Once you've reached your goal weight, know that if you regain some pounds, returning briefly to an earlier phase can banish the problem.
A proper lifetime eating plan utilizes all four phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach™. That's because, as much as you may not want to hear it, maintaining your goal weight can be challenging. Factors independent of your appetite can influence it. No one's weight is constant. There will be times in your life when you gain some weight back. A change in activity level (a more sedentary job, for example), hormonal fluctuations, the addition of certain medications and simply the passage of years can slow your metabolism. Or you may not be following the program.
Here are three typical scenarios and three strategies for regaining control.
1. Falling Off the Wagon
Perhaps you've been following Lifetime Maintenance faithfully and then a holiday, birthday or vacation leads to a bout of unrestrained indulgence. You may find that instead of being five pounds overweight, you've gained 15 pounds. Instead of waiting, act now!
Above all, don't get depressed and give up. Even if you do temporarily get off track, continue to exercise and take your supplements. It's crucial that you don't surrender all control. Go back to Induction or Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) until you've reached your goal weight again, at which time you should ease back into Lifetime Maintenance. Increasing your activity level after going overboard will also help get you back on the straight and narrow.
Going right back to a previous phase is even easier – now that you know the program. Don't simply resume Lifetime Maintenance without first losing all you have regained. A salad a day, a portion of veggies, plenty of protein and fat and, voilà, you've slashed your weight back in as little as six to eight days, or two or three weeks, depending upon your degree of metabolic resistance.
2. A Gain of Five Pounds
After reaching your goal weight, you should have developed the confidence to know that small weight gains can be easily controlled. You may need to adjust your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE) from time to time, in effect going back to OWL or to Pre-Maintenance, or even Induction for a week or so. If you are eating just as you always have on Lifetime Maintenance and you suddenly begin to gain weight, try reducing your carb intake by 5 grams and see if your weight stabilizes. If so, that number is your new ACE. Of course, you will then also want to trim off those extra pounds by temporarily dropping below that number.
Your strategy here should be very much like a baseball game where the base runner allows himself to take a lead off first base, but never so far that he cannot scurry back to touch the base should the pitcher suddenly turn to pick him off. Your goal weight is the base you must touch between deviations, and the deviation should not be more than five pounds. Going briefly back to an earlier phase allows you to get back to that number. Staying on Lifetime Maintenance isn't enough to get back on track.
3. A Change in Metabolism
As we get older, our metabolism tends to slow down a bit, making it harder to maintain the slim body many of us were blessed with in our youth. This means that the ACE you had in your 30s may not be the ACE you will be dealing with in your 40s, and it is almost definitely not the ACE you'll have in the decades after that. As you age, you may eventually have to control your carb intake a little more or increase your activity level—or perhaps even both—to maintain your goal weight.