How can you get the weight-loss results you want?
That's what you really want to know.
You don't care about how you got into this mess, and you don't care about theory or hypothesis or even truth. You've been doing Atkins, Nutritional Ketosis, Keto, or your own LCHF thing and it's just not working out, so you want to know exactly what you're doing wrong.
Maybe, you've gone two weeks without seeing any movement on the scale. And, maybe, it's been two months. Or three. Or even four. You feel frustrated, anxious, and ready to quit because . . .
Your body isn't doing what you want it to do – right now!
You didn't get the results you were expecting, or promised, and you feel disappointed and hurt. You tried complaining about your situation, but it didn't do any good. The scales still didn't move. Maybe, you've read dozens of low-carb articles about stalls and weight-loss plateaus, but none of those tricks worked very well.
- You upped your water intake.
- You went back to Atkins Induction.
- Got your thyroid checked out.
- Are not on any contradicting medications.
- Dropped those tasty shakes and Atkins candy bars.
- Stopped eating low-carb tortillas and Dreamsfield pasta.
If this sounds like you, it's time to sit down and LISTEN.
You are not a victim. And, your body is not mistreating you. Stop reacting. As long as you are in reaction mode, and feel victimized, you are paralyzed to act in your own best interest. Your emotions are in control.
As long as you believe that self-improvement is the path to happiness and being thin is going to solve all of your problems, you're just going to keep running around in circles.
Following the leader isn't the way to get what you want.
What if Everything You've Been Told About Low-Carb Diets is a Lie?
When you start to do your own research and really look at the intent behind Dr. Atkins' words, his examples and sample menus, a totally different picture emerges than the one you might be currently holding in your mind. This is especially true if you've been listening to forum members, bloggers, and other so-called experts tell you what's true about low carbing and what is not.
If you have the guts to toss in a few personal diet experiments, where you put different low-carb and/or low-calorie theories to the test, your whole low-carb belief system can literally explode.
This is what happened to me.
I discovered that most of the things the low-carb community was saying about low-carb diets, low-calorie diets, and especially low-fat diets, was just a lie:
Lie #1: You do not have to eat high fat to get into ketosis, and you don't have to eat high fat to lose weight. Getting into ketosis is driven by the carbohydrate content of your diet. Not fat. Losing weight depends on your calorie deficit, nothing more. If you eat more fat and calories than your body can use, you'll gain weight even if your carbs are low.
Lie #2: You don't have to eat 10 to 12 times your body weight in calories to stay out of starvation mode. This is only an estimate of your basic metabolic rate. Many people cannot lose weight eating that many calories. Some of us have to take this down to 9 or even 8 to get results. In my own experience, starvation mode is connected to the amount of protein you eat. Eat too little protein, and your cortisol levels will soar, triggering your body's starvation response. Eat an adequate amount of protein, and you can go quite low in calories without the body freaking out.
Lie #3: Net carbs are an illusion. Some of those carbs turn into short-chain fatty acids in the colon and are then used for energy, the same as any other carb. Their breakdown isn't at the beginning of the digestion process, but it does occur, so the bottom line is: those calories still matter.
Lie #4: Protein is not automatically turned into glucose. Gluconeogenesis is demand driven and connected to your glucagon level in the body. Glucagon tells the liver to break down glycogen into glucose and dump it into the bloodstream. If you are severely insulin resistant, gluconeogenesis can get out of control, but it is not due to your protein intake. It's happens because insulin in unable to keep glucagon in check.
Lie #5: You don't have to be afraid of low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb diets. They are not the devil. They are extremely effective weight loss plans, and when compared to other diet programs, a PSMF Diet is the fastest way to drop the weight.
Lie #6: Insulin doesn't have to be low to burn fat. You can burn body fat even if your insulin level is high because when you're insulin resistant, the body thinks your higher insulin level is LOW. All dietary fat coming into the body is immediately stored in your fat cells, and then mobilized and used, as needed, throughout the day. This is called calorie partitioning. Fat is in constant flux with preference given to glucose and protein. Ketosis doesn't change that. Ketosis simply makes glucose less available.
Lie #7: Ketosis isn't magic. If you eat more calories than you need to sustain your metabolic processes and daily activities, stored fat won't get used and you'll end up gaining weight whether you're in ketosis or not.
My Personal Diet Path
When I first started to update this series of articles, my original intention was to stick pretty close to what I wrote before, but toss in a few extra details and examples to show you exactly what I did to lose over 100 pounds.
As the series progressed and I began to take a second look at my dieting history, I realized that I would actually be doing you a disservice if I continued to drag you through the entire weight-loss path that I traveled:
- Atkins 72
- Atkins 92
- Atkins 2002 (ANA standards)
- Atkins 2002 (by the book)
- Protein Power Lifeplan
- Atkins 72 (by today's standards)
- K/E Experiment
- Kimkins (original Low Carb Friends version)
- My own tweaked version
- Weight-Loss Shakes (Dr. Eades)
- Rapid Fat Loss Diet (Lyle McDonald)
- Dr. Simeons Protocol (HCG Diet)
- Nutritional Ketosis (Jimmy Moore's version)
I'd go with my own tweaked version of the Atkins Diet for the entire weight-loss journey. Most of the diets I tried afterward, such as just weight-loss shakes or Lyle McDonald's Rapid Fat Loss Plan, were just alternative methods of doing a lower fat Atkins. They were not really different. They were just diets that were more acceptable to the low-carb community since they were not based on Kimkins.
Out of all of the individual PSMF Diets I tried, the HCG Diet was the most vicious, and since it sent me whirling into starvation mode, moving into a super high-fat low-carb diet, like Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis, only helped the body pack on the pounds.
What is a Protein Sparing Modified Fast?
A protein sparing modified fast (PSMF) eliminates everything from your diet that is not essential for survival, so many of the plans above fit into that protocol, including the one I designed myself.
Even the original Kimkins was simply a PSMF Diet.
I realized that after I did a thorough investigation of protein-sparing programs. Kimkins was not a glucose-burning low-calorie diet in disguise. In fact, many of Lyle McDonald's followers believed she lifted her diet directly from him.
A PSMF is a foreign concept to most low-carb dieters, especially in today's high-fat climate.
It goes out of its way to make sure you're eating an appropriate amount of protein to avoid muscle loss, but is NOT high in fat. It's very low in fat. Unlike Intermittent Fasting or Water Fasting, a PSMF also doesn't ask you to skip meals. Many eat several small meals throughout the day, while others take a more Intermittent Fasting approach, depending on how much food you get.
For those who have to spread only a few calories throughout the day, one or two meals makes that easier.
In essence, a PSMF Diet asks you to cut your daily menu down to just essentials. And that's why it's the fastest weight-loss method out there. Very few extras are allowed.
However, when it comes to tweaking the Atkins Diet to something that works best for you, the choice isn't between a high-fat low-carb diet and a low-fat PSMF. These are just the two extremes on the same low-carb continuum. To be successful, you have to find out where the best place on that continuum is for you.
How I Tweaked the Atkins Diet – The Specifics
If you went back to Atkins Induction and started recording what you're eating every day, you'll have a baseline from which to tweak from. For example, when I first started playing around with my macros, I was eating:
- 120 grams of protein (480 calories)
- 35 net carbs (140 to 210 calories)
- 120 grams of fat (1080 calories)
I weighed 240 pounds, and at 5-feet tall and post-menopause, plus a yo-yo dieter, I was losing a maximum of ½ pound a week, usually less.
If you're a yo-yo dieter, your metabolic rate is probably 10 to 15 percent less than average. This is because the body has already put permanent adaptive measures into place. As you get older, your metabolic rate will also drop. And if you have thyroid issues, that also needs to be taken into consideration.
Ten times your current weight in calories is not a bad place from which to start. Watching what your weight does at that calorie level will show you if you need to raise or lower them. If you don't know what your BMR actually is, and you are just now starting to track your food intake, use the 10 and then adjust up or down from there.
As you can see from the above stats, if I ate 2400 calories a day, I would have been eating 300 calories over maintenance and storing about half a pound of fat per week.
The original Kimkins Diet recommended:
- 72 grams of protein, minimum (more okay)
- 20 total carbs, not net
- Just enough fat to make the diet work
As the diet continued to evolve, Kimmer began recommending 30 grams of fat per day because many dieters stopped losing weight as they began to fall back into their higher fat habits. With a recommendation of eating just enough fat to make the diet work, you have to stay attentive and aware of what you're eating or your calorie content for the day can easily get away from you.
This 30 grams of fat wasn't just pulled out of the air. Most PSMF Diet programs are much lower in fat than 30 grams a day, but in 2007, 30 grams of fat was the average recommendation for a low-fat diet.
At the time, I gave Kimkins a try, I was doing Atkins 72 by current low-carb community standards. I never realized that I wasn't doing Atkins 72 exactly how I did Atkins 72 in 1975 until much, much later. So with all of the above information, I set to work creating my own lower-fat Atkins diet.
The first thing I did was lower my protein intake. Since I was already on Atkins 72, my carbs were fine.
- 72 to 90 grams of protein (288 to 360 calories)
- 20 total carbs (80 calories)
What I learned:
If I ate more than 60 grams of fat per day, my weight loss slowed way down to a crawl. It was not discernible at all, which means I was back where I started from. As little as 65 grams a day slowed down weight loss.
If I ate less than 60 grams of fat per day, like Kimmer's 30 grams of fat per day, my weight loss stopped cold, even on a higher protein level to make up for the missing calories. My body wanted and could use 60 grams of dietary fat – exactly!
The one test I did not do, and now wish I had, was raising up those 20 total carbs to something more in line with higher levels of Atkins. I would love to know how 35 total carbs would have affected the rate of fat loss.
So, my best macros ended up being:
- 72 to 90 grams of lean protein sources only (288 to 360 calories)
- 20 total carbs (80 calories)
- 60 grams of fat (540 calories)
At this level, I was able to lose 2 pounds of body fat per week consistently. Sometimes, I'd only lose 1 pound, especially if we went up north and grabbed a burger or ate at an all you can eat joint. And sometimes, I'd lose as much as 3 pounds, if we stayed home all seven days, and I kept to these macros exactly.
This was my personal Sweet Spot for fat burning.
But I didn't always follow it. Sometimes, it just wasn't practical to live on only chicken breast and a 2-cup salad with non-fat salad dressing.
The key to making something like this work?
For the first month, I ate strictly by the plan and dropped a whopping 24 pounds in 4 weeks. I realize the math doesn't hold up to this one, but my guess is that I was holding onto water that the body suddenly whooshed. The second month, I gave myself permission to have what I called Atkins Days.
On Atkins Days, I just ate low-carb foods and didn't count my macros. If we went to a friends house for dinner or out to eat, I just ate or ordered Atkins-safe foods and didn't worry about how much fat I was eating.
I could really see the weight loss slow down when I started incorporating Atkins Days. On the average, I lost 8 to 10 pounds a month eating like this because I still had to live my life. Although, it would have been super nice to drop 3 pounds every single week, that really wasn't practical or sustainable.
What I learned was that the amount of fat you eat on Atkins really matters, but you can go too low as well as too high. What I didn't know at the time was that I had both celiac disease and Graves disease, so I wasn't digesting fats appropriately and was in some degree of starvation.
After a couple of months of eating salad with Wishbone spray dressing, I gave that up and started eating steamed vegetables with a pat of real butter instead. It was actually lower in carbs and calories than what I'd been doing, so I was able to eat quite a few vegetables, even at the 20 total carb level.
What Did I Eat?
Lots and lots of chicken and turkey breast.
This is the ugly truth about PSMF Diets:
A protein sparing modified fast is extremely repetitive. You eat lean meats only, so I ate baked chicken breast up to three times a day. In the beginning, I would bake a huge, 1-pound breast for breakfast, and nibble on it throughout the day, using what was left over for soup or a veggie stir-fry for dinner.
Once I had adapted to eating lower fat, I also had:
- ground turkey burgers or meatballs
- hard-boiled eggs dipped in fake honey-mustard sauce
- chicken-vegetable soup
- scrambled eggs with ham
- protein shakes made with non-fat cottage cheese
- egg-drop soup with chicken and vegetables
- roasted pork loin
- very lean pork chops
- chicken and vegetable kabobs
- hamburgers made with 92 percent lean ground beef
- tuna with sour cream and jalapeno
- taco salad with salsa and low-fat sour cream
What flew out the window for me, and stayed gone, was the whole idea of what was suitable foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. As I grew more used to dieting, I ate leftovers for breakfast, and often meat and fried eggs for dinner. Pork chops and fried eggs was my favorite meal.
A Word of Caution
We are all individuals. There were physical reasons why my body behaved the way it did. The tweaked version of the Atkins Diet that I created above had a dramatic effect on me because whenever I followed it, I stopped eating gluten. When you have celiac disease, it inflames your digestive system, which messes with blood glucose levels as well as your ability to lose weight.
It took me a few times of going on and off the plan before I caught on to the gluten intolerance.
Once I found my perfect macros and stayed away from the gluten entirely, the weight flew off because I also had undiagnosed Graves disease. When you have one autoimmune disease for as long as I did, without being diagnosed, you're likely to have more.
As a result, my metabolism is actually higher than average for my height and age, but it was being masked by the celiac disease and a non-functioning gall bladder.
When the body started absorbing fat properly, my gall bladder wasn't functioning correctly, so a surgeon removed it. All of the bile inside the gall bladder had crystallized into a single stone, and the bile was backing up, poisoning the body.
While some people with a missing gall bladder are able to do a high-fat Atkins, I am definitely not one of them.
Between the missing gall bladder, celiac disease, and Graves disease (hyperthyroidism), I cannot eat the same amount of fat that others can, even today. In addition to that, the vertigo made me extremely sedentary, so my maintenance calories won't be the same as yours.
How many calories you can eat and still lose 1 to 2 pounds of body fat per week will be different for you, depending on your own carbohydrate and fat tolerances, so please, don't just copy what I did. Even if you're super short like me, take the time to find out your own best levels for protein, fat, and carbohydrate.
That is why I took the time to explain to you exactly how I found those numbers, so you can do the same thing for yourself. You want your tweaked Atkins Diet to be entirely your own. What I did won't be safe for everyone. It's just what I had to do to ditch the weight.
Part 10: Are You Getting Enough Protein to Avoid Starvation? (This article lays out exactly how much protein you need to avoid going into starvation mode, based on Dr. Phinney's recommendations in 2011. Includes a lengthy protein list of serving sizes and photos to help you make sure you're eating enough.)
More Helpful Articles:If you found us because you were curious about how I ditched over 100 pounds, stop by our low-carb beginner's guide for additional information. This article explains what you can and cannot eat on a basic low-carb diet.
If you need a bit more structure, we have a 7-day Atkins Induction menu and information on how to implement phase 2 of the diet correctly.
If you're struggling to make low carb work for you, we have help for you too. Carefully go through our enormous, in-depth guide that addresses every possible reason that you might not be losing weight. We also have some solid information from Dr. Atkins on what to do if you are really metabolically resistant to weight loss.
If you can't find what you need under the tabs at the site's top navigation, feel free to send me an email. My email address is on the contact page.