The Atkins Diet Plan
The Atkins Diet Plan is a weight loss plan that prevents the absorption of carbohydrates into the body because it regulates against the intake of carbohydrates. In other words, you can’t include carbohydrates as part of your diet if you opt for The Atkins Diet Plan. Where the Phentermine diet drug suppresses the desire to eat by manipulating the main appetite centers in the brain and the Xenical diet drug is a fat blocker, the Atkins Diet Plan does not involve diet drugs of any kind. It simply is a weight loss plan that chooses to eliminate carbohydrates of any kind from the daily diet.
Basic Principles of The Atkins Diet Plan
The Atkins Diet Plan maintains four principles that serve as its foundation as set forth by Dr. Atkins. By “permanently adopting the Atkins Diet Nutritional Approach”* you will achieve the following:
- Weight loss – by eliminating carbohydrates, the body burns fat instead. Normally, carbohydrates are the first to be metabolized. In their absence, the body moves to that which it typically metabolizes second: fat. Fat is burned as the primary energy source thus resulting in weight loss.
- Weight maintenance – every person possesses a specific carbohydrate intake level where weight is neither gained nor lost. Basically more calories can be consumed on a low carbohydrate diet plan than on a low fat diet plan.
- Good health – The Atkins Diet Plan is a controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach that combines food sources with vitamin and mineral supplements thus achieving a nutritionally complete diet. Specifically, people are more at risk when following low fat, calorie-restricted diet plans than they are adhering to diet plans rich in nutrient-dense foods.
- Disease prevention – people at risk for or diagnosed with chronic diseases will experience improvements in their conditions if they lower their carbohydrate and insulin levels. The Atkins Diet Plan promotes the decrease of carbohydrate and insulin levels.
Four Phases of The Atkins Diet Plan
The Atkins Diet Plan is a four–phase eating plan that achieves a balanced nutritional approach if employed in conjunction with vitamin and mineral supplements and regular exercise.
The Atkins Diet Plan rebalances a person’s nutrition so that a heightened energy level, better appearance and a better sense of well-being are achieved. Dr. Atkins promulgates the fact that following The Atkins Diet Plan lays the foundation for a lifetime of better and improved health.
The Atkins Diet Plan is individualized and allows a person to choose the foods to eat based on weight loss and weight maintenance goals. Food selection in The Atkins Diet Plan differs according to the individual’s metabolism and the particular phase entered.
Basically, though, The Atkins Diet Plan restricts the consumption of processed/refined carbohydrates such as high-sugar foods, bread, pasta, cereal and starch-laden vegetables. To supplant the loss of natural nutrients found in these carbohydrate-laden foods, Dr. Atkins promotes a regimen of vitamin supplements – a “full-spectrum” multi-vitamin as well as an essential oils/fatty acid formula that is composed of polyunsaturated acids. Polyunsaturated acids, essential to any diet plan, are composed of linolenic (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6).
The Atkins Diet Plan is separated into four phases:
- Induction – carbohydrate consumption is reduced to or established at 20 grams per day. Carbohydrate consumption is reserved for salads and non-starch vegetables. A carbohydrate is a nutrient that supplies energy, in the form of calories, to the body. It is composed of monosaccharides (simple sugars) and polysaccharides whose sources are grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (beans and peas) and other plant foods. When completely digested, 1 carbohydrate gram yields 4 calories.
- Ongoing Weight Loss – Dr. Atkins stipulates that carbohydrates are added to the diet by increasing the first weeks intake to 25 grams, to 30 grams in the 2nd week, 35 grams in the 3rd week if necessary and so on until the weight loss stops. That’s correct, add to your carbohydrate level through The Atkins Diet Plan until you stop losing weight. Weight loss occurs by including nutrient dense (nutrient measurement:calories dispensed) and fiber-rich foods into the diet. To maintain that specific amount of weight lost, reduce your daily carbohydrate intake by 5 grams.
- Pre-maintenance – this is the phase in The Atkins Diet Plan where weight loss transitions to weight maintenance. Weight maintenance is achieved by increasing the intake of carbohydrates in 10 gram increments each week as long as gradual weight loss is maintained.
- Lifetime maintenance – the Dr. Atkins Diet recommends that you choose from a wider variety of foods as long as you are mindful of your carbohydrate intake. Dr. Atkins suggests employing carbohydrates to maintain and regulate weight loss whose end goal is a healthier lifestyle.
Alternatives to The Atkins Diet Plan
There are many ways to achieve your ideal weight. Some feel that a diet plan like The Atkins Diet Plan is too restrictive, emphasizes fat and reduces the essential daily intake of phytonutrients. If you are one of these people and do not like this restrictive type of diet plan, then consider The Fit For Life Program that offers you the ability to eat anything you desire as long as your food is eaten in proper combinations.
Dr Atkins Diet
There are thousands of people that have employed Dr. Atkins Diet successfully. My mother, aged 67, is one of those people. Prior to commencing with Dr. Atkins Diet, she struggled with her weight (she was not obese, just mildly overweight), felt sluggish and seemed overly concerned with her cholesterol level, blood sugar level and blood pressure readings, even while adhering to a strict exercise regimen.
About 6 months have passed since she commenced with Dr. Atkins Diet and she reports staggering results. She recently visited her doctor and was given a physical. She reports that her LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) has halved, her blood sugar has dropped significantly and her blood pressure is down to worry-free levels – not bad for someone that seems to be a chronic worrier. The most telling part of the story is that shortly after beginning Dr. Atkins Diet, she told me that she did not feel sluggish anymore. She felt light, even after meals – the way you feel after eating a meal in Europe. In our European experience, we can eat the best foods, bread included and drink the best wines and not feel bloated or full afterward. We still feel light on our feet. My mother reports feeling light on her feet and attributes it to Dr. Atkins Diet. I understand that my findings are not scientific nor are they the result of a proper sampling. However, my mother made one change in her life to the Dr. Atkins Diet and there was significant change internally and outwardly. She looks great and has a twinkle in her eye she did not carry in previous months.
Dr Atkins Diet – the critique
As I stated previously, Dr. Atkins practiced medicine for 40 years and cared for over 60,000 patients. His book was a best-seller so no doubt he has provided a significant, life altering option for people wanting to lose weight. (Dr. Atkins died in April, 2003 at age 72 shortly after sustaining a head injury caused by slipping on ice.)
However, there are those that critique the thinking and methods behind the Dr. Atkins Diet. They must be mentioned in this forum.
Many critiques will begin with the fact that choosing a diet plan in the first place is the wrong choice because all diet plans are fads and are temporary fixes because they do not represent your truest habits and, as such, weight will only appear once again after you’ve completed the fad diet program. Only you will know the answer after studying the merits of each diet program. But, for purposes of brevity and focus, I’ll stick to critiquing only the thinking and methods of the Dr. Atkins Diet:
- Weight loss occurs when caloric intake is less than calories burned. Weight loss is sure to occur by eliminating the basic food groups: fruits, cereals, breads, pastas, vegetables, grains, starches, baked goods, dairy products, starchy vegetables and sweets. The critique is that any reduction in caloric intake – whether from protein, carbohydrate or fat – will help you to lose weight. The basic weight loss formula is said to be that in order to maintain weight, calories burned must equal calories consumed.
- Water loss is responsible for initial weight loss in the Dr. Atkins Diet. The initial weight loss that tricks people into thinking the Dr. Atkins Diet is working is due to water loss not due to loss of fat. Carbohydrates break down into glucose. For every 1 gram of glycogen (glucose) stored, the body also stores 3 grams of water. The Dr. Atkins Diet significantly reduces carbohydrate intake which means the body burns emergency stored levels of glucose and along with it stored levels of water.
- The Dr. Atkins Diet labels insulin as bad. Insulin has several functions, one of which is to assist our cells in absorbing glucose from the blood stream to use as energy. Glucose or sugar is stored as fat so the thinking is that insulin allows the body to store fat or better said, insulin allows the body to keep the weight on. According to my research, all ingested foods trigger the production of insulin. So, carbohydrates do not trigger insulin production alone and therefore are not solely responsible for the storing of fat. If the body ingests more calories than it is capable of burning, insulin allows the body to store those calories as fat. Further, if extra calories are ingested in the form of carbohydrates, the body will work harder to break them down to fat for storage. If excess fat is ingested, the body simply stores it as fat.
- Does the Dr. Atkins Diet address the true culprits of weight gain? Weight gain is certainly influenced by lack of exercise, genetics, psychological issues, social issues, medical problems and other issues.
- Healthy populations ingest carbohydrates. The Japanese enjoy a carbohydrate-rich diet and do not suffer from heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes. The Japanese diet emphasizes grains, rice and vegetables and does not focus on high protein, high fat animal products. (I know what you’re thinking. What about the seemingly healthy French that diet on high fat foods and red wine? Another story for another time.)
- High fat diets have been associated with an increased risk of heart disease. The Dr. Atkins Diet emphasizes high saturated fat products like red meat, butter and bacon. Some medical studies have suggested a correlation between a high fat diet and risk of heart disease. The issue here is that Dr. Atkins has been challenged for not publishing long term results of his Dr. Atkins Diet.
- The National Cancer Institute states that each person should ingest a minimum of 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables in order to reduce the risk of developing cancer. High consumption of whole grain products has also been attributed to a reduced cancer risk. Whole grain products are carbohydrate-laden and are not advocated initially in the Dr. Atkins Diet. The vitamins and minerals in grains, fruits and vegetables so needed by the body are capsulized by Dr. Atkins and marketed as nutritional supplements. Some are skeptical of the intentions of Dr. Atkins in that he profits from that which he restricts. Lastly, phytochemicals are compounds that trigger enzymes that may block carcinogenic damage to bodily cells. Phytochemicals abound in grains, fruits and vegetables and are believed by many to be impossible to re-create in a supplement.
Dr. Atkins is the author of the Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution that promotes the restriction of carbohydrates in a daily diet, at least at the outset of the diet plan. Dr. Atkins is Robert C. Atkins, M.D. and is the founder and executive medical director of The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City.
Dr. Atkins practiced medicine for 40 years and cared for over 60,000 patients. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1951 and received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School in 1955. He furthered his education by specializing in cardiology.
The foundation of the Dr. Atkins philosophy centers on weight loss by targeting insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Those people that are over-weight struggle through a state of increased levels of insulin where their bodies become accustomed to releasing insulin that will convert excess carbohydrates to fat. Too many carbohydrates release too much insulin which, in turn, convinces the body that it always must be in a state of storing fat. Dr. Atkins states that even when people with heightened levels of insulin try to lose weight by reducing fat intake and increasing carbohydrate intake, they are unsuccessful because insulin is always looking to convert (to fat) and store (fat).
Dr. Atkins goal is to lower the carbohydrate intake thereby regulating insulin production and decreasing insulin circulation. Dr. Atkins submits that a lower level of insulin results in less fat storage and fewer food cravings. However, the suggested elimination of carbohydrates through The Aktins Diet Plan is temporary. Once a body’s ideal weight is achieved, Dr. Atkins suggests re-introducing carbohydrates into your diet, albeit in small measured increments.
According to The Atkins Diet Plan, ninety percent of Dr. Atkins patients have experienced dramatic weight loss.