Be Inspired! / Food/Cooking / Health/Fitness / Reboot Camp

Atkins Diet, In Theory and (Personal) Practice

My favorite indulgent dinner on Atkins:    Snow Crab legs and butter.

Reboot Camp Post #4: Good Thing I Enjoy Protein

It’s been 8 weeks since I kicked off my “Reboot Camp” with a diet–the Atkins Diet, specifically–and it’s time for an update. Let’s start with a little background on the plan itself.

THE SCIENCE OF ATKINS

Unless you’ve never had to lose a few pounds (lucky you), you’ve probably heard of Atkins. It first hit the world in 1972, 40 years ago, and absolutely freaked people out. Until then, dieters counted calories: 3,500 calories equals one pound, hence dieters ate less food (or less calorically-dense food), and hoped the pounds would melt off.

Atkins, however, counts carbs, not calories–a pretty revolutionary approach in the 70s, but an accepted principle in several popular diets today. The science goes a bit like this: when we eat foods high in carbs (delicious though they may be), they convert to glucose (sugar) pretty quickly. The body will look for glucose to use as fuel to get through the day, but if there’s more fuel than the body needs, it gets stored as fat. 

My favorite lunch — Cheeseburger salad!

When we reduce our carb intake, however, we create less glucose. And if there’s less fuel than our body needs to get through the day, it turns back to that stored fat and uses that for energy.

This flew in the face of “traditional” dieting wisdom that suggested calories were all that mattered and that eating fat would make you fat. It turns out that eating healthy fats isn’t such a bad thing after all. 

So Atkins is about eating healthy protein, healthy fats, and limited carbs. But…

I grab one of these bad boys from the supermarket each week to nibble on.

ALL CARBS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL

When Atkins first hit the world, dieters treated all carbs as equal, which meant a whole lot of foods were taboo, and the diet got a reputation as a “no-carb” diet. In the 1990s, however, an updated version of the diet emerged which made a distinction between carbs based on the speed at which they were metabolized into glucose. Here’s a basic way to think about them:

  • Refined carbs (think cake) convert into glucose quickly and spike insulin levels (bad carbs!).
  • Simple carbs (think fruits) also have the capacity to convert quickly and spike insulin level (good carbs, but need to be used in moderation).
  • Complex carbs (think broccoli) convert slowly and don’t spike insulin levels (good carbs).

A lot of diets are built around these three bullets: skip the refined carbs, eat lots of complex carbs, and moderate your fruit intake. Atkins looks at two other kinds of carbs, however:

  • Sugar alcohols (like maltitol, sorbitol) have a very small impact on glucose levels.
  • Fiber is a kind of carb that has no negligible impact on glucose levels at all.    

So as the Atkins dieter counts carbs, s/he counts what’s called net carbs:

                      Total carbohydrates
                                             – Fiber
                             – Sugar alcohols
                 ________________
                             Total Net Carbs

In other words, if you can learn to read a nutritional label, your food choices can really open up.

These low net carb products are surprisingly good and definitely satisfy my sweet tooth.

THE PRACTICE OF ATKINS

As with oh-so-many-diets, there are phases and rules to Atkins intended to kick-start weight loss up front and transition into a “lifestyle” once weight loss has been achieved. 

I started the diet with Phase 1, restricting my net carb intake to about 20/day for the first three weeks, and have eeeeeked into Phase 2, keeping my net carb intake to between 25-30/day. 

There final two phases are about slowing down weight loss and living forever on the diet. 

I can rock this diet, and it just makes intuitive sense to me. Overall, I like my food choices (take a gander at the photos in this post for a typical day’s food), and while I’m having success on Atkins (specifics in the next blog post), I’m not sure I can hang in there with the diet as a long-term lifestyle. 

Why? Two words: Texas peaches.

It’s almost peach season, and I’m already salivating over the promise of a beautiful crop after this winter’s rain. I can’t tell you how important these peaches are to me. They taste like Everything Good In The World. They’re like crack, and for two months of the year, I want to be strung out.

And that means I’m looking at making a switch to a different diet that doesn’t restrict fruit as much as Atkins.

Next post: Top 10 Tips for Dieting and Personal Progress (so far)!

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5 thoughts on “Atkins Diet, In Theory and (Personal) Practice

  1. I love the Atkins diet since it really helped me to lose weight. My body have been very healthy ever since i tried the Atkins diet. *.’;: Best regards vitamins blog

  2. How much weight can I lose in 4-5 mnthos on the following diet plan?I have asked this question before, and I followed through with the plan. I lost a little bit of weight, but I just gained it all back. I am trying to lose 20+ pounds in the next four mnthos (and I’m going to stick to this diet even after that!)Diet PlanFood:My breakfast meal: oatmeal, fruit, and water. Or, Special K cereal and fruit and water.Lunch: a salad with low-fat ranch, another fruit, and water.When I get home: I have a glass of water and Yoplait Lite yogurt or a Special K bar.Dinner: Lean Cuisine/SlimFast diet meal with water and another a vegetable. Or, a salad and a fruit with water.Right before bed: a glass of water and two tablespoons of honey. Exercise:(In the mornings, I do 35 crunches and 15 push ups to get my day going)Monday: Stretch, run up and down the stairs for 30 minutes, do the Seventeen Magazine workouts for 20 minutes, then take my dog for a walk.Tuesday: Rest day, only take my dog for a walk after dinner.Wednesday: Stretch, do stair steps for 30 minutes, push ups and ab bridges and crunches for 10 minutes, then Seventeen Magazine workouts for 15-20 minutes, and Twister Dance.Thursday: Rest day, take dog for walk after dinner.Friday: Stretch, run up and down the stairs for 30 minutes, Seventeen Magazine workouts for 20 minutes, and then Wii Fit for 30 minutes after about 45 minutes of rest time.Saturday: Rest Day, take dog for walk in the morning and evening.Sunday: Stretch, stair steps for 30 minutes, push ups and ab bridges and crunches for 10 minutes, Seventeen Magazine workouts for 15 minutes, and Twister Dance. On every other weekend, I go jogging. Can I lose 20+ pounds in 4-5 mnthos with this diet? I’m 5’2, female, and almost 14 (I know, I’m young, but my doctor has recommended that I lose weight because I am overweight for my age.)Also, I’m a 36C in bra size, will my breasts get REALLY small and saggy, or wil lthey barely change?

    • I’ve been thinking a lot about your question. It’s impossible to say how any one person will respond to any diet. It sounds like you’re taking really great steps to be healthy, and that’s what it’s all about, at any age. As someone who’s more than old enough to be your mom, I’d say it’s great that you’re tracking your progress, it’s great that you’re not just dieting but exercising as well, and it’s great that you’re so committed. My only caution would be to not become obsessed with it. Getting healthy is a slow, steady process. And then *staying* healthy is the real key. I’m trying to remember to be mindful of this each day: it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Anyway, I hope your regimen is working for you, and good luck to us both!

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