My Review:
The Atkins Diet

What Is The Atkins Diet?

steak eggs bacon

A low carb, high protein, high fat diet.

How does it work?

The Atkins Diet consists of 4 phases:

  • Phase 1 (Induction Phase): Lasts 14 days. 20 grams of "net" carbs* per day are allowed primarily from salad and other non starchy vegetables. Weight loss is quick and the greatest in this phase, but is primarily due to water loss.
  • Phase 2 (Ongoing Weight Loss Phase): Daily net carb allowance is increased every week in 5-carb increments until weight loss slows.
  • Phase 3 (Pre-Maintenance Phase): Begins when you are 5-10 pounds from your goal. Daily net carbs are increased every week by 10 grams until weight loss slows to less than 1/2 pound/week.
  • Phase 4 (Lifetime Maintenance): Continue to eat carbs in the controlled amount determined appropriate in Phase 3.

* The term "net carbs" is used to describe total carbohydrate grams less fiber grams.


The Atkins Diet starts with a two-week induction period that bans practically all bread, cereal, crackers, potatoes, rice, corn, fruit, or sweets. The longer "ongoing weight loss" phase is only slightly less restrictive.

Gradually, phases 3 and 4 allow you to add more vegetables, fruit, and wine up to the point where weight loss slows and eventually ceases - presumably, when you've reached your goal.

Atkins Diet Pros

  • The basic guidelines are easy to follow...have the burger but skip the bun.
  • There is growing evidence that you won't feel as hungry on The Atkins Diet as on some other diets.
  • Initial weight loss is fast, which is very motivating.
  • If you love meat, it's an excuse to eat as much of it as you want.
  • No "special food" is required (although you can find plenty of Atkins bars and premade shakes that you can buy).

Atkins Diet Cons

  • The basic guidelines might be too restrictive to follow for an extended period of time. It's not uncommon for a dieter on Atkins to overly restrict carbs and subsequently binge on them.
  • You might feel sluggish and low energy.
  • You may experience poor exercise or sports performance.
  • Your saturated fat intake may exceed recommended daily limits as a result of eating lots of (animal) protein.
  • The Atkins Diet is low in fiber...can you say "constipation"?
  • You miss out on the healthy goodness of fruit!

Likelihood of long term weight loss success on the Atkins Diet

According to Consumer Reports
(compared to other diets):

  • Long term weight loss: average
  • Long term adherence: below average

("Adherence" means: How easy is it to stick to the diet in the long term.)

Atkins Diet Review: My Professional Opinion

To me, it seems like the popularity of Atkins has reduced food selection to a process based solely on carb and protein grams.

I once had a client who wasn't even on Atkins tell me she'd rather eat a (packaged, processed) Atkins food bar than an apple due to the "carb content" of the apple.

Forget that the apple has 30-50% less calories than any of the Atkins Bars and provides nutritional qualities that no processed food bar ever will!

I've had other people tell me they won't even eat cauliflower while following Atkins.

Do you know where they got that crazy idea? It's the "avoid everything that's white" translation of Atkins. (What Atkins meant: sugar, bread, rice...)

I've yet to see an overweight person who got that way from eating too much cauliflower! Same with bananas and carrots. I hear about regular people not on Atkins avoiding carrots and bananas like the plague "because they have too many carbs."

I'd love to meet just one person who has gained weight (or is in poor health) from eating too many servings of the fruit group!

This "Atkins mentality" keeps otherwise smart dieters from seeing the forest through all the trees! Making good food choices based on nutrient density and their positive effects on your health gets lost in the rush to avoid carbs.

The Atkins publicity machine claims you can eat all the protein and fat that you want (but little or none of the carbs) and still lose weight. What they leave out is that the underlying principle of weight loss has never changed...

To lose weight, you must consume fewer calories than you burn

In other words, you have to create a calorie deficit.

The Atkins Diet can result in weight loss, don't get me wrong...but the weight loss has nothing to do with some magical ratio of carb to protein and everything to do with calorie deficit.

The fast initial weight loss in the first phase is mostly water loss (not true weight loss), but those quick "results" can be motivating and provide a dieter with an emotional jump start.

Even though you may feel you are eating as much (protein and fat) as you want, if you are losing weight week after week it's a result of a calorie deficit made possible by following The Atkins Diet "rules."

You can eat an entire 12 oz T-bone steak for just 700 calories...because it's still fewer calories than the dinner size order of fettuccine alfredo (with more than 1100 calories) that you would have ordered otherwise!

(Read more about why calories matter. Use my Calories Calculator to determine how many calories you should eat in a day.)

I've also noticed that when people "cheat" on The Atkins Diet, they rarely do so by eating a banana or a large bowl of oatmeal. Cheating usually takes the form of ice cream, cookies, or sugar-laden snacks.

Talk about adding insult to injury! Not only does adhering to Atkins cause you to miss out on important nutrients by subscribing to the guidelines, but then the cravings it leaves you with cause you to break your diet with foods that have absolutely no nutrients.

One redeeming quality of The Atkins Diet... that it has made people talk and think about eating protein rich foods. Including protein with meals helps you feel full and helps balance your blood sugar. Translation...

Ample protein helps you maintain good control of your hunger and appetite, ultimately making it easier to control portions and calorie intake.

Here's my bottom line professional advice...



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Skip Atkins. Include protein at all (or most) meals, but make sure it's lean protein like fish, turkey or chicken breast, egg whites, protein powder, or lowfat dairy products.

Include a little fat at all meals too, but choose fats of plant origin (vs. animal fats) like extra virgin olive oil, olives, nuts and seeds. No need to avoid fruits simply because of their sugar or "carb" count. And by all means, have lots of salad and or vegetables with your meals!

Make these healthy choices and you can still lose weight, because the best diet is the one that's tailored for you... that fits your lifestyle and diet preferences, so that you'll be able to stick with it for the rest of your life.

Contact me if you'd like professional help putting together the right diet for you.

Read more about The Atkins Diet: Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution.

In case you think Atkins is an American phenomenon, you'll be surprised to see how much my friend, Michelle, has to say on the subject. I hope you read Spanish!

Did You Ever Try Atkins? Tell About Your Experience!

The best source of information on Atkins is the people who have tried it. If you're one of them...

Did you lose weight? Were you able to keep it off? Are you still on it? How did you feel when you were on it? Would you recommend it to others?

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Give Your Opinion On This Person's Experience!

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