A new religion sprouted in the 1990s among the frenzy of personal health and the quest for better-looking bodies. Adherents to the Atkins diet make up one of the most popular and testimonial-driven movements in that religion. The famous, symbolic Atkins “A” found on food products and in restaurant menus has attained an almost universal meaning of low-carb guarantee to the stringent Atkins loyalists. Cut through the hype and sensation of Atkins and read our introduction and analysis.

Atkins in a nutshell The basic point of the Atkins diet is Dr. Atkins’ principle that hypersensitivity to and the over-consumption of carbohydrates is the cause of weight gain. It is the way our bodies process the carbs we eat—not the fat we consume—that makes us gain weight.

Atkins holds that the majority of overweight individuals might be "insulin resistant," which is that the cells that convert carbohydrates into glucose (which becomes energy) do not work properly. Although most nutritional experts disagree with the relationship between insulin resistance and weight gain, Atkins believes it is more likely than not.

Enter Dr. Atkins’ plan. How do you remedy insulin resistance or over-consumption of carbohydrates? Begin barring yourself, particularly from eating the "bad" ones like those found in pre-packaged, processed and junk foods (sodas, cookies, etc.) and follow the Atkins regimented high-protein diet.

How does it work? By limiting your carbohydrate intake to less than 40 grams per day, you will begin a bodily process called ketosis. Ketosis is a state in which the body burns fat as fuel. Atkins also asserts that ketosis will affect insulin production, which will inhibit more fat from being formed. The plan maintains that once the body enters ketosis and your body begins effectively using the fat as fuel, the harsh cravings for carbs will ebb and you won’t long for the foods you’ve been abstaining from.

The food and the phases The Atkins Diet is made up of the following four phases: induction, ongoing weight loss, pre-maintenance, and maintenance. Induction is the first two weeks of the plan, during which Atkins writes you can shed up to 15 pounds. This accelerated weight loss is due to restricting your carbs to 20 grams per day. The only carbs you can consume are low-carb vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, and lettuce; these are limited to three cups per day. Cast aside your yogurt, fruit and starchy vegetables like potatoes. If you consume caffeine or alcohol, prepare to bid them adieu. In the next phase—ongoing weight loss—you can increase your carb intake by a measly five grams. You will eventually reach a plateau and have to cut your carb intake another time. During pre-maintenance, weight loss occurs a little more slowly and you will be able to "test" specific foods to determine whether you can safely include them in your diet without gaining more weight. Once you attain your desired weight, you enter the maintenance phase and can introduce some more carbs back into your diet—but not the "bad" ones, because they will cause you to gain more weight. You are encouraged to select healthy carbs instead, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice. Advantages and drawbacks We have seen and can personally attest to the effectiveness of the Atkins diet. The diet has demonstrated results in and out of the laboratory. It has the sanction of large nutritional societies and of many doctors and dieticians. Many restaurateurs and grocers have seen the demand for Atkins and have responded with Atkins-certified foods and menu items. You won’t be at a loss at the dinner table if you mention you’re on Atkins because it is becoming easier and easier to accommodate.

We have, however, discovered an Atkins discontent among those who reach their “plateaus” and then cannot sustain their weight goals. Many find that their cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods, especially for the bad “ones,” do not dissipate but intensify. Added to this concern are serious questions about induced ketosis that Atkins diet relies upon. Ketosis combined with exercise can spell out serious health problems, including fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness, constipation, and moodiness. Diet without exercise is virtually pointless.

We strongly suggest that you consult your physician before undertaking any serious diet plans.

More resources Begin your discovery of the Atkins diet with Dr. Atkins himself. Your best bet is:

  • Robert C. Atkins, Atkins for Life, St. Martin’s Press, 2003.

Atkins Diet Links

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