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What is the Atkins Diet?

Lee Hayward

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The cornerstone of the Atkins philosophy is a four-phase eating plan in conjunction with vitamin and mineral supplementation and regular exercise. Further, it is based upon four principles.

The Atkins Nutritional Approach rebalances your nutrition so that you improve your energy level and your appearance and gain a sense of well-being. Following this approach lays the groundwork for a lifetime of better health.

The four-phase individualized eating plan allows you to knowledgeably select which foods to eat based on your need to achieve weight loss and weight maintenance, enjoy good health and prevent disease. Food selections will differ to varying degrees depending upon the phase you are in and your individual metabolism.

The phases in the Atkins roadmap to sustained success are:

Phase 1: Induction

Restrict carbohydrate consumption to 20 grams each day, obtaining carbohydrate primarily from salad and other non-starchy vegetables.

Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL)

Add carbohydrate, in the form of nutrient-dense and fiber-rich foods, by increasing to 25 grams daily the first week, 30 grams daily the next week and so on until weight loss stops. Then subtract 5 grams of carbohydrate from your daily intake so that you continue sustained, moderate weight loss.

Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance

Make the transition from weight loss to weight maintenance by increasing the daily carbohydrate intake in 10-gram increments each week so long as very gradual weight loss is maintained.

Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance

Select from a wide variety of foods while controlling carbohydrate intake to ensure weight maintenance and a sense of well-being. This lifestyle is the foundation for a lifetime of better health.

Unlike a diet, the Atkins Nutritional Approach is a lifetime nutritional philosophy, focusing on the consumption of nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods and vitanutrient supplementation. Moreover, Atkins restricts processed/refined carbohydrates (which make up more than 50 percent of many people's diets), such as high-sugar foods, breads, pasta, cereal and starchy vegetables. Core vitanutrient supplementation includes a full-spectrum multivitamin and an essential oils/fatty acid formula. This nutritional philosophy has been embraced by an estimated 20 million people worldwide since the release of Dr. Atkinsí Diet Revolution in the 1970s, and is the cornerstone of the treatment protocols for patients of The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City.

The Atkins Nutritional Principles

Four principles form the core of the Atkins Nutritional Approach and are supported by a solid foundation of medical and nutritional scientific research.

1. You will lose weight. Itís hard not to. Both men and women who follow the Atkins approach to weight loss readily take off pounds and inches. For the small numbers who have a truly hard-core metabolic resistance to weight loss, there are ways to overcome the barriers that prevent a successful outcome. Optimizing body weight is a valuable element of any health-oriented program because, by and large, being significantly overweight is an indicator of health problems, either now or in the future. When you've pared pounds, you'll see benefits flow in to take their place and they'll be more than merely cosmetic.

2 You will maintain your weight loss. This is where the Atkins Nutritional Approach leaves most other weight-control programs in the dust. Almost every experienced dieter has embarked on a weight-loss program, worked hard at it, lost a lot of pounds and gained them all back in a few months or perhaps a year. This is usually due to the expected consequence of low-fat, low-calorie diets: hunger. Although many people can tolerate hunger for a while, very few can tolerate it for a lifetime. Deprivation is no fun. Once the biological gap between hunger and fulfillment grows too large, the rebound can be rapid, as well as heartbreaking and humiliating. But thatís the problem with diets that restrict quantities. The Atkins program refuses to accept hunger as a way of life. People who do Atkins gradually find their effective individual level of carbohydrate intake, the tool that allows them to maintain a healthy weight for a lifetime.

3. You will achieve good health. The change is amazing. With Atkins, you meet your nutritional needs by eating healthy, wholesome foods and omitting junk food. As a result, fatigue drops from your shoulders like a heavy winter coat you mistakenly wore in summer. This occurs not merely because the pounds drop off, but because the physical consequences of a truly dysfunctional blood-sugar and insulin metabolism are reversed. People who do Atkins start feeling good long before they reach their goal weight. Once they abandon the catastrophic American diet of refined carbohydrates for whole, unrefined food, they start to live again.

4. You will lay the permanent groundwork for disease prevention. You will change your life, which - believe it or not - is even more important than looking good on the beach next summer. By following an individualized controlled carbohydrate nutritional approach that results in lower insulin production, people at high risk for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes will see a marked improvement in their clinical parameters. All the rest of us won't have to become high-risk candidates for disease. Itís as simple as that.

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