tried Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis.

The Fitday online fitness tracker will tell you what your percentage ratios are, but I never paid attention to them. I wanted to supply the body with the absolute protein grams it needed to make tissue repairs and a little bit extra for gluconeogenesis, if needed.

I gave myself permission to eat more protein foods than that, if I was hungry, but I never went below that number.

Chicken Breast, Well Seasoned with Herbs, Saute in Non-Stick Pan
I ate 72 to 90 grams of protein, lean meats,
because that's what the woman in Atkins'
example ate on a regular basis.

Since the woman in Dr. Atkins example ate mostly lean meats and fish, I decided to do the same thing. This enabled me to stick to a low-calorie diet that was low in carbs, without being hungry.

The bulk of my protein choices consisted of:
  • protein shakes made with non-fat cottage cheese
  • chicken breast
  • turkey breast
  • fish fillets
  • tuna with low-fat sour cream and jalapeno
  • hard boiled eggs dipped in mustard
  • eggs scrambled in a non-stick pan
  • ground turkey
  • extra-lean ground beef (96 percent lean)
  • pork loin chops or roasts
  • lean beef like top sirloin
Most of the time, I stuck to:
  • protein shakes
  • hard-boiled eggs dipped in mustard
  • poultry
  • and fish
Using the alternative lean meat choices to add a bit of variety to my Atkins meals, but only when I needed to.

We lived in a small rural community, so occasionally, when we took a trip up north for supplies, I ate fattier cuts of meat. It was easier to get an Atkins-friendly meal in a restaurant that way. I'm sure those days were higher in calories, but I didn't track them.

What I saw was that the fattier the meat, the slower the body fat came off.


I decided to go with the Atkins 72 Diet recommendation of 20 total carbs for the day, but I didn't stick with only salad. For each meal, I ate either:
  • 2-cup salad with low-fat salad dressing
  • or 1 cup steamed vegetables with a pat of real butter
At one point, I tried watering down my homemade Thousand Island Dressing, but it was pretty bad that way, so I never did it again. Blue Cheese Dressing was easier to thin, but then it tasted like bottled dressings that way.

Eventually, I settled on either using a raspberry spray-on salad dressing with an additional teaspoon of oil tossed into the salad, or I'd make a homemade Caesar Dressing that was light on fat and heavy on the mustard.

Since it was more tasty to have vegetables with a little bit of butter, I ate vegetables more often than salad during my weight-loss phase: mostly cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots mixed together.

I did not climb the Atkins ladder at all. 

I ate no nuts, no fruit, and didn't start eating cheese sticks until much later on. Occasionally, I'd eat frozen mixed vegetables, peas, or peas and carrots -- if that's what we had in the house.

Since Dr. Atkins announced in 2003, in a media interview, that his diet was meant to be a meat-and-vegetable diet until pre-maintenance, that's how I designed my own low-carb diet plan.


Fat is where the controversy within the low-carb community really hit the fan. 

Those who were willing to lower their fat intake during that time, started losing weight much quicker than the other low-carb dieters. People who only altered their high-fat diet slightly, didn't get very good results.

In the beginning, I only used as much fat as I needed to make the low-carb diet work, but it quickly became obvious to me that since:
  • protein was a set minimum target
  • and carbohydrate intake was a maximum figure
For most of your calories, dietary fats are what you use to dial in those calories and make sure you're eating at an appropriate deficit.

Since I was weighing out all of my food and recording what I ate each day at Fitday, I was able to compare my stats with what I saw on the scale.

Through trial-and-error, I discovered that 60 grams of fat per day was the best dietary fat level for me.
  • If I went above that number, I wouldn't lose.
  • If I went too far below that number, I wouldn't lose.
  • If I ate right at 60 grams of fat per day, I lost weight quickly.
This held true, even if I went over on protein for the day.

How Eating Less Fat Resulted in Faster Low-Carb Weight Loss
I discovered the secret to fast weight loss:
Find the perfect fat gram level for you!

Cautions About Tweaking Your Low-Carb Diet

The fundamental purpose of a low-carb diet is to assist you in making healthier food choices. 

Feeling deprived can be a dangerous state of mind because you're more likely to run back to the high-carb free-for-all that created the need for you to diet in the first place.

Feeling deprived can be just as deadly to dieting as feeling hungry all the time, so Dr. Atkins felt it was best to not focus on the number of calories you eat. 

Many people come to the Atkins Diet after years of disordered eating, so learning which foods will allow you to trim down and stay that way is what Atkins is all about.

Unfortunately, most people stall part way to goal. Sometimes, this is due to the body reaching equilibrium, but often it's due to eating low-carb diet as mindlessly as you ate a high-carb diet before, especially if you're partial to eating lots of high-fat foods.

The low-carb path you choose to follow ultimately depends on what you can live with.

However, keep in mind that I'm a post menopausal woman, with celiac disease and Graves' disease, who is also only 5-feet tall, if that. 

What I had to do to get the fat coming off at a rate of two pounds per week, might not work for you. At 60 grams of fat per day, my calories were very low – only 900 to 950 a day, or so. I ate just enough to prevent hunger and not a single bite more.

The key isn't to do exactly what I did. My best macros won't necessarily be your best macros. The key to success is this:

Don't buy into the outrageous low-carb ideas that are floating all over the web. 

A lot of what's being presented as LCHF isn't. You don't have to eat gobs of fat if you don't want to. In fact, the weight will come off FASTER if you don't.

Most of what you hear isn't true, including a lot of what Dr. Atkins himself believed. 

What Dr. Atkins said over the years was simply what he understood in terms of the current scientific research available back then. The validity of the Glycemic Index, which has since been disproved, is a good example of that.

Insulin secretion does not parallel rises in blood glucose.

Since Dr. Atkins death, low-carb science has continued to evolve, and you have to be willing to evolve right along with it. Fighting for and defending low-carb theory and hypothesis won't help you get to goal weight. 

In many cases, continuing to believe in the fantasies can prevent you from ever reaching a healthy weight.

When it comes to switching from a high-carb lifestyle to one that is lower in carbs, it will take a lot of patience and common sense to make that transformation real for you.

I did not start fiddling with my diet for 6 months.

This is an important point because many want to start messing with the low-carb process before they are even fat adapted. Fat adaption, the ability to efficiently burn fatty acids for fuel, takes several weeks to complete. 

I gave my body an adequate amount of time to adapt to a low-carb lifestyle before I started tweaking; and I gave the Atkins Diet an adequate amount of time to work before I even started to think about doing something else. 

It was only after both of those failed to produce the results I wanted that I started to tweak my low-carb diet to do what I wanted it to do.

*For a more detailed account of what I went through to lose over 100 pounds, check out my original 9 part series on how to tweak a low-carb diet and the latest 12 part series on how I lost over 100 pounds.


  1. I suspect that in addition to finding what works best for us, our bodies can change over time. For example, I lost close to 180 lbs (post menopausal) eating low fat, low carb, mainly because I was having some gastro issues that caused me to limit fat. HOWEVER, after maintaining for 8 years, I gained close to 10 lbs via an Rx that upset my body. I spent months trying to lose as I did before with little result. I'd stayed very low carb all this time because I have a strong sensitivity to carbs, but I just wasn't losing, even cutting my calories very low.

    THEN I began to experience a craving for FAT. I went to zero carb and used fat very, very liberally. The weight just dropped off! I find that now in my life, this zero carb eating is very satisfying and helps me maintain my weight--yet it's totally different from my low carb eating for the past decade.

    1. I think our bodies do change over time. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Even though I'm not on a LC diet, I found your article inspired me to look at the amount of protein I've been eating. I've never used a scale to weigh my food. So I searched google for pictures of what the size of protein should be for so many grams, because it occurred to me that I might not be getting enough protein for my body type and size.

    Do you have any articles on protein grams and what that physically looks like for different types of proteins? I did a cursory search online, but I'm not sure which sites can be trusted. For instance one site listed 7 pieces of bacon for 25 grams. Is that correct?

    1. Bacon is difficult to pin down, due to the thickness of the slice and the amount of fat-to-lean ratio in each slice. I don't have an article that shows pictures. I'll do some research on that and create one. Thanks for the idea.


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