Doing Atkins Easily

All you need to know to master the basics of the Atkins Diet.

Believe it or not, Atkins isn't primarily about losing weight. Instead, it's a lifestyle that enables you to take control of your weight—and your health—for good. Nor is Atkins all about eating beef and bacon. You'll find you can eat a variety of delicious whole foods, including lots of vegetables. (The typical Western diet, in contrast, is full of sugar, white flour and other refined carbohydrates.) And Atkins is remarkably flexible, so you can tailor it to your needs. Bottom line: You'll love your meals and you'll love your results.

How Does Atkins Work?

Your body burns both glucose (sugar), from carbohydrates, and fat for energy. Glucose is its "preferred" fuel, but only because it converts quickly to energy. Fat, your backup fuel, does the job just as well. Controlling carbs means that you burn fat, including your own body fat, which kick-starts weight loss.

Is Atkins Safe?

Atkins has always been about limiting—not eliminating—carbs, and choosing those with the most fiber, vitamins, minerals and a host of other nutrients. The Atkins principles are firmly grounded in science. Over 80 research studies published in peer-reviewed journals confirm the safety and efficacy of Atkins. In fact, emerging science consistently shows that compared to low-fat diets, low-carb diets produce greater weight loss and better compliance. Plus, when people followed a low-carb diet, or specifically the Atkins protocols, certain risk factors for a host of conditions improved. These include heart disease, elevated blood sugar and elevated insulin levels.

Four Phases for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating

In all four phases, you'll savor protein foods such as fish, poultry, meat and tofu and healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, plus "good" carbohydrates. In Induction, these healthy carbs are primarily vegetables. You'll add a greater variety of whole food carbs in subsequent phases. As you increase your carb intake in each phase, you'll gradually rebalance your intake of the three major food groups.

First you'll shed pounds on Atkins, and then you'll learn how to maintain your healthy goal weight—for good. Here's how you'll do it.

Induction: Phase 1 lasts for a minimum of two weeks. Feel free to remain here longer if you have lots of weight to lose. Consume 20 grams of net carbs (total grams of carbs minus grams of fiber) daily, primarily as veggies. In addition to at least 12 grams of veggies (five or more servings), you'll eat protein and healthy, natural fats. Avoid foods made with sugar or flour and other refined grains.

Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL): In Phase 2, slowly add back more veggies and then foods such as berries and nuts. Increase your daily carb intake in 5-gram increments each week as long as you continue to lose weight. When it stops, you've found your tolerance for consuming carbs, known as your personal carb balance. As you add carbs, you'll gradually decrease your fat intake. Most people remain in OWL until they're about 10 pounds from their goal weight.

Pre-Maintenance: In Phase 3, continue to reduce fat intake as you add more healthy carbs. They'll include still more vegetables—including starchy ones—plus fruits other than berries, legumes and whole grains. As long as you continue to lose, increase your daily carb intake by 10 grams of net carbs each week until you reach your goal weight. Then, find your carb tolerance, the highest carb intake that lets you maintain your weight. Stay in Pre-Maintenance until your weight is stable for a month and re-introducing new foods doesn't provoke cravings.

Lifetime Maintenance: Phase 4 isn't really a phase. It's the rest of your life. Continue to consume the varied whole-foods diet of Pre-Maintenance, remaining at your carb tolerance. Monitor your weight and measurements regularly. Continue to reintroduce carbohydrate foods—as long as they don't cause weight gain or stimulate cravings. By this time, most people can handle an occasional indulgence, with the emphasis on occasional. Correct any small weight gain—fast—by returning to an earlier phase.