The Program: Phase 3
Supporting You During This Phase
Here are the answers to common questions and weight loss tips about Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, which acts as a bridge between weight loss and weight maintenance. You may also want to review FAQs for Phase 2
Why has my weight loss “plateaued”?
Different people respond to Atkins differently. You may lose weight consistently or in fits and starts. Or you may lose consistently and then find that weight loss stalls. Review the guidelines for Pre-Maintenance to ensure you're doing everything right. If you’re estimating instead of counting grams of Net Carbs
, you may be consuming more than you think you are. Or you may simply have increased your daily carb intake too quickly. Drop back by 5 grams; if that doesn’t do the trick, after a week, drop down another five. If you’ve gone beyond yourCarbohydrate Level for Losing
(CLL), you may have prematurely stumbled upon your personal carb balance or Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE)
, where weight stabilizes. In this case, you'll need to reduce your carb intake by 10 daily grams (or possibly more) of Net Carbs to reignite weight loss.
For more possible explanations, see Four Reasons for Stalled Weight Loss
. Also consider whether your weight loss expectations are realistic. You may have simply reached your body's natural weight.
If none of the above applies, remember that a true plateau is the loss of no pounds and no inches for at least four weeks, despite following Atkins to the letter. This may be frustrating but it’s perfectly natural for your body to take a break from weight loss. To determine if you’re truly on a plateau or need to make some adjustments to kick-start weight loss again, see How to Handle a Plateau
. If it is indeed a plateau, just continue to follow Atkins, stay patient—hard as it may be—and weight loss will resume.
What do I do if I slip up or even fall off the wagon?
First, don't feel guilty or get discouraged. Remember that a misstep is not failure—it's an opportunity to recommit to the program. Analyze why you slipped up and come up with a way to deal with a similar situation in the future.
You ate unacceptable foods at a social gathering.
: Next time, have a low-carb snack before you go to mute your appetite. The Atkins Community Forums
offer lots of tips about dining out.
Also see Dining Out on Different Cuisines
You had nothing suitable to eat and made a poor choice.
Always have the right foods on hand. See The Atkins Pantry
for tips on what to always have on hand.
: You "treated" yourself because you felt down.
Have an Atkins buddy to call in moments of weakness.
You mistakenly assumed certain foods were low in carbs.
Always check the Carb Counter
or Nutritional Facts panel on packaged foods to determine the Net Carb
You ignored hunger cues or skipped a meal, got ravenous and then gorged.
Eat regularly and learn to listen to your body.
Whatever the reason, get right back on the wagon. If you've had one bad day carb-wise, simply eat properly the next day—and subsequent days. If you've been completely out of control for more than a few days, you may need to return to Induction for a week or two until you get your appetite and cravings under control. Also see Recovering from Indiscretions
Why do I binge and how can I stop it?
Almost everyone has one or more trigger foods. Unlike craving more carbs a few hours after a high-carb meal, a trigger food produces an immediate reaction. Eat one pretzel, scoop of ice cream or another high-carb food, and you simply can't stop there. If possible, simply banish the offending food from the house.
To combat bingeing, be sure to stay at or below your CLL and eat enough fat and protein—the twin keys to appetite control. Do so and the Atkins Edge
should help control your appetite, even several hours after eating. But if you're above your carb threshold, feeling empty always triggers hunger. Reduce your daily carb intake until the urge to binge goes away. For more, see Blocking the Urge to Binge
Why have I suddenly regained lost weight despite following the program faithfully?
A typical adult’s body contains about 40 quarts of water, but it can safely range between 39 and 41 quarts. Each quart weighs 2 pounds, so your weight varies across a four-pound "gray zone." Thirst and kidney function only kick in when you get to the top or bottom of this zone.
Cutting carbs to less than 50 grams per day clears a few pounds of extra water, but that just pushes your four-pound natural variance that much lower, without narrowing the range. Add to this the two to five pounds of water that premenstrual women typically retain, and you'll see why the scale cannot possibly be that precise in measuring progress when you're losing, say, three pounds of fat a week.
If your period is approaching and you're following the program carefully, that probably accounts for your sudden weight gain or a stall in your weight loss. Don't worry. Stick with the plan and when your period ends, you'll see the numbers on the scale change.
What low-carb products can I eat in Pre-Maintenance?
By the time you reach Phase 3, you’ll start trying to reintroduce the remaining whole foods, including whole grains. If your carb tolerance is high enough, you’ll probably begin to rely less on specialty foods. That’s not to say that you can’t continue to enjoy the Atkins Advantage shakes
, Advantage bars and Atkins Day Break bars
you can eat in Induction and the Atkins Endulge bars and Atkins Cuisine All Purpose Baking Mix
you can have in OWL. You can also continue to have the low-carb tortillas, bread, pita bread, bagels, dairy drinks, yogurt, soy chips, and no-sugar added ice cream you may have had in OWL. (For specifics, see FAQs about Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss
The only Atkins product presently specific to Phases 3 and 4 is Atkins Cuisine Penne Pasta
, which contains about half the grams of Net Carbs in conventional pasta.
Why has my cholesterol gone up?
First, make sure that your cholesterol has actually risen. Unless you had baseline tests done before you began Atkins, as we recommend, you may not have known you already had high cholesterol. If it actually is higher, ask yourself whether you've been overdoing the carbs. It's fine to consume plenty of healthy natural fats as long as you're restricting carbs—but not if you aren't.
Second, you lose weight, total cholesterol usually rises because your body must break down stored fat for energy. Within two months, your total cholesterol level should drop. That's why we suggest you wait at least three months after starting Atkins before re-testing.
Numerous studies have shown that risk factors such as low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels and high triglycerides consistently show improvement on a low-carb diet. If your HDL cholesterol has increased, a temporary rise in total cholesterol could be a good thing. Also, cholesterol rises in some people when triglycerides drop significantly. If that drop is greater than the LDL increase, your overall profile may be improved.
While you absorb some cholesterol from eating animal products, your own liver makes the vast majority of the cholesterol in your body, independent of how much cholesterol you eat. So, yes, the amount of dietary cholesterol influences your cholesterol levels somewhat, but so does your genetic predisposition, and most importantly, the mix of other nutrients you eat.
Why is my husband losing more weight than me?
Men typically lose weight faster than women because they have more muscle mass and less estrogen, meaning they generally have a higher metabolism. Certain medications, activity level, hormonal status, genetics and age also influence weight loss. Don't compare your progress with others or obsess about short-term results. Also, make sure your weight loss expectations are realistic. You should measure your success on Atkins by more than just the number on the scale. Ask yourself:
- Am I feeling more vital and energetic throughout the day?
- Are my clothes fitting better?
- Have I lost inches?
- Have between-meal cravings and hunger diminished?
Most of all, stick with the program and focus on your own goals, rather than comparing yourself to your spouse or anyone else. Atkins is about good health and well-being as well as weight loss.
I've lost my extra weight. When can I quit?
By the time you've attained your goal weight in Pre-Maintenance, you've reached a critical phase of Atkins: You're in training for your lifetime way of eating. If you "quit" Atkins and go back to your old high-carb way of eating, you'll almost certainly fall into the yo-yo dieting trap that ensnares so many people who see a diet as a short-term solution. On the other hand, use Pre-Maintenance as it's designed to be used, and it will help you transition from the stricter earlier phases to a more liberal, but still healthful, way of eating for a lifetime.
Once you've reached your goal weight, remain in this phase until your new weight has been stable for a month. This will allow you to find your personal carb balance or Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium
(ACE), which is the number of grams of Net Carbs you can consume while neither gaining nor losing weight. When you move on to Lifetime Maintenance, you’ll remain at or just under your ACE as you continue to develop and practice eating habits that will keep you slim and feeling vigorous for life.