Atkins Diet

vegetables on plate

In 1972, Dr. Robert Atkins published a book called Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution. This book was a result of Dr. Atkins' own research and experience with his own weight loss and the weight loss of his patients. Many diets today focus on limiting fat and calories while increasing physical activity. Dr. Atkins’ diet is different as it concentrates on limiting carbohydrates and increasing protein and fats as well as physical activity.

Dr. Atkins believed that much of today’s obesity and health problems are due to the consumption of large quantities of refined carbohydrates and Trans-fats. Refined carbohydrates include sugar, flour, and high-fructose corn syrups. Most Trans-fats are created and added to foods to enhance taste and provide a better shelf life. This type of Trans-fat is created by partially hydrogenating plant oils or adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats making them saturated.

Eliminating or drastically reducing carbohydrates goes against the United States Department of Agriculture’s “My Pyramid”. The USDA formulated this pyramid as guidelines for Americans to make healthier eating choices. The very basis of the USDA’s dietary guidelines is grains. Breads, pastas, products containing flour, and rice are considered grains. Carbohydrates play an important role in the body. When you consume carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into glucose. Glucose can then enter your blood stream where it travels to your cells, tissues and organs to be used as energy.

woman with vegetables

Have you ever noticed when you’re tired and feeling run down, you have a craving for sugary sweets? That’s your body telling you that it’s tired and needs carbohydrates! The Atkins approach to eating (restricting carbohydrates) causes the body’s metabolism to change. Instead of the body converting carbohydrates into energy, it is forced to start using fat stores for fuel. This process is called lipolysis.

You may have also come across the term ketosis. Ketosis just simply means that the body is using fat for energy instead of glucose. When this is happening, the body is generating ketones or keytone bodies for energy and whatever can not be used is excreted as waste.

Phases of Atkins

The Atkins diet contains four phases. The first phase is called the “Induction Phase.” This part of the plan is aimed at jump-starting your metabolism. This phase lasts two weeks and is the most restrictive. 20 grams of carbohydrates are permitted daily, most of which should be obtained from eating leafy greens and other vegetables. Fruits, breads, starchy veggies, pasta and many dairy products are forbidden during this phase. Alcohol is also forbidden.

The second phase is called the “Ongoing Weight Loss Phase.” The daily intake of carbohydrates is increased to 25 grams. There is no time limit for this phase but is suggested that you remain in this phase until you are within five to ten pounds of your goal weight. Additional foods can be added every week, but are broken down into a specific order.

The third phase is called the “Pre-Maintenance Phase.” Carbohydrate intake is increased by 10 grams a week. The goal of this phase is to basically see how many carbohydrates you can consume in the diet plan without gaining any weight.

The final phase is called the “Lifetime Maintenance Phase.” At this point, you should be able to realize what you can and can not consume to maintain your weight. The Atkins website lists their own version of the food pyramid. The Atkins’ pyramid lists protein on the bottom and grains on the top.

In 1999, Dr. Atkins’ published another book: Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution. It had the same principles of his original book with some revisions. After publication, the Atkins’ diet and similar other low carbohydrate diets gained a lot of popularity. So much that many companies in the food industry started marketing new products to cash in on the new “low carb craze.”

variety of healthy foods

Critique of Atkins' Diet

Not everyone, however, is a fan of this type of diet. An organization called PCRM or Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a long history of opposing the Atkins diet as well as other low carbohydrate diets. The PCRM is a non-profit organization comprised of doctor’s and laypersons founded in 1985. Their website- cites information and research against these types of diets.

The American Heart Association does not recommend high-protein diets due to their belief that foods are restricted that provide essential nutrients or variety to meet nutritional needs. On April 8th, 2003, Dr. Robert Atkins, at the age of 72, slipped and fell outside his clinic in New York. He passed away April 17th, 2003. The cause of death listed on his birth certificate was “blunt impact injury of head with epidural hematoma.” No autopsies were performed but leaked post mortem medical examiner documents listed the doctor with having a history of cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, and hypertension. Suspicions arouse on whether or not the low carbohydrate diet guru died from of lifetime of high fat, high protein eating, and not a head injury.

The long term effects, if any, of maintaining a diet high in fat and proteins and low in carbohydrates and fruits has not been established because it has not been studied. Doctors and other health care professionals have always recommended a diet that included foods from all of the food groups, placing fats and sweets in moderation. You should never undergo any diets without first talking it over with your doctor. Certain medical conditions prohibit certain people from trying certain diets. Pregnant women should never attempt to lose weight while pregnant unless specifically directed by a doctor. The same is true for breast feeding mothers.

For More Information

Information about the USDA’s “My Pyramid” guidelines can be found by visiting

For more information about the American Heart Association, visit

For more information about the Atkins Diet, visit

*The author of this article is neither for nor against this diet plan and is in no way attempting to persuade individuals in either direction. Information provided in this article is solely for informational purposes only and should not be taken as scientific research*