The Atkins Induction phase is the most difficult phase of the diet.
It severely cuts your daily carbohydrate level to 20 net carbs, forces the body to use its glycogen stores for fuel, and eliminates most of the foods you're used to eating.
The degree of water loss that accompanies all of that can be quite a shock to both your body and mind.
lack of appetite
stable blood sugar
and dramatic weight loss
that accompanies the state of ketosis can provide plenty of motivation to get you through those first carb-free days, if the mind decides to fight against you, the Atkins Induction Diet can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Unrealistic expectations about how quickly you believe the pounds should come off are the kiss of death on a low-carb diet, especially if you haven't really decided to make low carb your new way of life.
Mindlessly going through the first two weeks and depending on the scale to pull you through can really do a lot of emotional damage if you don't understand how and why the Atkins process works.
The Atkins Diet isn't about instant gratification.
It's not about losing 5 or 10 pounds every single week.
If you're treating Phase 1 like it's just another weight-loss diet, you won't have the strength to face down those brownies and tell yourself, "NO!" when they start calling your name.
All of those stories about fast weight loss is just that: a bunch of stories. Low carb isn't any quicker at shaving off the pounds than any other nutritional approach.
But what it does do is make dieting easier.
So, if you're struggling to stick to the acceptable list of Atkins foods, and you don't seem to be able to go even two weeks without cheating, here are 5 fail-proof strategies to help you conquer Phase 1 of the Atkins Diet.
1. Face Your Excuses
People who habitually say:
"I need to finish up this loaf of bread first."
"I can't afford to throw away that half of cantaloupe. I'll start tomorrow."
"I'll give Induction a try right after I have one last carb fest."
are more likely to continue using similar excuses to go off plan throughout the first two weeks, as well.
That can make it difficult, if not impossible, to make it all the way through the first phase of Atkins without caving into that piece of cornbread, juicy orange, or chocolate-chip cookie.
Most of our eating patterns are habitual.
It's easy to reach for a handful of potato chips while watching television or sample what you're cooking for the family without realizing it.
Excuses come wrapped in the same type of mindless package, but first manifest as little crazy voices and urges that we are so used to listening to that we respond to them them without questioning their value.
Thoughts and urges can be observed, so as you go through the week, watch yourself carefully. Try to catch yourself making an excuse for why you need to go off plan. If the scale isn't moving quick enough or your clothes don't feel any looser, watch what your mind does next.
If you start questioning the viability of what you're doing or have a strong urge to quit because the pounds aren't coming off, write it down. Once the excuse is written, you can look at it closely and determine if that excuse is a valid reason to go off the Atkins approach, or not.
For example, if you catch yourself thinking:
"I had a hard day. I deserve to have that cookie,"
write that thought down before you automatically obey.
Then stop . . .
and think about . . .
WHY you believe you have the right to eat that cookie.
Who or what gave you that right?
What will that cookie actually do for you?
Most of the time, feelings of deprivation are actually about an experience of pleasurable taste you think you're missing out on, or a sign that you need a little extra comfort.
Whatever it is you need:
Find something that fits within your new low-carb lifestyle that will take care of that need.
2. Stop Thinking About What You Can't Have
The Induction phase of the Atkins Diet asks you to make many dramatic changes to your life.
The purpose for that is:
To get you solidly into the state of dietary ketosis as quickly as possible.
Deprivation ignites and grows stronger when you place your attention on what you cannot eat. So, stop making illegal foods important.
Look at the list of acceptable foods for Atkins Induction and pick out a few foods that you really enjoy eating. Make out a menu for the week and fill that menu with foods that are super tasty and comforting.
Low-Carb Pizza Chicken
Don't just eat a plain, grilled chicken breast.
Top it with slices of pepperoni, canadian bacon, some sauteed mushrooms, and grated cheese.
Instead of staring down a plain, frozen hamburger patty, top it with a slice of boiled ham, a fried egg, and some freshly grated Parmesan.
Use sour cream and sliced olives to garnish your Taco salad, put cream cheese and some bacon in your chopped chicken salad for lunch, or top that boneless pork chop with a rich and creamy homemade Alfredo sauce.
Take the time to choose foods that will make you feel pampered, and you won't have to think about what you're missing.
3. Make Sure You're Eating Enough Food
Although the first two weeks can result in a lot of water loss, losing pounds on the scale is not the goal.
The purpose of the Atkins Induction diet is to coax the body into using a different metabolic pathway.
For that reason, hunger often increases as the body prepares itself to make the switch from predominantly burning glucose to predominantly burning fats. In addition, the mind will also begin to crave sugary desserts and other high-calorie foods during this time.
Expect it to happen.
Since the hunger and cravings are a sign that glucose is getting low, if you don't understand what is happening to your mind and body, the body will set you up to go back to your old way of eating.
If you let yourself feel:
those thoughts and urges are going to win the war.
Instead of allowing your body and urges to control you, decide to stick to your low-carb commitment.
Feed your body's hunger, but do it with high-fat foods like tuna salad or bacon instead of high-carb sugary treats.
When you place too much value on weight loss, you're more likely to feel disappointed when the traditional post-Induction stall rises up to challenge your decision to take control of your health.
Instead, stop worrying what the scale is doing. Don't think about calories, portion sizes, fats, or how much protein you're eating. Just keep your tummy full.
There will be plenty of time, after your body has adjusted to burning fats for fuel, to adjust calories, portions, or dietary fat. Induction is not the time to do that.
4. Don't Worry About Tomorrow
Green Beans Wrapped in Bacon
A low-carb diet frightens a lot of people.
Many medical authorities do not understand the science behind a low-carb diet and believe it's dangerous because it doesn't restrict saturated fats.
Low carb is a lifestyle commitment, so its permanency is different from many other weight-loss diets. That can make the future look pretty dark if you have to go without ever being able to eat a baked potato when you go out to dinner or enjoy another piece of birthday cake.
For that reason, it's easy to fall into the trap of worrying about whether you'll ever be able to eat a particular food again.
Those fears may or may not be true.
There is no way of knowing what you can or cannot return to your diet until you reach the weight you want to be.
Some low carbers are able to eat:
and even a piece of cake on their birthday.
Others who are extremely insulin resistant cannot.
Some people continue to eat the way they ate during their ongoing weight-loss phase with very little change. By the time they reach maintenance, the diet has become such a part of them that they enjoy the way it makes them feel and don't want to sacrifice that feeling.
If you're struggling with thoughts of what the future might bring, the best way to handle the problem is to commit to doing just a two-week Induction, and nothing more.
Making that tiny commitment will eliminate future thoughts and concerns and give you the opportunity to focus on what you are doing right now.
Atkins Induction is for just 14 days, so that's what you commit to:
Just 14 days.
Accept the challenge, and give a low-carb diet a fair chance to change your life before deciding that something else might be a better fit.
At the end of those two weeks, that's the time to evaluate how you feel.
In fact, it's probably a good idea not to even step on the scale during the entire 14 day period because the number on the scale can send you packing if you don't have a firm understanding about how water fluctuations affect the number on the scale.
Take your measurements before you start Induction instead.
That will give you a more accurate measurement of your progress. Body fat is very inflammatory. A low-carb diet can reduce inflammation.
If you feel good, are happy with your current success, and want to go on, commit to another 14 days.
Travel the path one step at a time until your mind and emotions have adjusted to the change.
5. What to Do When Everything Fails
There is no firm rule that says you have to start with the Atkins Induction Diet.
It's a pretty radical method for turning yourself into a fat-burning machine, but it just doesn't work for everyone. While it's similar to the diet that Dr. Atkins used himself in the '60s, that doesn't mean it's the best method for you.
If you have been on a variety of weight-loss diets over the years, your body might not appreciate you robbing its fat stores -- yet again. In that case, the best method might be to take it slow.
When Dr. Atkins created his new and revolutionary dietary approach in 1972, there were numerous low-carb diets that used 60 grams of total carbohydrates a day.
I purchased several of those homemade booklets.
I also tried Sugarbusters, the Original Weight Watcher's Exchange Diet, and a variety of low-glycemic plans.
If your insulin resistance is minor, or if you don't have insulin resistance at all, a moderate-carb approach to weight loss might work very well for you.
You do not have to do 20 net carbs.
There is nothing magical about the state of ketosis. You can start at a higher carbohydrate count, such as Atkins 40 or do 60, 80, or 100 carbohydrates per day and be fine, as long as you eat at a calorie deficit.
If higher carbs ignite your cravings for more, you can readjust the carbs downward by 5 or 10 per week, until you find the level of carb restriction that's best for you.
Another slow approach is to drop major food groups from your diet one at a time.
For example, you could start by eliminating all forms sugar and leave the rest of your diet exactly where it is right now.
Switch to using sugar substitutes in your coffee and cooking, a Splenda or Stevia-sweetened diet soda or Kool-aid type product, and read labels to avoid all products made with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and honey.
After you adjust to doing just that, or your weight loss from those changes stops, you can move onto eliminating something else. Maybe try getting rid of those starchy side dishes or fruit. If you need a little help using this type of eating style, check out one of the many paleo or primal diets for ideas.
Find What Works For You
The key to weight-loss success is to create a dietary plan that works for you.
The methods you use may or may not be what other low-carb dieters are doing. It doesn't matter. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you have to implement a low-carb diet in a certain way. That is absolutely not true.
While some people have been having good success eating a high-fat low-carb diet, others have not.
It all depends on how insulin sensitive you are and whether your mindset is on board with what you're currently doing or not. If your mind and heart isn't into what you're doing, then simply give yourself permission to find another way.
There is no such thing as failure.
There is only choice, and you are free to change your mind any time you want to.
Just make sure that whatever you choose to do is something you can comfortably live with for the rest of your life.