The Atkins Overview | Low Carb Diet and Weight Loss Program

An Introduction to the Atkins Diet and Its Four Phases

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The Atkins Diet is seen by many as the quintessential low-carb diet program. Though he wasn't the originator, Atkins is often called the "Father of Modern Low-Carb Diets". The essence of the Atkins program is a diet of lower carbohydrate intake to intervene into what Atkins reckoned to be the underlying causes of overweight and secondly, mechanisms to tailor the diet to the individual.

The Atkins Diet Four Phases

The Atkins diet has four phases: Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), Pre-maintenance, and Maintenance.

The length of these phases depends mainly upon how overweight you are and how you respond in each phase of the diet. In his books, Atkins emphasizes the importance of each level, however, on the Atkins Web site it says, "Beginning with Induction is your choice -- you can begin Atkins at any of the four phases. However, Induction will jump start your weight loss as you cut back significantly on carb consumption."

As dieters proceed through the phases, they add more carbs, focusing on nutrient-dense ones, and avoiding refined grains and sugars. All the while, they are monitoring their weight and staying at a carb level where they are still losing. Gradually, they transition to Maintenance, or Atkins for Life, the lifelong program. At this point, individuals are eating at a carb level, which allows them to maintain their weight. Emphasis is on wise carb choices, with sugar and refined grains remaining verboten.

Restricted Foods on Atkins

Total carbohydrate intake is counted, without much regard to where it comes from, though in Atkins for Life he had begun to talk more about advising less glycemic carbohydrate. Still, added sugars and refined grains are pretty much off the list for the rest of your life (which is the norm with low carb diets).

Amount of Restriction

Starts out with a lot of restriction in the Induction phase. After that the amount of restriction is tailored to the individual, depending upon their response to the diet.

Amount of Structure

The phases are quite structured, with detailed instructions on adding small amounts of carbohydrate. Within that structure, however, the dieter has a lot of choice about what to eat and how much.

Individual Variation

The program focuses on helping people find their individual carbohydrate tolerance levels. Atkins also introduces a concept he called "metabolic resistance," which will partly determine this level.

Learning Curve

The biggest hurdle is simply learning how many grams of carbohydrate are in each food you eat. Here are the carb counts of many common foods.

The Atkins Diet Summary

The Atkins Diet is a straight-forward low carb diet program that promotes weight loss, but also has a lifestyle component for those not looking to lose weight. As it is widely popular, many people are aware of the diet, but need better insight into the science behind the diet and how it works. Because a part of the program is personalized there is an element of the program that is a wait-and-see situation given that it's different for each person.


Robert C. Atkins, M.D.


Atkins Books

  • The New Atkins for a New You 2011
  • Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution 1992
  • Atkins for Life 2003

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