Of the hundreds of diet plans for weight loss, one of the more well known is the Atkins diet. This particular diet was first developed nearly 40 years ago by heart physician, Dr. Robert Atkins. The Atkins diet has withstood the test of time and if you stick to this diet, you can lose weight. The key feature about the Atkins diet is that it limits the consumption of carbohydrates and instead encourages consumption of fats and proteins. This means you cannot not eat sugar, white flour and refined carbohydrates that are the cause of weight gain and other health problems. The Atkins diet requires a major change in lifestyle and eating habits so that once you lose the body weight, you can keep it off. The other benefit of the Atkins diet is that it also helps improve certain medical disorders like lowering of blood pressure and diabetes.
So who can benefit from the Atkins diet?
The Atkins diet is not for everyone as it does have severe carbohydrate restrictions, but for someone who wants to lose weight, change their eating habits and lower the blood pressure, this is a great diet.
Over the past few decades, the Atkins diet has undergone some minor modifications. Today, the diet also encourages consumption of high fiber vegetables to accommodate vegans and vegetarians. Plus, the diet also addresses health issues that often occur when starting with a low carbohydrate diet.
When the Atkins diet was first introduced, exercise was not part of the program. Today, the founder of the diet does acknowledge that exercise is important aid for weight loss.
Atkins diet phases
To help people get used to the diet, the diet has several phases that include the following:
- The first phase is the most rigid and here you can eat only 20 grams of carbohydrates all derived from vegetables (E.g. asparagus, beans, cucumber, celery, broccoli and peppers). Proteins that you can eat include meat, fish, eggs, and cheese at every meal. You should drink at least 8 glasses of water everyday. This phase lasts 2 weeks depending on how much weight you lose.
- Phase 2 is the balancing phase where you still only eat 12-15 grams of foundation vegetables for carbs. Sugar is avoided but one can eat berries, seeds and nuts. One remains in this phase until you are about 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) away from your goal weight.
- Phase 3 is the pre-maintenance phase where you can gradually start to eat more variety like fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. One is allowed to add about 10 grams of sugar to the diet each week but this must be reduced if the weight loss stops. This phase continues until you reach your desired weight goal.
- Phase 4 is the lifetime maintenance phase when you reach your desired weight and continue eating in a controlled manner for the rest of your life.
So do people lose weight?
The professionals who recommend the Atkins diet say that most people lose about 7 kilos (16 pounds) in the first phase. Unfortunately, most of the weight loss during this phase is not just fat but a lot of body water. The actual weight loss occurs in the later phases. The chief reason people lose weight with the Atkins diet is because the food choices are very limited. While in the short term people do lose weight with the Atkins diet, the long-term results are not very impressive. In fact, the long-term results of the Atkins diet are no better than any other standard weight loss diet. Similarly, the health benefits of the Atkins diet are not spectacular and can be obtained with almost any weight loss diet that encourages exercise.
What are adverse effects of the Atkins diet?
While the Atkins diet is relatively safe, the restriction of carbohydrates can lead to the following symptoms:
In addition, the restricted intake of carbohydrates can also lead to nutritional deficiencies and the low fiber intake can cause moderate to severe constipation, bloating and nausea.
Who should not go on the Atkins diet?
The Atkins diet is not for everyone. Anyone with health problems should first consult with their healthcare provider. People who take the water pill, have diabetes or take medications to treat diabetes should not be on this diet as the risk of developing low sugar (hypoglycemia) is real and serious. Further, individuals with kidney disease as well as women who are breast-feeding or pregnant should avoid the Atkins diet.
The good thing about the Atkins diet is that you do not count calories or portions but you need to track your carbohydrates. When you eat a low Carb diet, the body will burn off the fat stores to release calories so that you will not feel tired or hungry.
There is not cost for the Atkins diet; one does not have to become a member or buy brand name foods. There is ample free information online on the types of food and diet plans for the Atkins diet. In addition, there are many online support groups that provide advice on foods, nutrition and overall health.
For the individual who needs structure in their diet and wants to lose weight, the Atkins diet may be a start. The diet encourages limiting carbohydrates and focusing on proteins and fats that are primarily plant-based. However, to maximize the benefits of this diet, you must exercise. Almost any type of exercise is better than no exercise- even walking for one hour a day is recommended. The good thing about the Atkins diet is that it costs nothing to start the diet but it does require a great deal of mind control to avoid sugary foods like pizza, candies, desserts, chocolates, pies, ice cream, etc. And if you can do that you can rest assured the weight loss will follow.