Let’s put one issue to rest. Many people don’t understand why the Atkins Diet is made up of four phases instead of three. Once you reach your goal, you’re done, right? You couldn’t be more wrong! Difficult as losing weight is, it pales in comparison to the challenge of maintaining your healthy new weight. Almost anyone can stick with any diet for weeks—or even months—but we’ve made it easier to permanently change your way of eating. That’s why Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, and Phase 4, Lifetime Maintenance, are distinct—but linked—just as all the phases are part of a continuum.
The Dress Rehearsal
In Pre-Maintenance you’ll attain your goal weight and then make sure that you can stay right there for a month. (Some people need to remain in Ongoing Weight Loss until they reach their goal weight.) This is also where you’ll find your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium (ACE), which is the “magic number” that will enable you to maintain your new weight. So Pre-Maintenance is both a weight loss and a weight Maintenance phase. Like a dress rehearsal, spending a month in this phase to stabilize your weight prepares you for the real show, the rest of your life in Lifetime Maintenance.
The Real McCoy
The name Lifetime Maintenance says it all. This is not so much a phase as a permanent lifestyle. Pre-Maintenance is designed to make the transition from Phase 3 to [the so-called] Phase 4 practically seamless, so you should have no fears about moving on once your goal weight is stable. First of all, the Acceptable Foods for Phase 4 are the same foods as those you’ve been eating in Phase 3. Of course, you may not have reintroduced all the foods you’ll try in the months and years to come, but as long as you’re alert to the potential of any individual food to cause weight regain, cravings, unreasonable hunger or any of the other symptoms of carb intolerance, you know what to do. Just comply with the program and stick to your ACE—which may require some modifications as you get older or make lifestyle changes—and you’ll be able to maintain your healthy new weight and say goodbye to on-again, off-again diets once and for all.