The Atkins Diet has been one of the world’s most popular low-carb diets for over ten years; you may be aware of the basic principles- very little carbohydrate, and a whole lot of meat! It has attracted both praise and criticism, with dieters raving about fast results, and critics warning of the potentially health-destroying consequences.
But, a recent overhaul of the diet rules could mean that the Atkins of today may not be quite the same as you remember it being. And with Sharon Osborne as the face of the brand, having lost almost 30lbs through the diet, this may be a lifestyle choice that is about to make a huge comeback.
A Low Carbohydrate Diet:
The Atkins diet of ten years ago was a drastic rethinking of food; The principle was simple- carbohydrates are easily converted to energy by the body, and since this conversion is the most efficient it will always use carbohydrate as a source of fuel if it is available, rather than using the fat we have in storage.
Of course, if we eat too many carbohydrates, which a modern diet tends to lean towards, then we not only burn what we need for fuel but we convert the excess to fat, and so our waistlines gradually expand. However, when you cut carbohydrates from the diet, then the body has to switch to an alternative fuel source, and suddenly our fat stores are put to good use!
Through a process called ketosis, the body begins to convert stored fats into ketones, which then take up the role that glucose from carbohydrates would, and provide the fuel we need. And since the conversion of fat to ketones is quite a complex one, even more energy is needed to allow the process. The result? A reduced fat store, and a system that burns calories very quickly; in other words- rapid weight loss.
The New Atkins vs The Old Atkins:
When the Atkins Diet was first published it was radical in its approach, advising that dieters could eat as much meat as they wanted; and not just lean meat, but fatty cuts as well; there was no call to trim off bacon rinds here- “eat it all”, the Atkins Diet proclaimed, since all natural fats were “good fats”. Under this “natural fat” umbrella also came dairy products and eggs.
It seemed too good to be true; eat as much ice cream and steak as you like, and still lose weight. But that’s where the fun stopped, because carbohydrates on the other hand, were the enemy, and for the first week dieters were limited to a few leafy greens and not much else- Atkins himself described the diet as “the steak and salad diet”. Sugar was eliminated entirely, as were caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
After this initial first week where fat-burning was kick-started, dieters were allowed to very slowly increase their carbohydrate intake, and gradually very small amounts of certain banned foods, like beans and starchy carbs, could also be reintroduced within very strict parameters.
It was an extreme dieting system that came with certain health issues, studies began to show that the diet caused saturated fat intake to rocket, and dieters were at huge risk of increased cholesterol levels and heart disease. It was also becoming apparent that by forcing the body into starvation mode, ketosis, the reintroduction of carbohydrates caused the body to lay down fat reserves with a vengeance, and the ultimate chances of weight gain widely discredited the diet. If that wasn’t enough, reports of constipation and bad breath, of dieters sick of the sight of meat were enough to turn many away. The diet’s popularity began to wane…until, that is, the Atkins brand had a rethink.
And then, the New Atkins diet was launched! Still a low carbohydrate regime, this diet is much more focused on health. Gone are the days of excessive meat-consumption; now dieters are limited to 4-6 oz per meal. And joy of all joys, vegetables are now allowed in small amounts from day one; 20g a day of broccoli, spinach, pumpkin and over 50 other veggie options make this a much more palatable diet.
And even these much looser limitations are only intended for two weeks. After this, the reintroduction of foods, which can stretch to include alcohol, continues in a regimented manner up to the point where dieters find the threshold beyond which weight loss stops.
The dieter can then move back and forth between stages depending on how their bodies and weight are behaving- if weight begins to rise, the dieter could go back several steps, whereas if they find weight manageable, they could advance to later stages. Even coffee is now back on the menu, since research has shown it to have fat-burning properties.
Since the Atkins is an extreme approach to dieting, it comes with certain risks. In the short term, these include what has become known as Atkins Flu: headaches and dizziness, as well as exhaustion and digestion problems like constipation.
But beyond this, it gets altogether more serious; A study conducted by the University of Gothenburg, and led by Prof Ingegerd Johansson, found that the diet can have a huge impact on cholesterol levels and the risk of developing heart disease. It also noticed that whilst weight-loss can be rapid, it is rarely permanent, with a large proportion of dieters regaining the weight that they had lost within a couple of years of stopping the diet.
Another consideration is the health lessons that the diet teaches- it mentions that exercise is always advisable and can speed up weight loss, however it is also a diet that facilitates weight loss without the necessity of exercise. For many, this may come as great news; however, as a philosophy for life and vitality, it may be teaching us approaches that are ultimately detrimental.
The huge intake of protein puts a great strain on the kidneys, and this should be a consideration to anyone with a family history of kidney problems, or a pre-existing medical condition.
If you think the New Atkins diet sounds like something you would like to try, we recommend talking to your doctor about it, so you can go about it in as healthy and informed way possible!
What the Papers Say:
What the Studies Show:
This small study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that participants burned on average 300 more calories a day on a low-carb diet, than on a low-fat diet.
What People On The Web Say:
I’ve been on this diet (if you can call it that) for 4 weeks and I’ve lost 18 pounds. When I started this diet on March 15 I weighed 194 lbs (I’m 5’7″). Many people at my office have been on this since Jan. and I’ve seen the results first hand, so I thought I’d try it. I read the whole book, went to the grocery store, and started the very next day. Immediately, I felt better, had more energy, slept better and my hypothyroid problem has since disappeared. I still can’t believe the food you can eat! THIS DIET WORKS! I can’t wait to show off my new body to the biggest critic of this diet – my father in law!
My wife and myself both started the Atkins program and we both have lost inches and at least 25 pounds each. We even cheat on weekends. If there is a special event going on like Thanksgiving, we don’t miss a thing. We enjoyed any food we wanted and then went back to a maintenance program the following week. This past week was my ten years olds birthday and I enjoyed cake and ice cream like everyone else. But I know that on Monday I must go back to a maintenance program and it works. I truly believe if I didn’t cheat at all, I would have lost a lot more weight, but I didn’t gain it over night, so I don’t expect to lose it over night. It’s a great program; don’t give up before you’ve started!
I have lived on this diet for the last two-three years. Within the first two months I dropped 30 pounds and as long as I follow the principles that this book taught, I keep it off. I have learned how to control my body from this in a way that I never could before. From age 12 on my sizes increased with my age until I was 21 (although technically at 21 I was a 22W). I was huge and miserable. This book changed my life. I am now a size 10, which is where I want to be. I recommend this to anyone who wants to change their life for the better. It is not a diet in the traditional sense; it is a way of life that can lead to healthful happiness. You have to try and you have to follow it and you have to let go of all the nonsense that the FDA has been trying to cram down our throats for years, but you will have results.