How to Tweak Your Fat and Calories to Get the Results You Want

Platter of Shrimp Cocktail
Dietary Fat is the Only Macro
You Can Play With

If you are not losing weight on Atkins as quickly as you would like to, you will need to tweak your fat and calorie intake.

However, tweaking before you have become fully fat adapted can actually backfire on you, so in this post, I'm going to explain how to find your own personalized low-carb sweet-spot for the best weight loss.

Protein is a target. Your body needs a set amount of protein to function optimally, so you want to make sure that you're getting enough to maintain muscle mass.

Carbohydrate intake is a tolerance.

While your muscles can store quite a bit of glycogen, for their own purposes, it's the amount of glycogen in your liver that feeds the brain and controls ketosis.

You want to keep those glycogen stores only partially filled. For most people, that level of carb intake is 60 carbs a day, or less, depending on your degree of insulin resistance and your activity level.

This, too, is a set amount.

There isn't much wiggle room calorie wise because no matter how big or small you are, the brain needs about 120 to 130 grams of carbohydrate a day.

The liver can hold about 80 grams of that in reserve, so to stay in a high degree of ketosis, you want to stay below what the liver can store.

Since the brain can use ketones to supply up to 80 percent of its energy requirements, the body really only needs about 30 to 35 carbs a day. If you're eating less than that, you can just eat a bit more protein to compensate.

What all this means:

Dietary fat is the only macro you have to play with when it comes time to tweak the Atkins Diet.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of misconceptions about dietary fat and calories within the low-carb community, so in this post, I'm going to share with you how to tweak your fat and calories to get the weight-loss results you want.

[This is Part 12 of a multi-part series on How I Lost Over 100 Pounds Tweaking the Atkins Diet. If you haven't read part one, you can find it at the above link. At the bottom of that post, you'll also find all of the links to the entire series.]

Pinterest Image: Shrimp Cocktail

Are You Fat Adapted?

Before you can even think about the possibility of tweaking the Atkins Diet, you need to achieve a certain degree of fat adaption.

Fat adaption (the ability to burn fatty acids easily) occurs once you've been restricting carbohydrates for several weeks. The muscles need time to become insulin resistant, so they will stop using glucose needed to fuel the brain. This isn't the same thing as metabolic syndrome, however.

In this case, since the muscles can't see the available insulin, they stop pulling in glucose from the blood stream and use fatty acids instead.

Fat adaption also means the liver is manufacturing ketones nicely. Some of those ketones will be made from what you're eating, and some of them will be made as stored energy is broken down into fatty acids.

Most of your body will be oxidizing fatty acids for fuel, which saves a hefty portion of ketones for the brain.

If it's only been 4 to 6 weeks since you started restricting carbohydrates, it's still too soon to tweak your fat and calorie intake.

This is why I talked about the body's protein and carbohydrate needs first. There is a lengthy series of adaptions the body goes through when glucose is in short supply, similar to what happens during total starvation, and those adaptions don't happen overnight.

You need to give your body time to make those changes.

You are forcing the body to use a different metabolic pathway than it ordinarily uses. And if you've never done a low-carb diet before, there is also a bit of body learning going on. For those who have, your body will remember how to make those adaptions, and the adaptive process will occur sooner.

However, yo-yo dieting comes with additional problems and adaptions that must also be considered before you start to tweak anything.

How Yo-Yo Dieting Affects Weight Loss

The most common problem I see isn't really a problem at all. It is simply a reaction the body takes to the drastic amount of water you lost during the first week or two. In a very real sense, you go into dehydration. If the amount of water you lost was large, you're going to see the body stop and pause.

The body won't degenerate empty adipose tissue unless it has to.

For those who are not brand new to the dieting game, the body has a tendency to stuff water into your empty fat cells instead of shrinking them. This is because your last diet attempt was only temporary, so the body believes that what's going on right now is also temporary.

Even if you are strongly committed to a low-carb diet, and intend on making carbohydrate restriction a lifestyle, it won't make any difference. The body will still store water believing the current drought will be over soon.

The only recourse you have is to wait it out.

The body cannot store that excess water forever. Eventually, if you stay true to your low carb eating style, the body will shed the water and you'll see a huge whoosh on the scale, but up until that point, it might look like your diet isn't working.

3 glasses of water with a strip of red, green, and yellow pepper
If the amount of water you lost on Atkins Induction was large,
your weight loss will pause for a few weeks.

This is why you don't want to tweak your diet until you're well past this point because you could actually make things worse, rather than better. Since you'll be in a state of dehydration, despite the water retention, you don't want to complicate things by depriving the body of fat, as well.

Only when you're sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that your fat and calorie level are not working should you do a meal and lifestyle audit on yourself.

The Ugly Truth About Weight Loss

Dieting isn't a mindless adventure.

For most people, it requires adjusting, shaking things up, tweaking, and lots of sacrifices. What you start out eating at your highest weight won't be what you're still eating when you arrive at goal.

This journey is about changing your life, and changing your life again, until you find the energy intake and activity level that will allow you to sustain the weight you want to be.

Finding what works isn't easy. There is no one answer. What worked for me won't necessarily work for you, and what works for you, won't necessarily work for others. There is a certain degree of personal experimentation that you have to do for yourself.

If you aren't willing to put in the time and effort to find your sweet spot, the following information on how to tweak the Atkins Diet won't do you much good.

Arriving at goal weight isn't the end of the journey because the truth is:

The journey never ends!

Chess Men Right-Side Up and Right-Side Down, Black and White
With low carb, you change what you eat,
and then change what you eat again,
until you reach your ideal weight.

Maintenance requires more tweaking, adjustment, and changes in your mindset, emotional habits, and ways of thinking. If you don't, you'll eventually gain the weight back.

You'll always have to stay aware and pay attention to what you and others are doing. You'll always have to watch yourself and guard yourself against embracing other people's opinions, theories, and ideas about healthy living just because they sound like they might be right.

Why I Didn't Stick With My Weight-Loss Plan

The reason why I didn't stick with the diet plan I outlined in a previous post on what I had to do to ditch the weight is because I caved into the low-carb peer pressure that was going on at the time.

Kimmer, the author of the Kimkins Diet, had been spotted in the real world and photographed.

She wasn't ultra thin like the photo she posted online.

She was actually obese, and since the low-carb world felt betrayed and humiliated at being deceived by her lies, they felt that those of us who were doing a lower-fat low-carb plan needed to stop trimming the dietary fat and get back to high-fat Atkins.

There was a real, full-community movement to force those of us who were actually healthier on the Kimkins plan to submit to the popular low-carb theories about insulin, which are still popular today by the way, and return to the high-fat fold.

Those who complied, quickly began to regain their weight, but the community had an answer for that too:

“You destroyed your metabolism by eating so few calories. You need to gain weight in order to heal. Once you heal your metabolism, the weight will start coming off again.”

That wasn't true, of course. If it was, I wouldn't weigh over 200 pounds again today. Eating at a calorie deficit doesn't damage your metabolism. Biology doesn't work that way.

The body has safeguards it immediately implements if you stray too far to that side of the fence. Unfortunately, since the body is wired for survival, there are not many safeguards to guard against gaining too much weight.

There are a few, such as insulin resistance in the fat cell, but the consequence for that adaption is a fatty liver. As fat accumulates in the liver and other body organs, due to your fat cells reaching the point of overflowing, your health continues to deteriorate.

The body has to do something with all of that excess energy you're eating, even if the fat cell doesn't want to accept it.

The universal laws of thermodynamics are true, even if the low-carb community doesn't want to believe in them. Energy coming into the body cannot be more than the amount of energy you can oxidize and use on a daily basis.

Even so, the low-carb community's huge high-fat campaign, which was designed to create fear and compliance worked pretty well.

Almost of us quit what worked, and moved back to what didn't. I know of one person who didn't stop her low-fat low-carb very low-calorie diet and has been maintaining ideal weight for over 8 years now!

This wasn't exactly the beginning of the end for me. It was more like a hiccup.

Even so, I never lost weight as well as I did for those 3 to 4 months when I followed my own plan. Nothing else I have ever tried, including HCG and Lyle McDonald's Rapid Fat Loss Plan, worked as well as my own sweet spot did.

Looking back, I can see that clearly now.

But, at the time, I handed my life over to the fear. At the time, I thought the insulin hypothesis and other low-carb theories were fact. I trusted low-carb authorities to tell me the truth.

It was only after I joined Lyle McDonald's forum and began to read the truth about low-carb diets for myself that I woke up and was able to see that much of what the low-carb community believes about low-carb diets is pure fantasy.

Yes, low carb works.

But not for the reason that the low-carb community believes.

How to Find Your Own Sweet Spot for Weight Loss

Red Gummy Bear in Center of Dozens of White Ones
Each of us have a different degree of
carbohydrate and fat tolerance.

One of the hardest things for most people to accept and understand is individuality.

Intellectually, you can see that individuality is true. No two people look identical, except for a few rare cases of identical twins. No two people have the same personality profile, quirks, likes, and dislikes. People come in an infinite variety.

But putting individuality into practice is a whole other thing.

Most people don't really believe in individuality. If they did, they wouldn't try so hard to make other people believe what they do. They wouldn't try to control how others behave because they would understand that others are only doing what they believe is right, proper, or justified.

Most of all, they wouldn't be running around looking for that one golden diet that, if followed by the letter, will bring them the salvation they crave. Instead, they'd be spending their time creating their own personalized weight-loss plan that will allow them to go out and actually live their life.

I didn't find my sweet spot with the very first try. It took me a good 4 to 6 weeks of tweaking to discover it.

Mostly, because the fine-tuning is done slowly, so you don't accidentally skip over what's best for you. If you cut your fat intake too much, for example, you could easily go from eating too much fat to not eating enough.

If you don't eat enough fat, you still won't lose, so you'd be likely to conclude that cutting fat and calories isn't the answer.

You don't want to do that. You need to be patient and take it slow. As long as you aren't gaining weight, you're still in a good spot, so take a deep breath, relax, and let's get this done!

Step 1: Discover Where You're At Right Now

Some people turn to a low-carb diet, not because they are insulin resistant or have metabolic syndrome, but because they don't like counting calories. A low-carb diet promises you that you can eat all the low-carb foods you like, as long as you stay beneath your carbohydrate tolerance.

That is only partly true.

The average low-carb dieter, according to Dr. Eades, eats about 1500 calories a day. That's an average. Shorties will eat less and younger, athletic types will eat a lot more.

In my own personal experience, and having watched other low-carb dieters over the past 10 years, 1500 calories is much too high – unless you're young and live a fairly active lifestyle.

I started my own tweaking with 2 full weeks of Atkins 72.

This allowed me to get firmly into the state of ketosis, and clear out any excess glycogen I might have had from doing a standard Atkins Diet. It really showed me what I was eating and where my appetite was at.

I went from eating about 1650 calories a day on a high-fat 35-net carb Atkins down to about 1250 calories on less than 10 grams of total carbs and a moderate fat level.

This was without consciously trying to change or chart anything.

I just ate a standard Atkins 72 Induction diet, as defined today (not as I did it in 1975), but I recorded what I ate at Fitday, so I could use those figures later on.

I remember how shocked I was to see how high the calories were on a typical Atkins Diet, and kept saying to myself, “This isn't going to work. This isn't going to work,” but it did. Within three full days, my appetite went dead, which means that:

On a standard Atkins diet, what's referred to as Atkins 2002, my glycogen storage was FULL.

There are physiological reasons for this, but the short version is that the mind will unconsciously coax you into doing things that will help it refill your glycogen stores if you are not aware of what's going on and take adequate steps to prevent it. This is essentially the difference between a standard low-carb diet, as recommended today, and Atkins 72.

Once I was back in ketosis, I then looked at my stats and adjusted from there.

Now, if you're in ketosis, you don't have to switch to Atkins 72 if you don't want to. If you made the adjustments to your protein and carbohydrates, as I talked about in my last two posts of this series, all you really need to chart is your fat intake.

Protein will stay consistent, and carbohydrate intake should be fairly consistent as well. Switching to Atkins 72 automatically brought my protein intake back into range, so as long as you're in ketosis, eating enough protein and carbohydrates, fat intake is really the only thing you need to look at.

At 1650 calories, my macros were:
  • 120 grams protein (480 calories)
  • 35 net carbs (140 calories)
  • 109 grams of fat (981 calories)

At 1250 calories, my macros were:
  • 90 grams of protein (360 calories)
  • 20 total carbs (80 calories)
  • 90 grams of fat (810 calories)

At this new level of intake, I was able to shed about a pound a week, or less. This was eating 10 carbs of salad a day and lots of meat and fat. Before I switched to Atkins 72, I was losing 1 to 2 pounds a month.

Step 2: Switch to Leaner Meats

The vast majority of fat in your Atkins Diet should be coming from the meat you eat, but I realize that very few low-carb dieters actually do it that way. Before going on Atkins 72, I was eating mostly:
  • bacon and eggs
  • chicken wings and leg quarters
  • pork ribs and chops
  • 85 percent lean ground beef
  • full-fat cottage cheese
  • tuna with extra mayo
  • fish breaded with pork rinds
  • Dreamsfield spaghetti and lasagna
  • large low-carb tortillas
  • protein shakes with heavy cream
Sometimes, I'd pick up ground turkey patties when they were a good price. We rarely ate steak back then. It was too expensive for us. Pork, chicken, and tuna were cheap, so I ate a lot of those.

When I switched to leaner cuts:
  • chicken breast
  • pork loin chops
  • ground turkey
  • hard boiled eggs
  • 96 percent lean ground beef
  • canned tuna
  • white fish fillets
  • protein shakes with non-fat cottage cheese
I noticed that my appetite went down again, due to the higher protein content in the meat.

If you're tracking your fat intake, you don't have to switch to ALL lean cuts. I did this, only because it was recommended for the plan I was following. The first month, I lost 3 to 4 pounds a week eating that way.

The second month, I was less strict with my meat choices on the days when I couldn't track, and I lost 2 to 3 pounds that week instead, depending on how many days I ate fattier meats.

As time went on, I added chicken legs without the skin, a stick of string cheese, and started using crushed pork rinds to bread my chicken nuggets and chicken strips. These additions didn't stall my weight loss progress because by then, I was efficient at keeping track of my macros, and I made sure not to go over my dialed-in fat intake.

But I didn't add these things to my diet until after I already knew what my best fat level was.

Step 3: Eat Only Enough Fat to Make Your Diet Work

This is only a starting point.

Choosing a few leaner cuts of meat per week and cutting back on fat to a more reasonable level, using only as much fat as you need to make the diet satisfying, rather than trying to reach some artificially high-fat intake, might be enough to get the scales moving again.

The idea is to slice the calories without it being all that noticeable in food volume.

You don't want to sacrifice hunger for fast weight loss. That will only backfire on you. I tried that when I did HCG, and believe me, the body has never let me forget what I did to it.

For the most part, I ate lots of hard-boiled eggs, chicken breast, and ground turkey because I wanted to speed things along, but if I were to do this again today, I'd definitely take it much slower than I did then.

Eating chicken breast for breakfast and lunch and dinner can get really old quick. But I felt desperate, and I was completely ignorant of the body's instinct to survive.

Step 4: Tweak Your Fat Intake

If the above steps haven't fixed the problem naturally, you'll need to consciously look at your fat intake and find ways to lower it.

This is what I had to do because coming from a high-fat Atkins background, I naturally choose higher-fat foods and recipes. It's how the body unconsciously tried to slow down the fat loss.

To find the best level:

I lowered the fat grams of my daily diet by 5 grams a day, and then evaluated. I continued to lower the fat, a little at a time, until I started losing weight as quickly as I wanted to.

Since my fat intake was pretty low already, due to taking the above steps, it only took me a few days to learn that 60 grams was what my body did best on.

If I ate at 72, for example, I didn't lose weight that day. If I ate at 50, I didn't lose any weight that day either.

Once, I tried to go below 30 grams a day because that's what all of the people doing Kimkins were eating, but I felt absolutely terrible and my weight stalled for two weeks.

That is when I realized that 60 grams a day was “my” sweet spot.

The body was able to digest and use that amount of fat. If I ate more fat than that, it slowed down my weight loss for the week. If I ate less, it slowed down my weight loss as well.

To keep things moving at a fast clip, I had to eat exactly 60 grams of fat right on the nose. Not 59 and not 61. 

Crazy, but true.

Find Your Own Sweet Spot

Don't use my macros, or you'll probably not be eating enough food. I am:
  • post-menopause
  • only 5-feet tall
  • write at the computer all day
  • live in a basement
  • have vertigo, so I'm extremely sedentary
My metabolism is a bit fired up, due to Graves Disease, but I was still only able to eat 2100 calories a day when maintaining 180 pounds. After having to quit my job as a culinary specialist in a boys home, maintenance dropped to 1800, even though I still weighed 180 pounds.

As you can see, for me, maintenance is 10 times my current weight in calories, which is why my current diet is working so slowly. Today, I eat 1500 calories and 60 to 65 carbs. Occasionally, I eat a bit more and just call those days – maintenance.

I eat about 300 to 400 calories for breakfast, 300 to 400 calories for lunch, and have a 200 to 300 calorie snack in the afternoon. This leaves me about 500 calories for dinner. If I have something after that, I still have about 300 calories before I go over my maintenance level for 165 pounds.

The purpose in doing it this way is to create a menu I will continue eating for the rest of my life. There will be no going off what I'm currently eating.

Since I don't weigh anywhere near 165 pounds, using the maintenance calories for 165 is working out beautifully. I'm losing about 2 pounds a month eating this way, but the thyroid is happy, which is the whole point of taking it slow.

The thyroid no longer freaks out if I eat a very low carb breakfast, which I do on most days now. I can even eat very low carb for breakfast and low-carb for lunch. The body also loves Carbmaster Yogurt or homemade cheese sticks or lettuce salad for snacks.

I was even able to eat a handful of nuts the other day without it hurting my belly, but that has to do with the glutamine I'm taking, I think.

Currently, I'm working on being able to eat low-carb for an entire day without the thyroid ramping up the following morning. I can eat a full low-carb day, 30 to 40 carbs, a couple of times a week right now without the thyroid freaking out.

This is what I call the Back Door Approach.

Overall, I've lost about 30 pounds since last July because in the beginning, I was unconsciously being urged to fix higher-fat meals without realizing it.

Once I caught on to what the mind and body were doing, coaxing me to eat high calorie meals, I started paying more attention to my urges and started deliberately going against them by cooking without all of the fat.

The body gets plenty of fat in the bacon, sausage, chuck roast, and hamburger that I eat. I don't need to “add” a lot of extras.

If this stops working, I'll have to made some more changes, but as long as I'm dropping at least two pounds a month, I'm fine with that because how I'm eating is not a diet. In fact, it's not even a low-carb diet. It's just how I eat now.


  1. I came to read about the eating plan and ended up being struck by the following statement which has so much truth in it about every day life. Even the dieting process is about finding out who you are. Truth be told, most of us are looking for the "perfect plan" because thinking, adjusting and becoming more aware is uncomfortable, given our present way of doing things.

    " Most people don't really believe in individuality. If they did, they wouldn't try so hard to make other people believe what they do. They wouldn't try to control how others behave because they would understand that others are only doing what they believe is right, proper, or justified..."

    1. I've been amazed at just how many spiritual parallels there are within every experience we go through here. Thanks for adding to the discussion. I appreciate you adding your wonderful insights.


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