Published: 09/16/2015

10 Ways to Customize Atkins

Recent modifications in the Atkins Diet allow individuals to tailor the program to suit their own metabolism, goals and time frame. The diet can also adapt to culinary preferences and/or dietary restrictions. The more your patients can personalize Atkins to fit their preferences and lifestyle—while abiding by the basic principles and guidelines— the more likely they are to find it easy and pleasurable to follow. And therefore, the more likely they are to sustain their success. If some of your patients have tried the Atkins Diet before and found it too difficult or too restrictive, they’ll be pleasantly surprised with the updated approach.

1. START WHERE YOU WANT. If weight loss goals are small or one is willing to trade slower weight loss for more dietary variety from the start, it’s possible to skip Phase 1 and start in Phase 2 or Phase 3.

2. PICK YOUR PACE. As long as weight loss is steady in Phase 2, most people increase their daily intake of Net Carbs by daily 5-gram increments each week, but this increase may be stretched out to encourage faster weight loss. Nor is it necessary to reintroduce a new carb food group each week if a slower, more cautious approach suits an individual’s metabolism. The same freedom applies in Phase 3, Lifetime Maintenance, in which most people move up in 10-gram daily increments each week.

3. REARRANGE THE CARB LADDER. Once a person moves beyond Phase 1, Induction, we generally suggest foods be reintroduced in a certain order, called the Carb Ladder. But people who are losing weight reliably and in control of their appetite may be able to reorder the sequence to fit their preferences as long as they stick to their daily quota of carbs and continue to get at least 12 to 15 grams of Net Carbs from foundation vegetables.

4. HAVE MORE, SMALLER MEALS. Eating four or five small meals instead of three meals and two snacks is fine as long as enough fat and protein are consumed and hunger between meals is minimal.

5. EAT LEAN PROTEIN—OR NOT. Some people balk at eating fatty meats and cuts of poultry on Atkins. It’s perfectly all right to have lean cuts of meat and poultry, if preferred, but it’s important to also have some olive oil on a salad or butter on vegetables at the same meal to fuel the fat-burning engine.

6. SELECT PROTEIN SOURCES. It’s not necessary to eat beef or other red meats on Atkins. It’s fine to have only poultry, fish and shellfish. It’s also perfectly possible to do Atkins without eating any animal products. And there are plenty of alternatives for those allergic to dairy products.

7. HONOR A CULINARY HERITAGE. One of the reasons that Atkins is so popular worldwide is that it can be adapted to almost any heritage, including Latin cuisine and kosher dietary strictures.

8. CHOOSE WHEN TO GET ACTIVE. Physical activity is part of any healthy lifestyle, but it is inadvisable to begin or ramp up a fitness program when starting Atkins. After two weeks, after metabolic adaptations have occurred, most people who have been inactive can begin a fitness program. Obese patients may want to wait longer until greater weight loss makes them feel more comfortable with physical activity.

9. A PAIR OF OPTIONS IN PHASE 2. Patients with a low metabolism may do better by stay in Ongoing Weight Loss until they lose all their excess weight. This approach avoids trying to add back foods and raise carb intake significantly, which could lead to frustration and a sense of failure.

10. TWO CHOICES FOR PHASE 4. Likewise, there are two approaches to Lifetime Maintenance, one for those with a lower carbohydrate tolerance and the other for those who can add back most foods and get above 50 grams of Net Carbs a day. By selecting the option better suited to the patient’s needs, it’s more likely that the new weight will be sustainable.