Published: 01/05/2022

How can healthcare professionals support their patients and help promote long-term maintenance of a low-carbohydrate lifestyle?

Active listening, accessibility, and non-judgmental support can go a long way in helping others overcome barriers to long-term behavior change. When providing patient counseling, keep the following strategies in mind:

  • Reinforce the concept of purposeful permission. The expectation is not avoidance of all carbohydrates. Instead, it’s about making purposeful carbohydrate choices (i.e., those low in net-carbohydrates and high in nutrition) most of the time.
  • Frame setbacks as learning opportunities. Nobody is perfect. Unplanned deviations from the meal plan are normal and to be expected. Approach these moments with compassion; help your patients focus on returning to the prescribed eating pattern without ‘self-punishment,’ and work with them to develop strategies to remove, avoid, or respond differently to triggers.
  • Acknowledge disordered and emotional eating strategies. Often, people are not forthcoming about binge eating or compulsive eating behaviors, yet these issues are not uncommon and may underlie weight gain and related health problems. Destigmatize these behaviors from the start, counsel patients on behavior management strategies and reach out for expert support, when needed. The National Eating Disorders Associationis a good place to start if you’re looking for more information or seeking referral information.
  • Be your patient’s navigational system. The Atkins Diet provides a roadmap and the clinician holds the compass. If motivation or self-efficacy are low, recommend beginning the program at a more liberal, “later” phase. If dietary control and consistency are wavering, have patients double-back to the start for greater structure and support. “Alternative routes” are available to meet individual food preferences or dietary needs. The Atkins Nutritional Approach helps guide the way, but having a healthcare professional “copilot” is crucial to navigate detours and roadblocks.