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Are You Abusing Atkins Induction?

Posted Mar 14 2013 3:10pm

Atkins Induction is often the first introduction that many people have to a low-carb diet. It jump-starts your weight-loss program, can help if you’re experiencing a weight-loss plateau, or get you back on track if you’ve been stumbling around and eating too many carbs.

It’s also useful if you’re in pre-maintenance or maintenance and you’ve slipped and fallen out of the wagon. Induction can give you a leg up, and help you regain control of your appetite, drop those few pounds you’ve regained, and help you get your life back on track.

But Atkins Induction can also be abused.

I hear this all the time. You went to a party, it was a holiday, your birthday, or a family gathering. You planned to stay on program, stick to meat and salad, eat a snack before you left, and had a strawberry cheesecake waiting in the refrigerator for dessert when you got home.

But something went wrong.

You kept looking at the dessert table. You had to sit and watch your friends or family eating things not allowed on the Atkins weight-loss phase, and before you could stop yourself, you suddenly found yourself face down in the chocolate cake.

“That’s no problem,” you say. “The weight gain is water weight. I’ll just go back to Induction, and everything will be fine.”

Well, maybe…maybe not.  

Theoretically, yes, everything will be fine. You didn’t get fat because you ate a large piece of chocolate cake on your birthday. It takes more than 600 calories to deposit a pound of fat inside your fat cells. But, if you’re using Atkins Induction as a place to run to every time you stray, it can begin reinforcing a dangerous pattern.

Our minds are pretty clever. If we accept the notion that we can keep returning to Atkins Induction every time we want to justify eating something we shouldn’t, the mind will find more and more excuses for doing so. Before you know it, you’ll be back at your old way of eating and weighing what you did before you started your low-carb diet, and maybe even more.

In fact, in the 2002 version of his diet, Dr. Atkins clearly stated, “For a minor infraction or even a day of cheating, there is no need to go back to Induction.” In fact, he didn’t approve of that type of behavior at all. That isn’t what Atkins Induction is for.

Sure, it’s important that we embrace our low-carb lifestyle as a way of life, pick ourselves up, and climb back into the wagon, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy to zigzag back and forth between Induction and Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL).   

This one is a little less common, but I do hear about it several times throughout the year. People have told me they love doing Atkins because they can cheat on the weekends, and then make up for it come Monday. For some people, it works. In fact, the more you weigh, the more you can eat and still lose weight every week because your maintenance amount of calories is quite high.

At 256-1/2 pounds, my maintenance number of calories was over 3,000 a day, even in my physically disabled condition. That left a lot of room to wiggle.

But Dr. Atkins had a different concern. Yes, calories are important . Yes, they will eventually catch up to you if you continue eating the same amount of food at 160 pounds that you ate at 260 pounds. But Dr. Atkins’ concern is something I have never heard low-carb dieters talk about. In fact, I have breezed right by it without seeing it – every time I’ve read Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution myself.

Since I’ve only recently noticed Dr. Atkins’ opinion about waffling between Induction and cheating, I want to call your attention to the following:

“It’s likely that your metabolism will adapt at a certain point – in a sense, developing a tolerance.”

That came from Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, 2002, the chapter on Lifetime Maintenance. It was his explanation for what’s called the One Golden Shot Theory. In fact, I’ve heard it stated by dozens of people, that this theory isn’t true. They don’t believe it. A low-carb diet designed by Dr. Atkins could never have that boomerang. Yet, Dr. Atkins clearly warned us in his diet book that in his own clinical experience, the One Golden Shot Theory is basically true!

“People who repeatedly regain weight and go back to Induction sometimes find that they do not experience the dramatic and easy weight loss they initially enjoyed.”

In addition, he also felt that the body pays a price when you “dramatically switch back and forth repeatedly from a fat-burning to a glucose-burning metabolism.” He called that yo-yo dieting. And cautioned readers about returning to Induction on a regular basis. He even went so far as to say that if you believe that Induction will always work the same way for you, “You may be in for a nasty surprise.”

One of the main reasons why Atkins Induction gets abused is because people mistakenly believe that a low-carb diet will cure their metabolic defects. It’s these metabolic defects, such as insulin resistance or hyperinsulinemia, which make a low-carb, or lower-carb, diet necessary if one wants to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

But a low-carb diet isn’t magic. It isn’t the ultimate in nutrition. It’s not even necessarily a healthier way to eat than other diets. None of that is true.

What’s true is that if we follow a low-carb diet, or a primal or paleo diet, and we choose to incorporate nutrient-dense foods as part of that plan, we can correct the metabolic defects that are interfering with achieving a healthy weight. But correcting metabolic issues doesn’t cure us. If we go back to our old eating habits, our pancreas will begin over-secreting insulin again. That brings all of the symptoms and suffering we experienced before going low carb roaring back.

Dr. Atkins’ purpose in writing his diet books was to help readers learn and build good eating habits into their lifestyles. It wasn’t to provide us with a way that we could keep each of our feet inside both worlds. The problem, as Dr. Atkins saw it, was random eating. When we eat unconsciously, that’s when we get ourselves into trouble.

“If you want to be healthy and free of surplus body fat, then you cannot return to a perfectly random and careless pattern of eating.”

That holds true for Ongoing Weight Loss, as well as maintenance. He gave us the Induction program as a tool to kick-start our weight loss . To give us the motivation we needed to keep going. To help us recover when life interfered with what we’re trying to do. Or when we really get stuck. But he didn’t give it to us, so that we could run back to its arms every time we wanted an excuse to indulge ourselves.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can never have a piece of chocolate cake. But consciously choosing to eat that piece of cake doesn’t give us the right to use Atkins Induction to make up for it. That type of zigzagging is what Dr. Atkins called abusing his program.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t go back to Induction when you need it, I’m simply saying don’t do it regularly, in the belief that it will always work the same way for you.”

While I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with him that doing Atkins your own way is abusing the Atkins Nutritional Approach, the key to permanent weight loss always circles back around to permanent change. Bouncing between Atkins Induction and whatever you want to do isn’t a permanent solution.

That type of behavior can really mess up your metabolism. The body can adapt to what you’re doing, and once it adapts, the only choice you have left is to do something else.

Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution, Robert C. Atkins, M.D., M. Evans and Company, Inc. New York, New York, 2002.

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