You’ve completed the Induction phase of Atkins! Congratulations. Now you’re ready for the next step: Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL). I love the name OWL because it reminds me of a wise old bird perched in a tree intensely watching its surroundings and contemplating its next meal. By the time you get well into this phase, you’ll have become wise in the ways of Atkins. Learning which new foods agree with you—and which don’t—and how much of them your body can tolerate will be part of your new knowledge—the knowledge that will eventually allow you to remain permanently slim.
When you start OWL, in addition to continuing your journey toward your goal weight, you’ll find your individual tolerance for carbohydrates. This is the phase in which you fine-tune your program, gradually adding small portions of appropriate carbohydrate foods. By trial and error, you’ll find the right carbohydrates and the right amount—for you. In doing so, you sustain the fat-burning success you've achieved in Induction even as you include a greater variety of nutrient-dense foods.
Each week or every few weeks, you can add new foods, starting with nuts and seeds, followed by berries. If you have a greater carb threshold, you’ll be able to enjoy some other categories of food, including legumes and whole grains, as long as you continue to lose and to feel in control of your appetite. Some people find that having fewer choices is easier, but it’s important to learn how to incorporate a wider variety of foods into your meals. Keeping a food diary should help you monitor the impact of certain foods on your appetite. If a new food causes cravings, eliminate it for the time being.
In OWL, you’ll learn how many grams of Net Carbs you can eat daily while continuing to lose weight. Your rate of weight loss is influenced by the amount of carbohydrates you add back, as well as your metabolism and how much and what kind of physical activity you engage in. Everyone is different, and OWL will help you find your personal Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CLL).
By slowly increasing your daily carbohydrate intake in 5-gram increments each week or every few weeks, you’ll customize Atkins to your personal needs, preferences and lifestyle.
Your CLL dictates the level at which you continue to lose. If you find that you aren't losing quickly enough—or at all—drop back 5 or 10 daily grams of Net Carbs and continue toward your goal. This puts you in the driver’s seat.
Proceed gradually and resist any urge to move forward too quickly. Continue to eat primarily whole foods in the form of fish, eggs, poultry, meats, tofu, healthy fats and foundation vegetables.
Every week that you continue to lose, you can increase your daily intake by 5 additional grams of Net Carbs. It’s best to add carbohydrate foods in a specific order, known as "climbing the carbohydrate ladder." If you don’t lose any weight one week, or new foods are creating cravings, don’t increase your carb intake and don’t add any new foods until weight loss resumes.
The first week on OWL, you’ll go from the 20 grams of Net Carbs you adhered to in Induction to 25 grams per day. The following week you can move to 30 daily grams and so on. Up the increments on a weekly or bi-monthly basis until your weight loss slows to one to two pounds each week. Slowly increasing your carb intake allows your body to continue to burn body fat for fuel so you keep losing weight.
Induction helped you jump-start weight loss by getting your body to utilize fat for fuel. You should have stayed on Induction for a minimum of two weeks, but it is perfectly safe to follow it for a little longer if you have a lot of weight to lose. Your results during the first two weeks of Induction enable you to understand your individual resistance to weight loss. The greater your degree of metabolic resistance, the more slowly and carefully you will proceed in OWL.
However, you can certainly move into Ongoing Weight Loss after two weeks if and when:
You’re bored with Induction.
You’re willing to slow your rate of weight loss in exchange for more food choices.
You don’t have a considerable amount of weight to lose (20 pounds or less), or after a two-week Induction, you are within 40 pounds of your goal weight.
The most restrictive phase of Atkins, Induction, is also the simplest, which means that it almost always works. As you move into Ongoing Weight Loss, your newfound freedom can pose some challenges.
You’ll continue to slim down but there will be a gradual decrease in the rate at which you drop pounds and inches. And if you add carb foods too quickly, you’ll stop your fat-burning engine and weight loss will cease or stall.
If this happens as soon as you move to OWL, return to Induction for a few days to kick-start your metabolism again. Once you start losing again, return to OWL, this time moving more cautiously.
Over the course of the next few weeks or months in this phase, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a whole new way of healthy eating that will help form the parameters of your lifetime program. You'll find out how much carbohydrate consumption you can tolerate while still losing weight.
Once you learn how your body reacts and how quickly you can add new foods without interfering with weight loss, you’ll have acquired the tools—and wisdom— with which to enjoy a lifetime of slimness.