As I discussed in the February 2006 issue, the Atkins Nutritional Approach has four phases, ranging from the most restrictive Induction phase to the Lifetime Maintenance phase.
Frequently the media and critics of the Atkins approach mention only the first phase (Induction) and perpetuate the misconception that the Atkins plan allows only bacon, red meat and no vegetables. This is not true. Part of the reason for this is that many people never read the books themselves or they will just ask a friend how to “do” Atkins.
To be successful and to turn the Atkins approach into a lifestyle change, education is vital. It is important that you obtain all the information you need to follow the Atkins plan correctly before starting. If you have diabetes or are at risk for it, you should know that the program is used somewhat differently than if weight loss is your only target.
Getting Started With Induction
Your first goal for the Induction phase of the plan is to begin to normalize your blood glucose levels. This can happen rapidly. To avoid overmedication and hypoglycemic reactions, work in advance with your doctor to develop a plan for how you should adjust your meds as your blood glucose improves.
Space limitations do not allow for a complete discussion here about how to do Induction and how to move through the four phases. I recommend that you read “Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution” (Avon 2002) to get all of the facts on what foods are allowed and in what quantities. To learn how to refine the program further, you may wish to read “Atkins Diabetes Revolution” (Harper Collins 2004).
Some Need a Longer Induction Period
Because it takes time to correct a metabolism that is not functioning normally, weigh yourself only every two weeks and pay more attention to inches lost rather than pounds. Remember, your primary goal is to improve your blood glucose levels. Other improvements will follow over time.
Many people need to stay on the Induction phase longer than the two weeks usually recommended for simple weight loss. One study funded by the American Diabetes Association that was published in the June 2004 issue of Diabetes demonstrated that even in the first two weeks, there was a 70 percent improvement in insulin sensitivity. Blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and A1C also improved. By staying with this phase longer, you can experience further improvements in a number of lab values.
Discovering Your Lifetime Maintenance Level
Over time you will need to find your Lifetime Maintenance carbohydrate level. The amount you will be able to consume will depend upon maintaining weight loss. But more important, you must maintain good blood glucose control and normal lipid and blood pressure values, with, ideally, the least amount of medications necessary. The number of daily carb grams will vary from person to person. People who are regularly physically active will have a more liberal diet.
Doing Atkins Right
- Be well informed—read the recommended information.
- Get baseline blood tests from your doctor.
- Talk with your doctor about adjusting your meds.
- Take baseline measurements for bust or chest, waist, hips, upper arm and thigh (always on the same side). Re-measure every two weeks.
- Exercise regularly; walking is fine.
- Continue to measure blood glucose levels.
- See your doctor to redo labs after four to six weeks.