Published: 09/16/2015

When to Move to Phase 2

After two weeks in Phase 1, Induction, it’s time for you and your patient to decide whether it’s time to transition to Phase 2 of the Atkins Diet, known as Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL).  

The first determinant is whether the two primary and entwined purposes of Induction have been achieved: 

  • Shifting to burning primarily fat for energy; and
  • Kick-starting weight loss. 

If only 0–2 pounds of weight have been lost, the shift to primarily burning fat has not occurred, meaning the patient is not ready to leave Induction. In most cases, this is the result of noncompliance with the diet, although there are cases of extreme metabolic resistance. If cravings for carbohydrate foods or excessive hunger between meals remain, the benefits of fat burning have not kicked in, also making it inadvisable to leave Phase 1. 

Decision Time

However, if the patient has lost 2 or more pounds and his/her appetite is under control, it’s time to discuss whether to remain in Induction or move to OWL. One should not make the mistake of staying in Induction too long because of rapid weight loss. It’s important to move through the phases to gradually internalize new eating habits and learn how to reintroduce new foods without halting weight loss or provoking cravings. Deliberately slowing the rate of weight loss as goal weight is approached increases the likelihood of achieving sustainable weight loss. 

On the other hand, there’s no health risk to staying in Induction, but sooner or later it is important to move up the Carbohydrate Ladder, adding back foods eliminated in Induction, to ascertain one’s personal tolerance for carbohydrates and learn a new, permanent way of eating. (People who stay in Induction beyond two weeks can reintroduce small portions of nuts and seeds, as long as they stay at 20 grams of Net Carbs and these foods don’t prompt cravings or undue hunger.)

Your patient should move to OWL if he/she . . .

  • Is within 15 pounds of goal weight. 
  • Is bored with Induction phase food choices, which might lead to noncompliance.
  • Has been in Induction for several months and is more than halfway to goal weight.

Your patient can stay in Induction if he/she. . .

  • Still has more than 30 pounds to lose.

Your patient should stay in Induction for now if he/she. . .

  • Still has a large amount of weight to lose.
  • Continues to struggle with carb cravings.
  • Has not been fully compliant with Induction.
  • Still has elevated blood sugar or blood pressure.
  • Is experiencing slow weight loss or is not physically active.

Your patient should move directly to Phase 3, Pre-Maintenance, if he/she...

  • Is within 10 pounds of goal weight and losing at a brisk pace.