After years of trying to lose weight on conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet plans, I decided to try the Atkins diet in 2007. At the time, I was more than 100 pounds overweight even though I was active and maintaining an 1800-calorie per day diet. In spite of this, I kept piling on the weight, and I was growing very frustrated. When I followed the Atkins diet, however, I was able to lose weight for the first time in my life.
Making the Decision
The Atkins diet was a difficult choice for me to make. I spent many years following a vegan diet. At the time, I thought I was doing the healthiest thing for my body, but I continued to gain weight and saw my health and energy deteriorate. While vegan diets may be healthy for some people, I discovered that, for me, it wasn't the right choice. Still, when a friend suggested I try the Atkins diet, I was hesitant. All I knew of the diet was that it contained a lot of meat and cheese, things I had avoided for years.
Before jumping into Atkins, I decided to do some research. First, I read Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, which described the basics of the diet. Next, I researched low-carbohydrate diets. I found two items in particular that served as compelling evidence I should at least give it a try. First was an article author Gary Taubes wrote for the New York Times called What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie, and a subsequent book, Good Calories, Bad Calories. In the article and book, Taubes argued the calorie hypothesis of weight gain, looking at research since the early 1900s that didn't match conventional wisdom. Taubes' research indicated insulin played a key role in weight gain, and minimizing carbohydrate intake was an effective way of controlling it.
Next, I read the entire text of several studies Taubes mentioned in his book supporting Atkins and similar diets. Many, including a University of Pennsylvania randomized trial printed in the Annals of Internal Medicine, indicated low-carbohydrate diets were actually more effective than conventional diets. With that information and a host of anecdotal reports of success on the Atkins diet, I was ready to get started.
I was happy to kiss my vegan lifestyle goodbye. I'd never really been a fan of tofu, and my vegan choice was health-related rather than moral. It was with great eagerness that I stocked my kitchen with delicious meats and vegetables, preparing to take the plunge. My plan was to follow Atkins exactly as outlined in the book, with the exception of dairy products. I have both a casein allergy and celiac disease, and I am unable to ingest any gluten or dairy products. Still, Atkins allowed for many other foods and dairy was not required. I was excited about bacon, however, because I hadn't had any in years. My first Atkins meal was bacon and eggs with a side of sauteed spinach. I was in heaven.
For the first time in years, the weight dropped off quickly. I lost eight pounds in the first week, and 17 pounds by the end of induction. The first few days were difficult for me. Not because I didn't enjoy the food, but because I developed some flu-like symptoms. A quick perusal through the Active Low Carber support forums, however, told me what I needed to know. I was experiencing "induction flu," which commonly occurs when the ketones first appear resultant of the breakdown of fat cells. The flulike symptoms disappeared by day five, and I was more energetic. Another surprising aspect I hadn't expected was that many of the aches and pains I experienced as a daily part of my life faded away. I was excited about my prospects for the future.
What I Liked
The Atkins diet worked for me. While I no longer pursue the diet, I do still follow a low-carbohydrate lifestyle similar to the one I maintained on Atkins. Overall, I lost more than 60 pounds on the Atkins diet, before I switched to a different low-carbohydrate plan more suited to my personal health issues. In total, I have lost more than 100 pounds.
I was on the Atkins diet for eight months. During that time, I maintained high energy, my migraine headaches virtually disappeared, I wasn't hungry, and I was thrilled I'd finally lost the weight I struggled with for so many years. Other things I liked about the Atkins diet:
- It changed my philosophy about food and my understanding about how the human body works. The diet I switched to is basically an ancestral diet that eschews processed foods. Atkins began this philosophy for me, showing me that eating healthful, natural foods can make a huge difference in how I look and feel.
- It changed how I shop. I very seldom walk down a grocery store aisle anymore, instead preferring to skirt the edges where I find the least processed foods.
- For the most part, I liked the food.
What I Didn't Like
A few things on Atkins didn't work for me. For instance, the Atkins diet allows artificial sweeteners, and my body does not respond well to those. Still, the diet doesn't insist on them, but recommends them as a replacement for sugar. Atkins also allows processed meats like bacon and sausage, which may be taxing on a sensitive system like mine. If you follow the Atkins diet, watch to see how processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and the Atkins line of low-carbohydrate products affect you. I can't eat them, but some people can.
Give It a Try
I would recommend Atkins to others, especially if you've experienced difficulty losing weight on other diets. Because the diet involves body chemistry, you must follow it closely, and a return to eating the old way will likely lead to weight regain. More importantly, always check with your personal health care provider before engaging in any weight loss plan.