The Program: Phase 3
When to Move On
Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, bridges weight loss and weight maintenance. It’s where most people lose their last extra 10 pounds and then segue into a permanent way of eating. So if you start maintaining your weight in this phase, why would you need to move to Phase 4, Lifetime weight loss maintenance? And when do you actually do so? It’s helpful to think of Pre-Maintenance as a dress rehearsal for Lifetime Maintenance, which is the main show—your new lifestyle! Once you’ve rehearsed enough to learn the habits that will allow you to eat in a way that naturally maintains your weight, you’re ready for “opening night.”
Find Your ACE
Before you can move to Lifetime Maintenance, you need to know exactly how many grams of Net Carbs you can consume each day while maintaining your weight. You’re already familiar with your Carbohydrate Level for Losing
(CLL), which was your threshold for carb consumption while still losing weight. In contrast, your personal carb balance or Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium
(ACE), is your personal threshold for carb consumption while neither gaining nor losing weight. While weight loss maintenance is a key goal, you also want to be sure you can maintain your ACE without experiencing extreme hunger, cravings or any of those other old demons that indicate excess carb consumption. If that happens, you’ve lost the Atkins Edge
, which will make it will be extremely difficult for you to sustain that level of carb intake—and your new weight. It can take some “backing and forthing” to settle on your natural ACE, which is why Pre-Maintenance serves as a tryout period.
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
In addition to finding your ACE, you’ll most likely be trying out some new foods in Pre-Maintenance. You may be able to tolerate all of them, some of them or none of them. Or you may be able to eat some of them only occasionally or in very small amounts. These are the same foods you’ll be eating in the next phase—although you may broaden your range of foods within each rung of the Carb Ladder
. If any food creates problems for you, omit it for a while and then reintroduce it once twice a week to see if you can better tolerate it.
Again, this ability to rehearse with new foods means you are not moving into uncharted waters when you transition to Lifetime Maintenance.
Time for Lifetime Maintenance
Once you hit upon the correct number of grams of Net Carbs to hold your weight steady—and avoid any symptoms of exceeding your carb tolerance—simply practice your “dress rehearsal” for a month before officially graduating to Lifetime Maintenance. Don’t move on if you’re still struggling with new foods or experiencing weight fluctuations beyond the normal daily ebb and flow. If you suffer a setback, simply reset the clock and “rehearse” for another four weeks. Annoying as it may be to delay moving to Lifetime Maintenance, the more likely you are to achieve the ultimate goal of stabilizing your weight if you don’t move before you’re ready.