The Atkins diet is the forefather of low-carb diets, created in 1972. It has formed the basis of all other low-carb diets, such as the Paleo diet, and other low carb diet plans covered elsewhere on this site.
The basic concept behind the Atkins diet is that by controlling your carb intake, you can more effectively burn fat. This manifests itself in a few stages: the first stage of the diet severely limits carbs, cutting out fruits and starchier vegetables. If you eat a lot of carbs, your blood sugar will spike and your body will produce insulin, which will cause your body to stop burning fat, increasing fat storage overall. By reducing your carb intake, your body will be forced to burn fat for energy (the carbs simply won’t be there!) and you’ll see weight loss.
As with any diet, it’s important to think of this as a lifestyle change instead of just a phase in your life. Embrace eating lots of proteins and fats and ditching the carbs as a permanent change, not just a temporary one.
The Atkins diet doesn’t require you to count calories in order to be effective (thank goodness!), but it does require that you count carbs, which makes sense considering that’s the thing you want to restrict the most. The progressive phases give you a certain amount of carbs allowed in a day, with the least amount allowed in the first phase. Don’t forget about fiber, though! Atkins has you measure net carbs by taking the total carbs on a food item and subtracting the fiber. For example, if you’re eating a granola bar that has 20g of carbs and 9g of fiber, your net carbs will be 11g. Fiber is an important part of your diet and not getting enough could result in a few unpleasant side effects, so it’s advised that the carbs you do allow and end up eating in your day provide you with 25-30g of dietary fiber. One of my favorite solutions to the fiber problem is artichokes. You just cook up the artichoke (directions here) and eat with a generous amount of melted butter. The butter introduces some fat to the snack and an average sized artichoke provides you with 13g of carbohydrates and 7g of dietary fiber for a net carb total of 6g; phase one allows you an average of 20g of net carbs a day, so devoting 6g to an artichoke isn’t too bad (and again, it gives you the fiber that you really need to keep an eye out for).
Having trouble with the idea that you’ll need to ditch bread? It can be intimidating to cut out an entire food group, but it’s a change that will benefit you in the long run. Carbohydrates only leave the body feeling full for a short amount of time. Ever notice that eating a piece of toast for breakfast or a bowl of cereal doesn’t leave you very satisfied for long? Eating meals that load up on fats and proteins will help you feel fuller, longer, further helping with your weight loss plan.
It’s tough to go against the diet you’ve been raised on, which for most is a low-fat diet. Unfortunately, we’ve been educated poorly about how to eat and that is responsible for the high obesity and diabetes rates we see throughout the country today. The Atkins Nutritional Approach does seek to move us away from the standard diet, in a way that can be a bit scary at first, but in a way that seeks to make our bodies healthier. Some compelling statistics about just how bad our current diet is can be found here.
If you can overcome the first few difficult weeks of completely overhauling your diet, your body will thank you.