What to DO When Atkins Doesn't Work for You

Assorted Greens with a cherry tomato
Atkins Diet not working for you?
Try going back to Old School Atkins!

You won't find a better diet to carve off those pounds than Old School Atkins. It worked in 1972 and it still works today. If the newest Atkins diets haven't worked for you, it's time to get back to the basics.

Up to this point in the series, I've covered a lot of my weight-loss history that I didn't share in the prior series.

Rather than just start spilling the beans on how I lost over 100 pounds tweaking the Atkins Diet, I wanted you to see that where you've been and what you did to get to where you are today is vital to understand what's necessary to reach your target weight.

Chasing after diets and diet schemes, and nursing the diet-mindset, doesn't work long-term.

It backfires almost every single time because you won't feel what you expect to feel once you're thin. Plus, something will always arise in your way, either today or tomorrow, to convince you that you can't do low carb.

You can't eat healthy today because . . .

Sometimes, those events are out of your control. They're justified.

When bedridden, I was unable to cook for myself and even if I could, dieting was the last thing on my mind.

At other times, events gave me an excuse to stuff my face with carbs because I didn't understand what they were doing to me. I went rogue for long stretches of time in between attempts to turn low carb into an honest-to-goodness lifestyle.

What I've learned over the years is that all diet paths bring you to exactly the same place.

No matter what you've tried to do in the past, yesterday is now dead to you. It's gone. It's over and done with. Playing the What If Game only keeps you frustrated, feeling guilty, and your cortisol level high.

Yesterday does affect how your body is responding to your low-carb diet today, but only up to a point. Most of us are not doing exactly what we did the first or second time around.

I know I didn't.

So, for the rest of the series:

I'm going to share the various tricks and tweaks I used to get Atkins 2002 to work better for me, but I'm going to do that using today's perspective. The Vickie I was in 2007 won't do you any good because she believed in Atkins Magic.

As a result of my misconceptions, the path I actually took to lose over 100 pounds was super long and circular most of the time. I kept repeating things that didn't work before, believing that this time things would be different.

They weren't.

It took me several years to accomplish what I did, but it doesn't have to take you that long if you can wrap your head around the vital principles necessary for low carb to work well.

[This is part 8 of a multi-part series on how I lost over 100 pounds tweaking the Atkins Diet. If you didn't read part 1, you can do that by clicking on the above link. At part 1, you'll also find links to the other posts in the series, as they become available.]

Pinterest Image: Woman walking in the desert all alone

Struggling to Lose Weight? Go Back to Old-School Atkins!

In 2007, I considered Old-School Atkins to be the 2002 version of the diet, what's been canonized as the bible of low carb, so that's what I tried first.

I went back to Atkins 2002 Induction and followed the book, totally ignoring everything the low-carb community told me to do. This plan worked better than following the advice of others, but weight loss was still super slow for me.

I did have a good Induction.

By mid March I was down to 240 pounds, but then I stalled out again.

Hot Wings are a Favorite Atkins Induction staple
It takes 6 to 12 weeks to become fat adapted.
Don't think about tweaking Atkins until you
give yourself time to start burning fat efficiently.

Today, I consider Atkins 72 to be Old-School Atkins.

It's easier to pinpoint problematic foods using that plan, but the 1992 and 2002 versions work well enough for the average low-carb dieter, provided you do them exactly as laid out in the book you have, and not how the Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. (ANA) wants you to do it.

Since the idea behind Atkins Induction is to get you into ketosis quickly and easily, all three older plans (Atkins 72, Atkins 92, and Atkins 2002) work well enough to do that. A few younger folks have success using Atkins 20 or Atkins 40, but neither of these modern-day Atkins plans are Old School Atkins.

Problems with the plan, as written, might surface after you've completed Induction and after you've given yourself a decent amount of time to become fat adapted.

If it's been at least 8 to 12 weeks since you started your low-carb diet, and you are still not losing about a pound of body fat per week, or more, you might have to tweak the plan to encourage your body to release some of that stored fat.

I could get into ketosis using Atkins 2002. I still can. I just can't lose weight very fast eating that way. And by fast, I don't mean dropping 5 pounds on the scale every single week. I wasn't even losing half a pound a week of body fat back then.

A Word About A New Atkins for a New You

Large Heap of Cucumber, Tomato, and Red Cabbage Salad
A New Atkins for a New You Recommends
6 Cups of Vegetables on Atkins Induction

A New Atkins for a New You was not a thing in 2007.

Since some of you might be trying to do that plan today, you may want to know that many of the principles taught in that book were what the ANA was preaching at the time I was trying to lose the weight.

According to Dr. Phinney, one of the authors, A New Atkins for a New You was designed for young adults who were fairly active and only mildly insulin resistant, which is why the daily recommendation for salad and other vegetables on Induction was raised to 6 cups, instead of 3.

Young adults who are only mildly insulin resistant is the ANA's target market.

The 6 cups of vegetables recommended in the book come to about 20-net carbs, which works out to be approximately 35 total. This is what the average low-carb dieter can handle on a daily basis.

However, it is too much carbohydrate, too soon, for everyone to get into ketosis quickly and easily. This is one of the reasons why the authors of that book do NOT use 20-net carbs with their own weight-loss patients.

They use 20 total carbs instead.

If you're not losing weight on Atkins, are older and trying to follow that newer plan, you might have better results if you use the recommendations in one of the older books.

You don't have to go out and buy a new book, however.

Any of the Atkins plans can be easily tweaked, including A New Atkins for a New You, but if you aren't actually following one of those plans, you won't have a solid foundation to tweak from.

How to Start Tweaking the Atkins Diet

Begin your tweaking by getting back to basics.

Avoid low-carb products like pre-made shakes, bars, low-carb tortillas, and even almond flour.

Do a clean Induction, like the book, for a solid 2 weeks using whole foods and simple ingredients, so you have a starting point to work from.

If you're eating lots of things not allowed on Induction, you won't know which foods are causing you trouble.

If you're starting from A New Atkins for a New You, you'll want to use our instructions for Atkins 72 or Atkins 2002, so you do Induction correctly. Check out the following two links:

How to do Atkins 72 Induction

How to do Atkins 2002 Induction

If you start losing weight again, then you'll know that something you were eating before was interfering with your body's ability to mobilize and use its fat stores.

If so, then keep doing your Induction plan of choice for a couple more weeks to make sure that it's now working for you. Carb tolerance changes with:
  • age
  • circumstances
  • and your current health status
So overeating carbs is always the first thing to check if you've slipped into energy balance.

When you go to return foods to your Induction diet, add only ONE food at a time, so you can watch how your body reacts. Don't add an entire food group, or you won't know which foods adversely affect your ability to mobilize fat.

For example, some people have trouble with nightshades. Even though there are many legal low-carb nightshades, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, if they cause inflammation for you, eating foods you're sensitive to can interfere with fat loss.

The same thing goes for dairy products or gluten (wheat, barley, and rye).

In fact, a sensitivity to nightshades, dairy, or gluten is one possibility for failing to lose weight on Atkins Induction.

Make Sure You're Drinking Enough Water

Ketones are incompletely burned fragments of fat and flushed out of the body if not held in reserve or used. There is no real way to store them, other than to let them build up in the bloodstream or kidneys.

While initially almost every cell in your whole body can use ketones for energy purposes, once you become fat adapted, your muscles are insulin resistant to save glucose and ketones for the brain.

Most of the ketones you make are used to fuel the brain.

To stop ketones from building up to a level that's dangerous, the body secretes insulin to keep them in check. The insulin spike sends those ketones to the kidneys, and they are then flushed out of the body.

Body fat mobilization is taken care of by the liver, to keep fuel in ready supply, but if you don't drink enough water, the liver will have to help the kidneys do its job of filtering out toxins.

The more often the liver has to step in for the kidneys, the less body fat you can mobilize in a day, which lowers your basic metabolic rate and enables some forms of fat to be restored.

Make sure you're drinking 64 ounces of water per day, plus an extra 8 ounces of water for each 25 pounds that you are overweight. When you don't drink enough water, it can affect your weight loss.

Sign Up for a Free Online Tracker

There are dozens of free online trackers that will enable you to keep track of the amount of:
  • calories
  • carbohydrates
  • fiber
  • dietary fat
  • and protein
you're eating. While Dr. Atkins believed that counting calories was unnecessary on a low-carb diet, the subconscious mind is really talented at urging you to eat in a way that will unconsciously bring you back into energy balance.

Losing weight requires you to eat at an energy deficit, so if you're constantly reaching for the pork rinds, nuts, and cream cheese, you might easily find yourself eating too many calories to lose weight.

The same thing might be happening if you're using almond meal to make those tasty one-minute muffins instead of flaxmeal. You might also have ignored the Atkins Carb Ladder and started eating low-carb tortillas or flatbreads as soon as you moved into Phase 2.

Burrito with diced pork, avocado, tortilla

Many low-carb dieters are completely out of touch with their body's hunger signals. If you're used to giving into even slight urges to eat, overeating on a low-carb diet is not as difficult as Dr. Atkins made it seem.

Research studies have shown that people who are overweight, and especially obese, tend to choose higher calorie foods if they are not tracking their intake.

I used Fitday.com in 2007 because it let me set up a personalized food list, using the exact low-carb foods I was eating. That personalized list, once set up, made keeping track of what I was eating quick and easy.

I didn't have to search through Fitday's data base every single day. I could just call up that personal list and check off the foods as I ate them.

For whole foods, without a product listing, I used the macros given in Corrine T. Netzer's carbohydrate and calorie counting book I have. The figures come from the USDA. But you could also use the figures in the book and add the foods to your online list.

Today, there are phone apps that can do the same thing, but since I just barely upgraded to a Smartphone, I don't know anything about them.

If you have one you particularly like, please consider sharing that in the comments below this article. I'd really like to know what works for you.

An online tracker is also useful to reverse engineer your menu.

I would start by plugging in what I planned to make for dinner, first thing in the morning, and then design breakfast and lunch to fit within the macros that were left over.

Initially, you won't know which macros are best for you, as personal experience has taught me that 10 times your current body weight in calories might be too high to continue losing weight for some individuals.

At this point in the tweaking process, you're just going to record everything you put in your mouth at the time you do it. This will enable you to get used to writing down what you're eating and show you exactly how much that is and whether your meals are well balanced, or not.

Sometimes, writing it down and looking at it is all it takes to see the light.

If you do this before you return to Atkins Induction, you'll be able to pinpoint exactly when you went into ketosis, or a deeper state of ketosis, due to your total calories unconsciously dropping off significantly about 1 to 5 days into the week.

In general, this means you were most likely overeating carbs, but not always.

The lower in carbs you go, the less hungry you'll be even if you were not overeating before.

Since your carbohydrate tolerance and protein needs do not change as your weight goes down, fat calories are how you keep yourself eating at a deficit. I didn't understand how this worked when I first went back to Atkins 2002 and started over.

I didn't realize the problem was fat calories until after I thoroughly read ALL of the Atkins diet programs available at that time.

How I Found the Key to Losing Weight on Atkins

About mid April of 2007, I decided to start this blog.

In those days, blogs were not websites like this one has evolved into today, but more like personal journals.

Blogging was a way to record your weight-loss journey and share your daily experiences and thoughts with other bloggers or fellow dieters who wanted to keep up with what you were doing on a day-to-day basis.

It also gave me a place to share the research I was doing and things I was learning.

By this point in my weight-loss journey, I had stopped reading most of the low-carb egroups I belonged to, except for a couple of recipes-only sites and the Atkins Support Group at Yahoo Groups, which I still belong to today.

I didn't see any benefit from participating in groups that were giving out advice that didn't work.

The Atkins Support Group was the only exception I made to this because the group owner was a strong convert of Atkins 92 and many of the members were struggling to lose weight following the ANA advice, as well.

Most of them had moved back to Atkins 72 or Atkins 92, and experiencing success with returning to the basics, so I found their posts helpful and useful.

No one was told that you had to do Atkins in a particular way.

Everyone was encouraged to find their own critical carbohydrate level for losing and received lots of support and guidance.

Today, the group is quieter than it was then, but they still believe in Old School Atkins and love to help those who join.

During this time, I read an extensive thread at Low Carb Friends, started by a participant who called herself Kimmer. Her ideas had been dubbed Kimkins because they were a combination of The Stillman Diet and the older Atkins plans.

At the time, there was a lot of interest in this new way of thinking because it was completely contrary to how the low-carb community was implementing the Atkins Diet.

Instead of using net carbs, Kimmer recommended you go back to using 20 total carbs, similar to what the participants at the Atkins Support Group encouraged those who had stalled to do.

She recommended that you get adequate protein in the form of leaner meats, which is what Dr. Stillman and the South Beach Diet recommends. She also advised folks to eat only enough fat to make the diet work for them.

You could use a reasonable amount of heavy cream in your morning's coffee, a bit of mayo in your tuna, or real butter on your vegetables, but she advised the forum participants who were discussing her ideas to not go overboard with fatty foods.

Ditch the cheese, pork rinds, and nuts, and save the fatty chicken wings for after you have reached goal.

Over the course of the next few days, I read that entire thread, which was at least a hundred pages long. It was easy to see why there was so much controversy over what she was saying.

Instead of recommending a high-fat low-carb diet, she recommended doing a lower fat Atkins that was also lower in calories.

She advised folks to give up their beloved low-carb products and go back to basics only.

Out of respect for those who disagree with me over the Kimkins Diet, I need to admit that Kimmer did have a few wacky ideas. But then, I don't agree with everything Dr. Phinney believes, either.

This is why it's so important to do your own research, run your own personal experiments on your self, and discover what is true for you and what is not.

Fueled by the desire to know for myself, I next went to Amazon and ordered all of the old Atkins books. Kimmer had been claiming that most of her ideas came from the original Atkins diets, and if that was true, it would be easy enough to prove.

Since I only had a copy of Atkins 2002, the only way to know was to search the older versions.

Once the books arrived, I dug into Dr. Atkins words.

I specifically looked at the examples Dr. Atkins used in the books, and I looked at his recipes and sample menus.

Where Dr. Atkins had told his readers in 1972 to “don't be afraid of fat,” he went out of his way to clarify what he meant in 1992. A lot of the remarks he made in 1992 encouraged dieters to be sensible and realistic when it came to fat.

You can't eat a whole stick of butter and a full can of nuts every day and expect to reach your target weight. It isn't going to happen.

So What's the Bottom Line?

If you're not losing weight, your carbohydrate, dietary fats, or calorie intake is too high. Maybe even more than one of those.

Pork Steak and Sausages on the Grill
Pork steaks and sausages contain
lots of fats and calories. If you're not losing weight,
you have to drop your portion sizes.

Look at how a typical low-carb dieter treats:
  • mayonnaise
  • cheese
  • butter
  • salad dressings
  • sour cream
  • heavy whipping cream
  • pork rinds
  • oils
Since these foods have almost no carbs, dieters tend to use these foods heavily, without a second thought.

Yes, they are low in carbs, which keeps you in the state of ketosis, but they are also very high in calories. Eat too many of these foods, and your weight loss will stop.

Older versions of the Atkins Diet were much lower in calories and fat than current versions. Examples in the books show those who chose lower fat options lost weight much faster than those who didn't.

Sample menus were also quite low in fat and calories.

Atkins 2002 Induction Sample Menu

People loved to slam Kimmer for supposedly altering Atkins to a dangerous degree, and twisting what Atkins said, but look at this sample menu lifted directly from the 2002 version of the Atkins Diet:


  • 3-egg omelette with avocado
  • Mozzarella cheese and tomato
  • Decaffeinated coffee with heavy cream


  • 8 ounces round steak
  • Spinach and mixed greens salad, with mushrooms, onions, celery, and Parmesan cheese


  • 9 ounces broiled salmon
  • Kale, topped with lemon, garlic, and sesame seeds
Mozzarella cheese and Parmesan are low-fat cheeses. Round steak is about as lean of beef as you can get, and the salmon for dinner is broiled, rather than baked.

Broiling the salmon would allow the fats to drip away from the fish, reducing the calories in the actual salmon you eat. There also isn't any butter on the kale.

These are not individual behaviors done for a single meal only, but they are grouped together for an entire day. Plus, if you look at other sample menus specifically created by Atkins, they too, are low in fat and calories by low-carb community standards.

Even Phase 2 sample menus recommend:

  • ground turkey burgers
  • poached eggs instead of fried
  • cole slaw dressing made by mixing sour cream and mayo in a 50/50 mix, lowering the fat and calories
THIS is how Dr. Atkins wanted you to eat when doing Atkins, but very few individuals are doing it this way.

Part 9: What I Had to DO to Ditch the 100 Pounds (This is the last post in the series, and explains how I created the PSMF Diet I used, what I ate, and how you can tweak your own diet)

Vickie Ewell Bio


  1. The above (or below) comment from Jon is an ad for a diet book and the website is nearly impossible to leave. I recommend NOT clicking on it.


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