Is the Atkins Diet Right for You?
Last updated on : August 13 2016
From glowing skin to quick weight loss with some great texture thrown in - your diet is supposed to jump start your pursuit of a healthier more balanced lifestyle, something we continually strive for (and write about in this blog) at The Kewl Shop.
However, the truth is that some diets may work really well for you, while some may end up being a total bust. Diets are only successful if you put in the work, time, and effort. The key to results is total discipline and wise food choices.
We all keep reading about fad diets which are here today and gone tomorrow. However, there are a few diets that have stood the test of time fairly well. The Atkins Diet is one of them. Classified as a low-carbohydrate diet, Atkins is considered a way of eating for the rest of your life, and not just a passing diet to take up. Let’s take a look at what this diet entails, and whether or not it is the right one for you.
Formally known as the Atkins Nutritional Approach, the Atkins Diet was created by Robert C. Atkins, an American cardiologist, in 1972. He developed this diet plan after reading a research paper titled "Weight Reduction" that was published in 1958 by Alfred W. Pennington. Although Atkins became a well-known diet that peaked in popularity in the early 2000s and even led to Atkins being named as one of the ten most influential people by Time magazine in 2002, the diet is not without its share of controversies and contrasting opinions.
The Atkins Diet is an eating plan that aims to help people lose weight by consuming a limited amount of carbohydrates (carbs) without having to give up the intake of fats and proteins. According to the diet, this will help the human body’s metabolism switch from carbs to stored body fat in order to produce energy. The Atkins Diet says that this way of eating not only helps shed up to 15 pounds within just two weeks (although results may vary), but it also a healthy approach to eating that can combat certain health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
How It Works
The Atkins Diet holds the view that the intake of excessive carbs, particularly refined ones like sugar and white flour, leads to health problems such as weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, and cardiovascular issues. To combat the health problems caused by the usual high-carbohydrate, low-fat American diet and to keep weight in check, Atkins suggests restricting the consumption of carbohydrates without having to avoid eating proteins and even fatty meats.
The foods you need to avoid or limit in the Atkins Diet include starchy and sugary food that includes potatoes, white bread, cookies or candy, chips, pasta, and white rice. The diet rather encourages the consumption of foods that are rich in protein and fat, examples of which are poultry, meat, seafood, eggs, cheese, oils, and butter so that followers of this diet do not feel hungry or deprived.
The standard Atkins Diet, also known as Atkins 20, has four phases and you can start with any of the initial three phases depending on your personal weight-loss targets. We've summarized the phases below.
This is a strict stage lasting for at least two weeks, in which you almost entirely cut out carbohydrates from your diet. Atkins recommends eating not more than 20 grams of carbs in a day during this phase.
To kick start the weight loss process, the diet advises you to get most of your daily calories from “foundation” vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, celery, peppers, asparagus, and cucumber. Such foods should account for at least 12-15 grams of your everyday carbs. Moreover, include protein such as poultry, red meats, seafood, and eggs in your regular diet. There is no need to avoid fats and oils, but stay away from sweet baked goods, pasta, bread, and alcohol.
This is the phase in which you eat to help your body make the change from burning carbs (glucose) to stored fat—a process known as ketosis.
In the second phase you continue to consume foundation vegetables for the majority of everyday carbs and avoid sugary foods, but you can start adding some fruits, berries, more vegetables, and nuts to your diet. You should stay in this phase of the Atkins Diet until you are about 10 pounds away from achieving your desired weight.
With not too many pounds left to shed now, your target weight is getting closer, and by now you will have discovered how to continue losing weight. In this phase, you can add more carbs to your diet and increase the range of foods you eat, but remember to cut back in case you stop losing weight. Continue being in this phase till you reach your goal weight.
Now that you have achieved your desired weight, you continue to follow this way of eating for the rest of your life and maintain the ideal weight. Keep in mind that you need to eat the right amount of healthy carbs depending on how much your body tolerates without regaining the weight that you lost.
Although the original Atkins Diet believed that exercise was not a vital part of weight loss, it now recognizes the role of regular exercising in losing weight as well as for other health benefits, especially in the last phase: maintenance of the diet. However, if you are not someone who exercises regularly, it is a good idea to let your body get used to the new way of eating before starting a new exercise regimen.
It is recommended that you choose a mild to moderate exercise routine during the first and second phase of the diet such as walking, pilates, and yoga.
Pros and Cons
Before starting the Atkins Diet plan or any other diet for that matter, it is important that you evaluate all the factors, both good and bad, so that you can make the correct decision. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the Atkins diet to consider.
- Quick weight loss. If you are looking for a rapid way to shed a few pounds you may find the Atkins Diet effective as the earliest phase of the diet has seen a lot of followers lose weight much faster than in other diets.
- Foods allowed. Many people love the Atkins Diet because of the fact that one can eat a wider range of foods. Unlike other eating plans, you do not have to eliminate steaks, bacon, and many other foods while on this diet.
- No constant calorie counting. This diet is the one for you if you hate counting calories for everything you eat. The Atkins Diet emphasizes cutting unhealthy carbs rather than portioning foods and counting calories.
- Health benefits. Some studies have found that despite the high fat content of the Atkins Diet, some followers have experienced improvements in their cholesterol levels.
- No hunger pangs. Since the diet allows consumption of meat and other proteins, an Atkins Diet follower may not experience hunger as compared to followers of some other diets. This reduces the chances of you ‘cheating’ on your diet, making it easier to lose weight.
- Long-term weight loss may not be achievable. Although the final word on this is inconclusive, certain studies have found that following the Atkins Diet may help you rapidly lose weight in the beginning, but be ineffective later on.
- Reduced energy. Since the Atkins Diet cuts out carbs and calories, followers of this eating plan may experience fatigue or a significant decrease in their energy levels.
- Strict codes. If you want to diet but love fruits or some other food that are rich in carbs, following the Atkins Diet may be a struggle in the initial stages of the plan.
- Counting net carbs. Although there is no calorie-counting in this diet, some dieters may find counting daily net carbs tedious and confusing.
- Potential physical discomfort. In some case, followers of the Atkins Diet have experienced digestive problems, headaches, dehydration, etc. because of the sudden, considerable change in eating habits.
- Expenses. Since the diet allows you to eat a lot of proteins, you may have higher grocery bills due to buying meat, dairy, and similar products.
The key dietary focus of this diet is to eat the right balance of proteins, healthy carbohydrates, and fats for weight loss and health benefits. The Atkins Diet has worked for many in the past, but at the same time, it cannot truly be said that this is a one-diet-fits-all solution for those wishing to lose weight for their new bandage dress purchase.
The diet continues to evolve to suit contemporary eating habits, but may be difficult to follow (although not impossible) for vegetarians and vegans. If you are someone who prefers a structured diet plan, chances are that you will like the Atkins Diet.
But before you decide to start on it, weigh the pros and cons, and the feasibility of sticking to it as your daily meal plan carefully. Remember, it is always the best idea to talk to a doctor or health expert before starting any new diet or exercise routine.
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