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Atkins Diet

Diet weight loss
The Atkins Diet

By Valerie Mellema

The Atkins Diet or Atkins Nutritional Approach, is a low carb diet that was adapted by Dr. Robert Atkins in the 1960s from a diet he found published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr. Atkins designed the diet to resolve his own overweight condition after medical school. After successfully treating more than ten thousand patients with his diet, he began marketing it in a series of books in the 70s. The latest version of the diet is the Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution.

The Atkins Diet is different in that it departs from several dieting theories. Atkins' claimed that there were two main factors causing obesity in the US including carbohydrates (especially those with high flour, sugar and high-fructose corn syrups) and saturated fat. Essentially, the diet rejects the theory of the food pyramid that has been set in stone for many years, as Atkins asserted the increase in carbohydrates the food pyramid recommends is the basis for many metabolic disorders.

The Atkins diet also focuses on the fact that dietary fat is detrimental and another cause for obesity as it increases the number insulin-inducing foods in the diet. The Atkins diet restricts the consumption of carbohydrates in an effort to switch the metabolism from burning the glucose provided by it to burning stored body fat.

The Atkins Diet has four phases, which include:

  • Induction
  • Ongoing weight loss
  • Pre-maintenance
  • Lifetime maintenance


This is the most restrictive phase of the diet. This phase is intended to push the body into a state of ketosis quickly. Ketosis is the state that the body enters when it is not receiving carbs to produce glucose and must then begin burning body fat. During this phase, carbs are limited to 20 net grams per day. Twelve to fifteen net grams that the person does receive should come from salad greens and vegetables.
The allowed foods during this phase include:

  • Meats
  • Fish
  • Fowl
  • Eggs
  • Up to 4 ounces of semi-soft cheese
  • Salad vegetables
  • Low carb vegetables
  • Butter and vegetable oils

Alcoholic beverages are not allowed during this phase. Dieters may have small amounts of caffeine as long as it does not cause cravings. If you are addicted to caffeine, it is suggested that you avoid it until the later phases of the diet. A daily multivitamin is also recommended.

This phase is when people see the most weight loss. People have reported losing 5 to 10 pounds during this phase with daily exercise. Phase one is designed to last for two weeks.

Ongoing Weight Loss

The Ongoing Weight Loss phase consists of an increase in carbohydrates, but keeping them low enough so that weight loss still occurs. The daily carb intake increases each week by 2 net grams. The goal here is to find out how many grams of carbs can be eaten while still losing weight. This phase lasts until you are within 10 pounds of the target weight.


Pre-maintenance is the third phase and also increases your carb intake. You can increase by 10 net grams a week from the ladder groupings. The ladder has nine categories and each "rung" should be added in this order:

  • Acceptable vegetables
  • Fresh dairy
  • Nuts
  • Berries
  • Alcohol
  • Legumes
  • Other Fruits
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Grains

You can skip a ring if you do not intend to include that food group.

Lifetime Maintenance

This phase is intended to keep the new eating habits that were learned in the previous phases going. Whole and unprocessed foods are emphasized to be eaten and people should avoid the end-of-diet mindset that they can go back to their old eating habits, otherwise they will gain the weight back. The dieter can also drop back to a previous phase if they begin to gain weight.