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 Weight Control 
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Popular Diet Plans

Atkins Diet

The Atkins Diet is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate weight loss diet developed by Robert Atkins, M.D., during the 1960s. The Atkins Diet severely restricts the consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods and encourages the consumption of protein and fat.

The concept behind Atkins Diet is quite old. The progenitor of it was promulgated in the late 19th century by a British surgeon named William Harvey, whose prescription for weight loss was to restrict severely his patients' intake of carbohydrates while permitting 5 ounces of meat and fish at every meal. His most famous patient was a coffin maker named William Banting, who had come to Harvey with an ear complaint. Dr. Harvey diagnosed his condition as from "too much fat pressing on a channel to the inner ear."  Banting was put on Dr. Harvey's diet and he lost 46 pounds in one year. Banting went on to publish a pamphlet in which he extolled the success of Harvey's diet.

The central concept of The Atkins Diet is Dr. Atkins' theory that over-consumption of and hypersensitivity to carbohydrates is the root of our problem with being overweight. He says that it is the way your body processes the carbohydrates you eat -- not how much fat you eat -- that causes you to gain weight.

Many overweight people, according to Dr. Atkins, may be insulin resistant. The remedy is to restrict the consumption of the "bad" carbohydrates (or simple carbohydrates) like those found in processed, pre-packaged and junk foods (cookies, sodas, etc.) and prepare to follow this high-protein eating plan.

By reducing your carbohydrate intake to less than 40 grams a day, you will enter a bodily process called ketosis. Ketosis is a state in which your body burns fat as fuel. According to Dr. Atkins, ketosis will also affect insulin production which will prevent more fat from being formed. Atkins' plan suggests that once you enter ketosis and your body begins efficiently using the fat as fuel, your cravings for carbohydrates will subside and you won't miss the foods you are doing without.

Stages of Atkins Diet Plan

The Atkins Diet consists of four stages: 
Stage 1: Induction
Stage 2: Ongoing weight loss
Stage 3: Pre-maintenance
Stage 4: Maintenance

In addition to the dietary restrictions as specified for the stages of dieting, Dr. Atkins recommends regular exercise and nutritional supplementation as part of his weight loss program.

Stage 1: Induction

Induction is the first stage of the plan. It lasts 14 days (or more.) Atkins says that you can lose up to 15 pounds during this stage. This rapid weight loss is due to limiting your carbohydrates to 20 grams a day. The only carbohydrates you can have are low-carbohydrate vegetables like lettuce, broccoli and tomatoes. You are limited to three cups per day. Forget about yogurt, fruit and starchy vegetables like potatoes. You are not permitted to drink alcohol or drinks with caffeine.

 The purpose of induction is to induce a change in your body chemistry that leads to lipolysis (burning fat for energy) and a secondary process known as ketosis.

According to Dr. Atkins, induction can bring about the following changes in your body chemistry and functions:

Stabilization of your blood sugar. 
Curbing of various health symptoms originating from unstable blood sugar, such as fatigue.
Breaking food addictions.
Curbing your cravings. 
Significant weight loss.

Meal Restrictions During Induction

In order to bring the onset and maintenance of induction, you have to follow a strict diet working around an "allowed" list that includes a variety of foods. But you can create a variety of food menu from the list of allowable foods in the program.

Foods that can be consumed liberally during the induction phase includes fish, chicken, shellfish, meat, and eggs. You can also take limited amount of some cheeses.

Carbohydrate is limited to 20 grams of carbohydrate a day.

You can eat two to three cups of salad a day comprised of the particular vegetables Dr. Atkins specifies, which include (but are not limited to): escarole, fennel, radicchio, cucumber, lettuce, and mushrooms. You may garnish your salads with certain toppings such as bacon bits, grated cheese, and hard-boiled egg.

If you choose to consume two cups of salad (rather than three), you can add another cup of vegetables from a different list. Those include artichokes, snow peas, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and many others.

Drink eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day. The water may be in the form of tap water, spring water, mineral water, and filtered water. Other permitted drinks includes herbal tea and decaffeinated coffee.

Food Not Allowed During Induction

Eliminate fruit, bread, pasta, grains, starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dairy products (except cheese, cream, and butter).

Do not eat anything that is not in the acceptable list of Atkins diet.

You must follow 12 rules exactly during the first 14 days of this diet to ensure that induction is initiated.

Duration of Stage 1

The first phase of the program lasts 14 days like the South Beach diet. You can stay on induction longer than the initial two weeks if you wish. You will lose more weight, more quickly if you stay on induction.

After 14 days, you follow additional steps toward creating your own personalized eating plan. This includes adding

Stage 2: Ongoing weight loss

During this phase, you can increase your

Stage 3 and 4: Maintenance

Once you reach your goal weight, you enter Premaintenance and then maintenance. Here you may introduce some more

During the Premaintenance and Maintenance phases, dieters determine the level of carbohydrate consumption that allows them to maintain their weight. To prevent weight regain, dieters are told to maintain this level of carbohydrate consumption, perhaps for the rest of their lives. According to Dr. Atkins, most people must limit their carbohydrate intake to no more than 60 grams per day to keep lost weight off.

Note: The dietary recommendations issued by various organizations, including the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Heart Association, encourage a daily carbohydrate intake of approximately 300 grams.

Benefits of Atkins Diet

Many people like being able to eat as much protein and fat as they wish, since these foods are often restricted in more traditional diet plans.

For people who have tried a low-fat, high-carbohydrate weight loss plan without success, increasing protein in their diet often results in decreased food cravings and more rapid weight loss.

Several studies have shown that Atkins plan can help you lose significant amount of weight.

Recently, two studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine that looked at the low-carbohydrate approach pioneered by Atkins for more than 90 days, in comparison to low-fat diets. The studies showed that the Atkins approach was slightly more effective for weight loss. More importantly, it was associated with greater improvements in blood fats known as triglycerides, which contribute to atherosclerosis and heart disease. One study found that those who followed the Atkins approach for a year raised their levels of HDL cholesterol (or good cholesterol), which helps prevent atherosclerosis. These findings are important because the conventional wisdom had been that a higher-fat diet such as the Atkins approach would raise LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and lower HDL cholesterol. It is important to point out that longer term studies are necessary to fully gauge the impact of this diet on CHD. 3 months or 1 year will not be enough.

The diet is relatively easy to follow; there are no complicated meal plans.

Cons

Some dieters following this diet may experience constipation during the induction phase.
Participants of the program also reported bad breath, headaches and - in some cases - hair loss.

Some nutritionists and health experts contend that ketosis results in too-rapid, unhealthy levels of weight loss and that the loss consists of lean body mass and water.

Any diet that limits carbohydrate causes the body to rely on fat or muscle for energy. When our body breaks down stored fat to supply energy, a byproduct called ketones are formed. Ketones suppress appetite, but they also cause fatigue, nausea, and a potentially dangerous fluid loss. Anyone with diabetes, heart, or kidney problems should not follow a diet that promotes the formation of ketones, including the Atkins plan. See:

Once you are committed to this diet plan, you have to be committed to follow it for life. After you have lost weight, you can't go back to eating

People who suffer from gout, kidney conditions, type I diabetes or pregnant women should not go on Atkins. You should check with your doctor before you go into any diet plan.

Some participants in Atkins Diet report losing clumps of hair. They complained having no energy to exercise. Some reported going into a slump of depression.

High amounts of dietary protein increase calcium loss, which can contribute to osteoporosis.

Some research has indicated that this type of diet may endanger the kidneys, result in dehydration, or lead to other health problems.

Atkins recommends keeping dietary carbohydrate intake to about 20 grams per day. The National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) Food and Nutrition Board recommends no less than 120 grams of carbohydrate per day for optimal health and brain function.

The American College of Preventive Medicine called the Atkins diet program potentially dangerous and ultimately ineffective.

Eating unlimited amounts of fat, especially saturated fat found in meat products, can lead to increased risk of heart disease.

Plenty of research shows that fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect against cancer and other diseases. Any diet that restricts these foods is missing important nutrients. Even if supplements are taken to provide missing vitamins and minerals, they will not provide the wide variety of disease-fighting phytochemicals found in plant foods.

Extensive research on healthy populations tells us to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Restricting these foods in the name of weight loss may lead to long-term health problems.

See Also:

The South Beach Diet

High Protein Diets

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