Top 5 Tips for Returning to the Atkins Diet

Group of People Holding Hands and Standing in a Circle
Are you returning to Atkins?
Here are my top 5 tips to help you be more successful!

People stop doing Atkins for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, those reasons are valid, and sometimes, they're not. Either way, getting back to Atkins after being gone for awhile can be difficult, especially if you're returning to a low-carb diet with lots of high expectations based on what happened before.

Living in the past is a recipe for disaster.

Anytime you set up an ideal of how things ought to be, you're also setting yourself up for huge disappointments and pain. Playing the victim always results in looking for blame when things don't turn out the way you expected.

Blaming never helps you get what you want. It just prevents you from acting in your own best interest.

The misery you feel is magnified if you have started and restarted the Atkins Diet several times now. You know what you want, but feel frustrated and at wits-end because you can't force your body to comply with the pre-ordained plan.

I see this a lot in the low-carb forums. People restart Keto and when they don't see movement on the scale within 5 or 10 or 14 days, they start complaining to their fellow dieters:

"Why have I not lost even an ounce on the scale this time around? I'm not new to low carb. I know how it works. But this time, NOTHING is happening! What am I doing wrong?"

There are a lot of false beliefs tucked into those few words, and a lot of misunderstandings about low-carb diets, but the intent behind playing the victim is always the HOPE that someone, somewhere, will provide the magical answer that will help you get what you want:

A huge weight loss on the scale -- right now!

From a victim perspective, low-carb diets should work the same way every time you follow the rules. And when they don't, you feel like your diet has mistreated you.

Your body has betrayed you in some way.

You've failed.

You see the body as a robot with no will or conscious reasoning of its own. It's there to serve you, and only you.

This false belief system is often reinforced in those who have gone on and off a low-carb diet several times. Atkins worked once or twice or three times before, so why isn't it working the same way now?

When you make the lack of compliance by the body so vitally important to your happiness, you set yourself up to fail. In fact, unhappiness with the rate of weight loss is the number one reason why most people cheat on their low-carb diet.

If you can't have your way, you're going to punish your body -- and teach it a lesson.

But how well does that work?

If complaining, blaming, and punishing yourself by cheating or quitting doesn't get you what you want, then WHY do you keep on doing it?

Few dieters know the answer to that.

It's hard to take personal responsibility for what's going on when you don't realize you're doing it. Most low-carb dieters find it easy to blame something else and demand their right to enjoy huge weight losses from the very first day, all because they are restricting carbs.

For some reason, people coming back to the low-carb fold feel entitled to fast weight loss.

If the body was a robot, it wouldn't have any power to adapt to its current situation, and you'd have a lot of difficulty staying healthy and even alive. The human race would most likely die out, so to prevent this from happening, there are unconscious systems running in the background of your conscious mind.

These systems make it possible to adapt to a wide variety of external and internal conditions. They do most of the work required to keep your physical body alive with no effort or conscious thought from you, and it's these adaptive and life-saving processing centers that dieters often seek to control.

No matter how hard you try, no matter how loud you complain and stick up for your right to lose weight as quickly as you think you should, your purpose is in conflict with the body's purpose, and you are not going to win that war!

The way to win the weight-loss game isn't to complain and demand and punish yourself. There are much better methods to reach goal weight.

So in this post, I'm going to pass along my top 5 tips for those who are returning to the Atkins Diet after either a diet break or a fall from grace. If you open your mind and heart, these tips can help you achieve your weight-loss goals. If you don't, you can't. Because YOU are not in control of what's going on.

All you can do is take charge of your mind and heart . . . or not.

TIP #1: Take a Good Look at WHY You Want to Lose Weight.

To lose weight permanently, you have to be willing to ditch your old eating habits and exchange them with new ones. This is the number one mistake I see among dieters who are coming back to low carb.

Regardless of how many times you've done this before, do you STILL believe that Atkins is a weight-loss diet?

If so, you're setting yourself up to fail.

Going into the re-creation process with extreme thinking, like being on or off plan, separating good carbs from bad carbs, or using sheer willpower to push through your cravings isn't being truthful with yourself about the real underlying motivation for wanting to diet.

Whether low carb is best for you, or not, depends on your reasons for wanting to restrict carbs:
  • What do you expect low carb to do for you?
  • Are you using low carb to gain pleasure or escape discomfort?
  • Do you really WANT to change what you eat, or do you feel forced?
Atkins changed the term Atkins Diet to the Atkins Nutritional Approach for a very good reason. Atkins is NOT a diet. It's a method of discovering which foods, and in what amounts, can help you to get to, and maintain, a healthy weight.

To help you get to the root of why you really want to lose weight the low-carb way, check out our article that explains why vital interest in living low carb is essential for success on Atkins.

Why Do You Want to Lose Weight with Low Carb?

If low carb isn't in your blood -- your mind and heart -- you'll continue to ride the dieting merry-go-round for the rest of your life. That's a vicious ride. Low carb isn't the only way to achieve your goals, so make sure that you're doing this for the right reasons.

Tip #2: Ditch the Scale. Honestly.

If you understand how Atkins works, then WHY are you weighing yourself during Atkins Induction?

Weighing yourself during the first 14 days only sets you up for disappointment and frustration when you don't lose as much glycogen and water as you thought you would. If you're comparing today to how fast the weight came off last time, that misery is going to be even worse.

But it also shows that you do NOT know as much as you think you do.

When you base your happiness or discomfort for the day on the number showing on the scale, you put yourself under a tremendous amount of stress.

No weight loss? Oh NO! IT'S AN EMERGENCY!

Man Stressed Out
That's the feeling that you send to your higher mind when you are stressed out, and in response to those feelings, the body secretes stress hormones, believing that your life is in physical danger.

It doesn't matter what you say. What the brain receives is what you feel.

Obviously, your life isn't in danger.

You just had your feelings hurt by your weight loss scale. But the hypothalamus doesn't know that. It merely receives your feelings, interprets those feelings, and then instigates the appropriate response for the data it received.

The hypothalamus doesn't judge whether those feelings are right or wrong. It just goes by whatever you send in.

Hurt feelings tells the brain that you are upset and in trouble.

When upset, you need energy to deal with what's wrong, so stress hormones like cortisol relay the information to the liver. Stress hormones always instruct the liver to break down any stored glycogen it has into glucose and dump the glucose into your bloodstream.

That way, You'll have enough glucose to deal with the physical emergency.


Isn't that the opposite of what you're trying to do on Induction?

Yep. The more upset you get about the number on the scale, the more glucose your liver will dump into your bloodstream and the less body fat you'll access because it won't be needed with all of that glucose running around!

Look. You can't burn body fat when you're upset.

You can't even burn dietary fats because cortisol sees to it that all fatty acids in the bloodstream are immediately stored, so it's best to not even look at the scale if you're going to identify with that number and base your self worth on whether or not you've lost water and glycogen for those first few days.

Chronic stress can keep your blood glucose level consistently high enough that even during the second week, when body fat oxidation should be well under way, the body will never have a chance to use any of that ugly fat.

Instead, it will switch on your gluconeogenesis spigot and find alternative ways to keep you burning glucose, such as stripping your muscles for certain amino acids, rather than using body fat for calories.

Carbs are not the bad guy here. The body always burns them first. Yes, you need to restrict them to trigger ketosis, but your emotional state has a much stronger effect on your hormonal state than carbs do.

So do yourself a favor.

Chuck the scale and give your low-carb diet time to make the metabolic switch to predominately oxidizing fatty acids for energy before you start placing unnecessary and unrealistic demands on the body.

Tip #3: Low-Carb Science is Not Evidence-Based Science.

For scientific evidence to be fact, the results have to be reproducible and applicable to at least a specific segment of the population.

To date, no one has PROVED that insulin makes you fat.

Yes, your basic insulin level will fall like a rock within a few days after restricting carbs, due to your lower blood glucose level, but no one has proved that very low insulin levels are helpful for fat loss, or even matter. The presence of high insulin levels in the blood did not lock the doors to fat cells in the most recent pre-study funded by Gary Taubes and other low-carb influencers.

Participants in that Kevin Hall pre-study lost more body fat when their insulin level was high than they did when their insulin level was low. As dietary fat went up, the amount of fat pulled out of their fat stores went down.

Other studies since then have produced the same results. People lose more body fat when insulin is high.

I have my own theory as to why this is, but theories are just theories. They are educated guesses and opinion based on current data that has been mixed with possibilities.

Theory isn't fact, so you need to understand that most of what the low-carb community believes in and tells you is like Dumbo's feather.

Pinterest Image: Dumbo the Elephant Holding a Feather in His Nose.

Dumbo is a fictional character from a children's book. Someone gave him a feather and told him he could fly. He believed it, so he was able to fly, but not because the feather was magic. He just believed it was, and that belief gave him the courage to try.

In reality, his ability to fly was due to the size of his ears. They were like the wings of a bird. Eventually, he realized that the feather was a trick, so he didn't need the feather anymore.

It's the same with the low-carb community's belief in the Insulin Hypothesis. That belief has created a large dieting community. Many people have found success believing that insulin is to blame for them being fat, but we honestly don't know why low carb works.

There's nothing wrong with believing in a theory. It only becomes problematic when you forget that it's a theory and teach that theory as if it were fact.

So what does this have to do with those returning to Atkins?

What I often see is that those who aren't losing weight on Atkins Induction will frantically lower their carbohydrate intake, more and more, as Induction continues, often going down to a zero-carb diet. They believe that the 20 carbs allowed on Induction are preventing them from losing weight.

In their perspective, if they can just lower their insulin level even more, then the weight they want to lose will miraculously start coming off.

Those who did lose the typical 5 to 10 pounds of glycogen and water during week 1, but no more after that, often get so upset at what they call a weight-loss stall that they will drop their carbs below 20, thinking they haven't gotten their insulin levels low enough yet.

If you are among the two out of three overweight individuals who are insulin sensitive, instead of insulin resistant, this is a recipe for disaster!

The idea that carbs and insulin are directly related to weight loss comes from the Insulin Hypothesis, as taught by Gary Taubes. It's just a theory that he is finally in the process of trying to prove scientifically, but today, it's still not factual. The Insulin Hypothesis is simply what he believes.

In the first pre-study that was published a few months ago, we learned that higher insulin levels didn't have anything to do with weight loss. People lost weight just fine. When the participants switched to low carb, during the first week of Induction, they lost glycogen, water, and protein. They did not lose ANY body fat!

So getting upset because you're on Day 10 and the scale hasn't moved yet only shows that you really don't know how Atkins works. You just think that you do.

Depriving your body of carbs triggers the state of ketosis, which is the aim on Induction, but any level that is less than what the liver needs to keep your glycogen stores full will do the same thing. On average, your liver holds about 80 to 100 carbs worth of glycogen. That's 320 to 400 calories worth of glucose.

This is why it only takes one day to actually go into the state of ketosis. The rest of what's going on is adaption.

The lower your insulin falls the higher your glucagon level goes. This is because your insulin and glucagon levels are directly related to your blood glucose level. Insulin keeps glucagon in check. When insulin falls too low, it can no longer do that.

So what does glucagon do?

Glucagon is a stress hormone that tells the liver to convert glycogen into glucose (the same as cortisol does) and dump it into the bloodstream because your blood glucose is too low.

The liver doesn't see what your absolute blood glucose level is. It uses your insulin and glucagon levels to judge what your blood sugar is doing.

Taking your insulin level down as low as it can go is counterproductive to what you want to occur on Induction. The whole object of Induction is to deprive your body of glucose, which doesn't happen if you're upset or your insulin level is too low.

Going lower and lower in carbs won't make you lose weight faster. It will just cause your hormonal state to get even more out of whack!

The only exception to this is for the one in three overweight individuals who are insulin resistant, diabetic, or having problems controlling their blood glucose. But that's a different situation than not losing weight on Induction.

Induction isn't about losing weight.

Induction is about getting into the state of nutritional ketosis. If you're not losing weight, something else is going on that has nothing to do with carbs or your insulin level.

Tip #4: Atkins Isn't Keto or LCHF. Don't Mix-and-Match Plans.

I can't stress this tip enough.

The Atkins Diet is not Keto. Nor is it Nutritional Ketosis, sometimes referred to as LCHF (low carb high fat).

Atkins existed long before the Keto Diet, LCHF, or Nutritional Ketosis was born. As such, it's a very different plan with a different objective, that grew out of Dr. Atkins personal experiments on himself.

Dr. Atkins' focus was on hunger.

He was deathly afraid of going hungry. He couldn't tolerate hunger, even slightly. He wasn't interested in discovering a crash diet. He just wanted to know what foods would enable him to reach, and maintain, a healthy weight without having to go hungry.

Due to that objective, Atkins includes a protein-to-fat ratio as found in nature. The ratio used is about 40 percent protein to 60 percent fat. That's what you'll find in a relatively lean piece of beef. From there, you adjust your protein and fat ratios to make room for your personal carbohydrate tolerance.

Steak Grilled Medium-Rare
The Atkins Diet is not a low-protein high-fat diet.
It recommends a protein-to-fat ratio as found in nature.

Protein goes down a bit, after Induction, to somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 35 percent of your calories. This make room for those carb calories that you start to return to your diet during Phase 2. As you continue to return carbs to your diet, your fat grams will also have to come down to compensate.

Atkins isn't low protein and it's not high fat. After eating the correct amount of protein and carbs, fat is what's left over. If you want your body to use some of its fat stores, you'll have to short-change it on the fats.

This is why:

If you try to combine Keto, Nutritional Ketosis, and Atkins together, you're likely get yourself into a mess, really fast, because the 80-percent fat that the low-carb community is running around quoting all the time is the fat caloric level for a high-performance athlete on maintenance, those who need an abnormally high-calorie intake.

If you're sedentary, older, or have a history of yo-yo dieting, you're likely to gain weight eating that way, especially if you don't have the family genetics to use that much dietary fat.

Dr. Atkins never advised you to add tons of extra fat to your meals.

Most of the fat you eat on the Atkins Diet comes packaged in your protein sources. You only add as much extra fat as you need to make your diet satisfying.

In addition, instead of staying at 20 net carbs, as Keto and Jimmy Moore's version of Nutritional Ketosis advises you to do, you slowly return carbohydrates to your diet, taking them up to just below your personal carbohydrate tolerance level for maintenance.

The average Atkins dieter eats 35 to 60 net carbs and loses about 1 pound of body fat a week. This is an average. Those who are sedentary or older might only mobilize half that much.

Atkins isn't a crash diet. It was designed to be a comfortable weight-loss plan. As such, Atkins may or may not be a very low-carb diet.

In fact, with only one in three overweight individuals insulin resistant, it's more likely that your carbohydrate tolerance is much higher than you think. In addition, Atkins maintenance isn't necessarily ketogenic because at pre-maintenance, you return even more carbs to your diet to find the level at which weight loss stops.

The point behind the Atkins Nutritional Approach is to find your personalized level for protein, carbs, and fats, and not to follow the crowd who are always running around looking for the next quick-fix.

This is why you really do need to know which plan you're following.

Each low-carb program comes with different rules and restrictions that you'll need to abide by. Different objectives. Mixing-and-matching doesn't work well because the outlook and perspective on carbohydrates isn't the same for all low-carb plans.

Yes, there are those who really do need to go down to very low carb levels for life. But the number of people who actually have to do that is very, very small compared to the low-carb community at large.

And that is not something that you can determine for at least the first 6 to 8 weeks, unless you're diabetic or have severe insulin resistance problems, such as PCOS.

If you take your carbs too low because you think it will let you lose weight faster, your body will secrete those nasty stress hormones I talked about earlier and start dumping glucose into your bloodstream. Now, as long as you're eating at a caloric deficit, you'll still lose weight, but you could also trigger binge behavior.

Therefore: How low in carbs you can reasonably go depends on your degree of blood glucose control. For a select few, low carbs is the only way to keep their blood sugar within normal limits. For the rest of the low-carb community, a 20-carb Induction period is low enough to get the job done.

Don't push your body. You won't like what it does in return. I promise you that.

Tip #5: Have Patience. The Body Expects You to Cheat or Quit.

I saved this tip for last because this physical characteristic has the greatest impact on what your weight does during Induction and beyond.

If you are returning to Atkins, the main reason why you might not lose much weight on Atkins Induction, and sometimes for several weeks after that, is because you are not new to this way of life.

The body never forgets prior adaptive methods and simply pulls them out of the closet and begins using them as soon as you enter a new famine situation.

The body always sees calorie deprivation as a famine, and it doesn't forget how many ketones it takes to fuel the brain or how much triglyceride to pull out of storage to fuel your current activity level.

This is why if you came to low carb after years of low-calorie dieting you can also see similar trials as those who are returning to Atkins. If you designed your low-calorie diet correctly, you might have been in ketosis, at least part of the time, and just didn't know it.

Healthy low-calorie diets are lower in carbs than a standard American diet because to cut calories, you have to cut carbs and fat; and, as such, you'll have experienced at least some of the typical adaptions the body goes through.

Yo-yo dieting always comes with consequences, and water retention is the main consequence you'll experience for having left low carb for another way.

When you switch back to a glucose metabolism and then try to return to fat burning, the body will remember what you taught it when you were doing low carb. This means you'll adapt faster and won't waste as much energy.

If you have a history of going on-and-off a diet, your body isn't going to take you seriously this time either. Quitting is what you have taught your body that you do, and your body will expect you to do that again.

So, it won't behave as it did before. It's smarter now. It knows you better than you do. It remembers. It expects you to cheat or quit within a few days or weeks, which is exactly what I see in low-carb forums.

People return to Atkins Induction with high hopes. Bit if those hopes get crushed, what happens then?

Confusion and shock turns into frustration and hurt.

You look for blame, and if you can't find something to blame, you get mad, and what?
  1. Cheat?
  2. Quit?
Since quitting is what your body expects you to do, it won't let your fat cells deteriorate and shrink, once you've used their stored energy. Instead, the body will stuff water into those empty fat cells, keeping them plumped and alive for the next horde of fat it believes will be coming in soon.

On the scale, it will look like your diet isn't working, which is why it might take 10 to 14 days, or more, for you to see the water and glycogen whoosh that others are experiencing on Atkins Induction.

Pounds, and even inches, might not appear to be coming off, even though your body is burning through your fat stores to keep you alive and well.

If you're female and still ovulating, those monthly water fluctuations can really do a number on you mentally. The scale won't always be an accurate reflection of what's going on.

If you are consuming fewer calories than your body needs, it's burning fat, but that fat might be coming from viseral fat in between your organs and liver, instead of your hips and belly. Viseral fat occurs when your fat stores are filled to overflowing and refuse to accept any more triglycerides.

The body needs a quick place to stuff the fat, so it tucks it around your organs or even inside the liver. Viseral fat rarely shows up as inches lost because it's not coming from directly under the skin. You won't be able to look at yourself in the mirror and see any fat loss going on.

But that doesn't mean it isn't happening.

What Can You Do?

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot you can do about this phenomenon.
  1. Make sure you're getting adequate protein, as water retention can also be a sign of protein deficiency.
  2. Make sure you're drinking plenty of water to help balance low carb's dehydrating nature.
  3. And make sure that you're following your chosen plan correctly. Even small cheats can prevent the change from taking place.
Rarely is the problem due to one of the many reasons why people might stall partway to goal weight, so running around trying to tweak your diet during the first 6 to 8 weeks won't have much effect.

If the problem is adaption, you're efforts to force the body to lose weight won't help. It will just make you feel more frustrated and frightened that your low-carb diet isn't going to work this time around, creating more and more stress.

Sure, there are things that can get in the way like:
  • hormonal imbalances
  • thyroid issues
  • medications
  • and yeast overgrowth
But if the problem is adaption and water retention, the only recourse you have is to wait it out. The body can't hold onto the excess water indefinitely. Time is on your side. Eventually, the water has to go, so the fat cell can be degenerated and shrink.

Why Didn't You Keep the Weight Off?

Atkins has gone through a lot of changes over the years, so if you're getting ready to restart Atkins, you might need to take some time to get reacquainted with how things are now.

That doesn't mean that you have to dismiss the plan you did before. You can certainly do Old-School Atkins if you prefer. That's why we have all the information you need to do:
  • Atkins 72
  • Atkins 92
  • Atkins 2002
  • Atkins 20
  • Atkins 40
Just check out our Atkins Diet page for more info and links to a wide variety of articles.

Most importantly, you want want to review and evaluate the time you spent on Atkins before.
  1. Why did you leave Atkins?
  2. Why didn't you keep the weight off?
Those are probably the two most important questions you could ask yourself right now.

To ensure that it doesn't happen again, you need to know where you've been and why you arrived at the point you're at. You need to gain an accurate view of your personal priorities.

Moving from a dieting mindset to a lifestyle change will require you to eat foods you can enjoy for a lifetime. If you're only looking to drop some weight, and then move on, low carb might not be the right answer for you.

Weight management is difficult, but lifestyles aren't something you ditch when the going gets tough.

Lifestyles are what you are.