Weight Loss with the Atkins Diet (AKA Atkins Nutritional Approach)

This conversation took place on our old forums and has been moved here. Some headings have been added. It may seem a little muddled when read out of context, but some good information here.

After reading up on the Atkins Diet (got a copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution) I have come to the conclusion that the Atkins diet is the best way for the average overweight/obese individual to lose weight. I have now been on the induction phase of the Atkins Diet for a week, and already have lost 3 pounds, and today managed to tighten my belt one notch, proof that I am slimmer too.


The Atkins Diet clearly explains how it works. Unlike other diets, which simply have a series of case studies of people that have “lost 40 pounds” and “got their body back”, the Atkins Diet explains the body chemistry that takes place when adopting a high protein / low carbohydrate diet. The key to Atkins is restricting carbs to the point that lipolysis starts, which means that your body uses its fats reserves as the prime energy source, rather than lean muscle tissue. Low calorie diets result in muscle tissue being used for energy before fat. High protein/low carb means that fat is used as energy, and fatty cells expelled from the body. The fat cells are lost by a process called ketosis – ketones are the result of fatty tissue being burnt for energy and the by product released.

“Lipolysis is the breakdown of fat stored in fat cells. During this process, free fatty acids are released into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. Ketones are produced, and are found in large quantities in ketosis (an adaptive metabolic state that occurs when insufficient carbohydrates are present in the diet).”Source: Wikipedia.

So, if you want to lose fat, forget about low fat, calorie controlled diets. Go Atkins. High protein, low carb, low GI indexed foods – it is healthy, reduces heart disease risk, stroke risk, diabetes risk, and you lose weight too!

18th Century Diets

Oh, in the 18th Century people ate on average 12 pounds of sugar (in all forms) a year. That has now increased to about 250 pounds per year (about 40% of total energy).

There is both good and bad cholesterol. The good stuff actively prevents arteries from getting clogged up, and is only found in fatty foods.

All subjects studied so far have shown a reduction in bad cholesterol and triglycerides when adopting a low carb diet.

Studying doctors that sit about, smoking, drinking, eating pies, curries, and doughnuts does not really make a good argument against the consumption of eggs. Statistical analysis would no doubt also reveal that those that wore brown shoes were less likely to make it into old age.

I’d quite like to find out when the government first said that too many eggs is bad. I would not be surprised if it was just after the salmonella outbreak in the 80’s.

Eggs

“Men who ate the most eggs also were older, fatter, ate more vegetables but less breakfast cereal, and were more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and less likely to exercise — all factors that can affect the risk of heart attack and death.”

There you go. Avoid too much booze, stay fit and slim, and you’ll be OK. This statement really makes a mock of the entire article. It reminds me of when I was a student, and people would complain of an awful hangover, and say “it must have been that dodgy kebab on the way home”. They’d be convinced that if they did not have the kebab, they would not have had a hangover. The 10 pints of cheap lager were never to blame. With these doctors, the eggs are like the kebabs. They get the blame, even though the doctors studied smoke, don’t exercise and probably have an erratic diet and were all old and overweight.

Also, other research, not quoted here, has shown that it is what you eat you eggs with that it important. Cholesterol levels fall for people on low-carb diets. Again, it appears to mostly be the role of insulin and blood sugar peaks and troughs that lead to complications surrounding cholesterol. AND, there are both good and bod types of cholesterol, which these reports generally fail to mention.

Really this report says;

We studied a bunch of middle-age, unfit, overweight, GP’s (GP’s being famous for their unhealthy lifestyle, stressful working conditions, poor diets) and some of them died. And those that ate eggs were more likely.

What does this mean? Maybe the people who ate eggs always had their eggs on white toast, with some baked beans. But why mention that? Beans are healthy aren’t they, and so are refined flours. So we will concentrate on one small part of their diet and ignore all the research that tells us that there is much more to a good diet that eating your greens.

I wonder how many of these GP’s would have died of heart attacks if they ditched the junk food, refined flours and sugar. During the 18th Century sugar contributed to less than 10% of daily calorific intake. Now it is over 60%. (I need to check these figures, but it is something like that).

For this study to have been in any way useful, they should have had compared to a group of people who abstained from sugar, and a control group that ate no eggs and no sugar. And probably something else.

OK, what about this Eggy report?

OK, what about this report? Surely this means that eggs are bad for us?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Middle-aged men who ate seven or more eggs a week had a higher risk of earlier death, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

Men with diabetes who ate any eggs at all raised their risk of death during a 20-year period studied, according to the study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study adds to an ever-growing body of evidence, much of it contradictory, about how safe eggs are to eat. It did not examine what about the eggs might affect the risk of death.

Men without diabetes could eat up to six eggs a week with no extra risk of death, Dr. Luc Djousse and Dr. J. Michael Gaziano of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found.

“Whereas egg consumption of up to six eggs a week was not associated with the risk of all-cause mortality, consumption of (seven or more) eggs a week was associated with a 23 percent greater risk of death,” they wrote.

“However, among male physicians with diabetes, any egg consumption is associated with a greater risk of all-cause mortality, and there was suggestive evidence for a greater risk of MI (heart attack) and stroke.”

They urged more study in the general population.

Eggs are rich in cholesterol, which in high amounts can clog arteries and raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.

One expert on nutrition and heart disease said the study suggests middle-aged men, at least, should watch how many eggs they eat.

“More egg on our faces? It’s really hard to say at this point, but it still seems, if you’re a middle-aged male physician and enjoy eggs more than once a day, that having some of the egg left on your face may be better than having it go down your gullet,” said Dr. Robert Eckel of the University of Colorado and a former president of the American Heart Association.

“But, remember: eggs are like all other foods — they are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad,’ and they can be part of an overall heart-healthy diet,” Eckel wrote in a commentary.

The Harvard team studied 21,327 men taking part in the much larger Physicians’ Health Study, which has been watching doctors since 1981 who have agreed to report regularly on their health and lifestyle habits.


Over 20 years, 1,550 of the men had heart attacks, 1,342 had strokes, and more than 5,000 died.

“Egg consumption was not associated with (heart attack) or stroke,” the researchers wrote.

But the men who ate seven eggs a week or more were 23 percent more likely to have died during the 20-year period.

Diabetic men who ate any eggs at all were twice as likely to die in the 20 years.

There you go. Avoid too much booze, stay fit and slim, and you’ll be OK. This statement really makes a mock of the entire article. It reminds me of when I was a student, and people would complain of an awful hangover, and say “it must have been that dodgy kebab on the way home”. They’d be convinced that if they did not have the kebab, they would not have had a hangover. The 10 pints of cheap lager were never to blame. With these doctors, the eggs are like the kebabs. They get the blame, even though the doctors studied smoke, don’t exercise and probably have an erratic diet and were all old and overweight.

Also, other research, not quoted here, has shown that it is what you eat you eggs with that it important. Cholesterol levels fall for people on low-carb diets. Again, it appears to mostly be the role of insulin and blood sugar peaks and troughs that lead to complications surrounding cholesterol. AND, there are both good and bod types of cholesterol, which these reports generally fail to mention.

Really this report says;

We studied a bunch of middle-age, unfit, overweight, GP’s (GP’s being famous for their unhealthy lifestyle, stressful working conditions, poor diets) and some of them died. And those that ate eggs were more likely.

What does this mean? Maybe the people who ate eggs always had their eggs on white toast, with some baked beans. But why mention that? Beans are healthy aren’t they, and so are refined flours. So we will concentrate on one small part of their diet and ignore all the research that tells us that there is much more to a good diet that eating your greens.

I wonder how many of these GP’s would have died of heart attacks if they ditched the junk food, refined flours and sugar. During the 18th Century sugar contributed to less than 10% of daily calorific intake. Now it is over 60%. (I need to check these figures, but it is something like that).

For this study to have been in any way useful, they should have had compared to a group of people who abstained from sugar, and a control group that ate no eggs and no sugar. And probably something else.

Too many eggs? What Nonsense!

The problem is, many of our guidelines are issues by government departments who cling to out of date, false information regarding health. Even though decades of research has shown that high protein diets, including eggs, is not bad for you so long as you do not combine with carbs, the government still tells us “don’t eat fat”, “don’t eat more that 2 eggs per century” etc. etc. They probably do this, because they know that the average person will not eat sensibly, and maybe they would be better off having just carbs instead of carbs and proteins. Maybe. In fact, too little fat is the main cause of gall stones. If you stop eating fat, the bile ducts stop working, resulting in crystallisation of bile, forming stones. Slow process, but if you went on a low fa diet and stayed on it for a few years (because it may take that long to get your weight down,.if ever) then this could lead to gallstones, which could require an operation to remove them.. Just think, you stop eating evil FAT, and the result is a part of your body stops working, and stones form inside you, that have to be surgically removed. Is that really healthy?

I know that I should really eat organic meat, and no processed food. But the sausages looked good, so I treated myself to one. Two. They do not contain a lot of carbs, so I should be OK. I’ll have a marginally smaller salad today (I was planning to anyway), If I had loads of money and lived/worked next door to an organic greasy spoon, I’d eat there instead.

The only problem with caffeine is that some people have a condition where caffeine results in some sort of blood sugar disruption. Cannot remember the details. A few cups of coffee/tea a day have been shown to be good for you. Long term it helps to prevent Alzheimer’s. Also good for the heart I think. Like red wine. A bit now and then is OK. But that is mostly about health. I am currently focusing on losing some weight. Once that is accomplished, I can worry about how healthy I am as well. But most things we eat (except sugar) are OK in moderation.

But you eat unhealthy food on Atkins!

But you eat unhealthy food on Atkins, like sausages, eggs, red meat – all of which are not good for us. You said that you had sausages for breakfast, and three eggs – I thought processed meat is bad for you? And too many eggs?

People Just Misunderstand Atkins

In fact, my father in law is a classic example of someone misunderstanding Atkins. He “went on the Atkins diet” and lost a lot of weight (more proof that it works). After one month he lost about a stone, and he decided that it was “dangerous” because he was losing too much weight too quickly! If only he read the rules about what you can eat, and what to eat after you have lost the initial weight.

The fact is, to lose weight you do one of two things:

1. try to starve yourself, ie. fasting, restrict calories. This results in losing muscle tissue before fat.
2. Drop the carbs, and eat just protein. This induces lipolysis (the reason that man in the Sun cannot put on weight – he has a naturally high tendency to be in a state of lipolysis), which means you lose fat, and retain muscle tissue.

If you start to monitor bad cholesterol and those triglycerides (?!???!?) then you realise that a high protein diet also reduces these factors, which contribute to heart disease and cancer.

Just think, if you were to find yourself in a natural environment, with no tools, then what would you eat? Probably anything you could lay your hands on – grubs, snails, green leaves, eggs, berries, nuts, seeds. These are all allowed in Atkins (although most people avoid grubs), You would not find any potatoes, carrots, bags of sugar or low fat yoghurts. You would very likely lose weight, even if you found enough food to not feel hungry. A natural diet. Think of Atkins as trying to mimic a natural diet. Other tools are looking at the glycemic index (GI), looking at the quality of carbs (more fibre, less absorbable carbs), combined with periods of lipolysis and ketosis. That is natural. Doughnuts and biscuits are not.

There are many diets that take parts of the theory, such as the “GI Diet”, the Food Combining Diet (Hay Diet) and things like the Sparrow Diet. But they are all part of a healthy living lifestyle. i.e. lifetime maintenance in Atkins.

The main thing about Atkins, is that most people totally misunderstand it. The induction phase of Atkins is the only part that the average person ever reads about, i.e. no carbs. People then try it, lose some weight, (or cheat and drink fruit juice, eat carrots, drink beer and wonder why they are not losing weight) and then think – “I cannot do this forever, it is not healthy” and go back to their previous diet, that made them fat in the first place. The ongoing weight loss phase (OWL) of Atkins is probably very similar to the any other healthy eating plan. And the lifetime maintenance is just a healthy diet, but ideally the dieter is more knowledgeable about the role of different types of carbs, foods, protein, insulin, sugar, fat etc. has on their body and digestive system. This empowers people to make the correct choice for themselves, to allow them to maintain a healthy weight without have to go on crash diets once every year. But most people do not read the book, or his web page, they just leap to an assumption based on a tabloid headline and take it from there.

But hunger is all in the mind

Nooo! That’s the problem. Eating sugary foods means that you feel hungrier. With a high protein diet, you actually do not feel as hungry. It’s like, when you go out and have a massive curry, with loads of nan bread and rice, and beer, the following morning you feel hungry, even though you ate enough to last a week. If you eat “empty calories” your body soon starts to crave more nutrition. Eat highly nutritious calories, fats, proteins, phytonutrients, then you do not feel hungry so soon. You do not need to use willpower, meditation etc. to overcome hunger, because your body is satisfied, your blood sugar is under control, your metabolism works harder, and you lose weight.

A calorie controlled diet can work, yes. But, more than likely you will put the weight back on afterwards. Many people fail to realise that there are 4 stages to the Atkins approach. In later stages, more carbs are added, but only after you control your insulin / blood sugar levels. The aim is to get to a point where you are slim and healthy, eating well, and maintaining your weight. Lifetime maintenance is the final stage of Atkins. It is different for everybody. Maybe I will never eat bread again – this seems to be my main problem. For you it could be roast potatoes and bananas. Who knows? But the key is, eat the foods that enable your body to use your fat as its prime source of energy.

Here is the workflow as I understand it:

You eat lots of carbs / high GI food > your body cannot use all of this and converts the surplus into fat.

You eat mostly protein and fat, with some healthy low GI carbs for nutrition and fibre > your body utilises fat reserves first for energy (lipolysis) and store less fat with the surplus foods.

If you consume 1000 calories of fat, and 1000 calories of sugar, your body will use more energy processing the fat.

Sugar makes you fat. Carbs turn to sugar (glycogen etc) which is stored mostly around the gut first, and then everywhere else.

Scientific research explained how it all works many years ago. Dr. Atkin’s has not come up with anything new, he has just simply accepted the science of weight loss, and promoted it, as it works. He spent 30 odd years treating obese patients in his GP surgery who had tried low fat / calorie controlled diets, and introduced them all to a high protein diet, and they all (all that stuck to his rules) lost their weight and maintained an ideal weight. This is how his approach got popular, simply because of years and years of good results.

Both UK and USA governments still advocate low fat diets for weight loss, but these really do not work very well for most people. Take so called “low fat” yoghurt – they make it low in fat, but add sugar, i.e. carbs to it, to make it tastier, and it is this that your body stores as fat. Utter madness. It seems that the entire low calorie/low fat health food industry has run us up the garden path (so to speak) and made fools of us all. Don’t be a fool, follow Motley Health advice! Urr….

You Cannot Half Do Atkins

With every theory there is a one man exception to the rule….

The one and only time I tried to lose weight through “dieting” I did a half-Atkins diet. I didn’t cut out carbs, but I cut back on them. I lost almost a stone in a three months. That diet wasn’t in any diet book that I know. It was in the “eating for people with common sense” book. Portion control, that’s what it’s all about. But then I eat healthy food anyway, I just eat too much of it. Oh, and I didn’t cut out alcohol during that time. Or cut down. In fact, I probably drank more.

Hunger is all in the mind. It’s what you get used to. For the last three years, I get really hungry at 8:30pm on a Thursday night, and have a real craving for processed cheese, burnt onions and a rather strange orange sauce. Amongst other things. Also my wife tried the Atkins Diet once. It was, to quote Geoffrey Boycott, Roobish. Although she did get to eat lots of sausages!

Ah, you can have too many sausages. There are carbs in sausages. Eat more than 20g carbs a day, and it won’t work. Need to induce lipolysis, cannot do that with lots of sausages. Unless they are really lean, but then you may as well eat pork chops.

All diets are Rubbish!

Many people think that there is no need to diet if you don’t eat too much in the first place.

I think that has been proven to be wrong. There is now more than 40 years of evidence, which actually started with UK research, that shows that it is what you eat, not how much, that makes you lose weight. High protein diets where more calories are eaten were shown to help weight loss back in the 60’s. All about insulin and metabolism, and eating food that your body evolved to digest and use, rather than eating refined carbs, empty calories and generally junk food.

Can You Get Fat From Eating Salad All Day?

Of course you would get fat. How daft is that? Of course, eat enough protein with the salad and you slow the absorption of carbs / glucose into your blood enough to avoid an insulin / sugar spike, meaning that you won’t put on as much weight, if any at all. Also, not all carbs are equal. Green leaves are low GI, potatoes, carrots etc. high. So if you think you’ll lose weight with potato salads and coleslaw, then you’re a proper fool. Eat healthy greens – phytonutrients (aka superfoods) and you will be healthier and lose weight.

There is abundant evidence from epidemiological studies that the phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can significantly reduce the risk of cancer, probably due to polyphenol antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Source: Wikipedia

What About Exercise?

Where does exercise fit into all of this? Is it true that it doesn’t matter how much you diet, exercise is the key?

To get slim, diet is all that is required. To get fit and healthy, diet and exercise are required.

Although saying that, Atkins says that “exercise is not an option, is it compulsory” or something like that.

Sumo wrestlers exercise a lot. They could lift more weights than you, and probably fight for longer. But they are not too concerned with reducing fat are they? Many rugby players carry too much fat according to health guidelines (many having BMI over 30, these are obese). But they still manage to run around a pitch for 80 minutes. They are “overweight” because they train to be large – i.e. they eat a lot and exercise to make themselves bigger and stronger. Ever watched World’s Strongest Man? Rarely do they look like Mr Universe. Being strong is not the same as perfect muscular definition. To get perfect muscular definition, i.e. be Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzernegger etc. involves extreme diet and weight training (diet to the point that you are actually weak!).

So, yes, exercise is essential for good health, but not for being skinny. Just look at your average starving individual. No doughnuts, no exercise, skinny as a rake.

I have been exercising 3 times a week for ages, and until last week, my weight was not going down. I think that there are two reasons why extreme exercise makes you lose weight:

1. you burn more calories yes, but you would put these back by eating… but….
2. when you exercise loads, you eat less, because you are exercising.
3. Metabolism increases, burning more energy, but you need to exercise loads! And you still have less time to eat.

Really only professional athletes and soldiers have time to train to the point that diet / calories control / low carb etc. is required. The average Joe needs to eat sensibly to lose weight, even with exercise. In fac, especially with exercise. Eat junk food while exercising, and you’ll use up all of the little goodness you take in, leaving all the junk to turn to fat. See? Mad innit? When I lost a lot of weight before, I was exercising 3-5 times a week. I never had time to pig out on the sofa, or the inclination to do so. I was deliberately dieting too though. If I had a full English breakfast everyday, and a curry in the evening, I would have probably got fitter and stronger, but not slimmer.

The Insulin Connection

The role of insulin and controlling it is the key to Atkins. Almost everyone that fails to lose weight with Atkins does not stick to the diet – they think, oh, one slice of toast won’t hurt, carrots with my dinner will be OK just on Sunday, one glass of wine will be OK. It takes very little to to prevent lipolysis (fat burning) from occurring. I have already lost 3 pounds this week. In ten weeks I should be a slim 32 inch waist, and about 80kg……

maybe…..

but I did have some Port on Friday, and wine on Saturday. But we were celebrating my father-in-law being in the UK, and my wife graduating from the OU, so had a good excuse both times!

Hungry. The other odd thing about “Atkins”, is that although I feel slightly hungry, I do not have an uncontrollable desire to eat. As I am not addicted to sugar now, I can go hours feeling hungry and it does not affect me. Before I’d get dizzy and feel sick if I did not eat. Now I just wait patiently until I prepare some bacon and eggs. It’s really tough. Not!

More like this in the Blog section

  1 comment for “Weight Loss with the Atkins Diet (AKA Atkins Nutritional Approach)

  1. D
    January 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    OMG! I love this…
    Thank you sooo much…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *