The Program: Phase 2
When to Move On
Time to Move to Pre-Maintenance—or Not
As you'll come to understand, your experience in OWL will likely determine what your permanent diet will look like. Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, is where most people lose their last excess pounds and segue into permanent way of eating. If you've been losing steadily and are now close to your goal weight, don't waste any time before transitioning to Pre-Maintenance. But as long as you're alert to danger signals, you may be able to move on before you get to this point.
GO OR NO GO
If you still have more than 10 pounds to go but are champing at the bit for more food choices, you can move to Phase 3 under certain circumstances. You should have been steadily losing weight at a CLL of 50-plus without cravings and nagging hunger. However, if weight loss ceases and any previous symptoms return, waste no time returning to OWL. You're better off remaining in OWL if your weight loss is stalled, certain foods still trigger cravings, you're eating inappropriate foods on occasion and/or your blood sugar and insulin levels are not yet normalized. Ignore that old wives' tale that upping your carbs will break a plateau. The reality is that any plateau eventually comes to its natural conclusion.
BUMPING UP AGAINST YOUR ACE
What if you lost weight in Induction, but can't seem to budge in OWL? Or new foods are causing cravings and unreasonable hunger. You may be particularly sensitive to carbs and must keep your intake low indefinitely. If that is the case, don't even consider moving to Pre-Maintenance. You may have unintentionally reached your personal carb balance or Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE), which is the number of grams of Net Carbs you can consume without gaining or losing weight— typically found in Pre-Maintenance.
For some people, both their CLL and ACE are low, as well as close together, 30 and 45 grams, for example. Even if you're still losing weight, your carb-intake level may be destabilizing indicators that you've recently brought under control—namely, hunger and cravings. To remedy things, back down 5 daily grams for one or two weeks to see how you feel. If necessary, drop back another five. If you suspect that a new food may be the culprit, limit it to a couple of servings a week or omit it. Add no new foods until you stabilize, and then try again to reintroduce them as long as both weight loss and overall feelings of well being remain. When you're 10 pounds from your goal weight, move to Pre-Maintenance.
THE LOWER-CARB APPROACH
However, if you're consuming somewhere between 25 and 50 grams of Net Carbs, cannot increase your CLL and are 10 pounds from your goal weight, there's no point in trying to move to the next phase and introduce higher carb foods. Instead, stay in OWL until you reach your goal weight, maintain it for a month, and then follow our lower-carb approach to Lifetime Maintenance. Don't feel bad if your CLL is quite low. Instead, be grateful that Atkins allows you to find the individualized level that works for you.