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What is Atkins 72?

Posted Feb 16 2013 6:20pm

Lately, I’ve had a few readers ask me, “What is Atkins 72?” Since I use that term quite often, I thought maybe more of you might have the same question.

Most people think of the book, Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, whenever they talk about a low-carb diet. But that became quite confusing over the years because every new edition Dr. Atkins put out carried the same name, even though the diet had changed.

The basic principles of the Atkins program stayed fairly consistent, but the Rules of Induction, food quantities and types, how you add carbohydrates back into your diet, and even the way you count carbohydrates changed – depending on which edition you were following.

That made it difficult to help someone who didn’t understand how to do the Atkins Diet correctly, or to give advice when someone was stumbling or had stalled. To make it easier, the low-carb community began using the year the edition was published attached to Dr. Atkins’ name in order to distinguish one plan from another:
  • Atkins 72 is the version published in 1972
  • Atkins 92 is the 1992 version
  • Atkins 2002 was published in 2002



Atkins 72 is the very first, original Atkins Diet. The name of that book was, “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.” Later on, he re-titled it to “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution: The famous Vogue superdiet explained in full.” It came from a diet he ran into while following the scientific literature about carbohydrate restriction studied in the early 1960s.

Dr. Walter Bloom designed a diet to test the metabolic changes that occurred on a no carb diet. He didn’t designed this diet to treat obesity. It was simply a 3-day observation diet. It consisted of bacon and eggs, meat, and salad.

Intrigued by Bloom’s discoveries that a no carb diet eliminated hunger, Dr. Atkins decided to test that diet on himself. It worked so well, that he began playing around with assorted no carb and low-carb foods, and found that as long as he started from a zero carb diet, he could add 10 to 15 carbohydrates per day and still get into dietary ketosis easily.

To Bloom’s original diet, he added cheeses, cold cuts, cottage cheese, and a ricotta cheese cheesecake he made with sugar substitute, and flavored in a variety of ways.

Through trial and error, he also discovered that he could return as many as 40 grams of carbohydrate to his diet, and stay hunger free while continuing to lose weight, provided he added them back slowly enough – in 5 to 8 gram implements. That meant he could have vegetables, melon, strawberries smothered in whipped cream, and even an occasional Scotch before dinner.

These self-experiments, a diet trial undertaken by 65 AT&T workers in 1964, and the personal experience of his overweight patients, led to what officially became the Atkins Diet in 1972.   

It was revolutionary because it took that beginning 3-day diet of bacon, eggs, meat, and salad with oil and vinegar dressing, and taught you how to evolve that humble, zero carb beginning into a diet that fit your own personal carbohydrate tolerance and food sensitivities.


In 1972, there was no low-carb products, no “net” carbs, and no carbohydrate ladder to dictate the order in which you had to return carbohydrates to your diet. Although Dr. Atkins recommended such forbidden goodies as ham, spareribs, corned beef, and lobster with butter sauce, the approach was extremely personal.

His recommendation? “One of the big reasons this diet works so successfully is because you eat protein and fat. And you eat them in just about the sixty to forty proportions in which they usually occur together in nature: in a reasonably lean piece of beef for example.”
  
Dr. Atkins didn’t believe that dieting should be a hardship. That’s why he spent literally years to find a way of eating than provided almost effortless weight loss. He didn’t want to be hungry, and he didn’t want to feel deprived. He wanted eating to be a pleasure because he knew that if you enjoyed what you were eating, then you’d be more likely to stick with it.

The first week of Atkins 72 is basically carbohydrate free, but you do get to eat salad with oil and vinegar dressings, Roquefort, Blue Cheese, or even a little Ceasar because there’s so little carbohydrate in lettuce that the body considers it biologically zero carb. However, those salads are more like window dressings because they’re limited to a total of less than 2 cups of loosely packed salad per day.

The beauty of Atkins 72 is its simplicity, but it also takes you back to the very foundation of what a low-carb diet was meant to be and do. Although the first week may feel rough if you’re used to eating tons of carbs or vegetables, an Atkins 72 Induction only lasts for a single week. That’s as long as it takes to get your body into Ketosis.

After that, Dr. Atkins recommends you begin to fine-tune your diet to fit your individual tastes and lifestyle. Carbohydrate additions are interchangeable and flexible. Although he later designed a carbohydrate ladder, in the 70s there was no such restriction.

“I don’t impose that rigidity on my private patients, so why should I do that to you? I am so committed to making this a livable lifetime diet that I am letting you select your own variations, within the rules set up by your biological rule book.”


In 1972, Dr. Atkins believed strongly in the idea of gradually returning to your diet what you missed the most. Because deprivation and hunger are the two strongest reasons why diets fail. If the diet you create isn’t livable for the rest of your life, you’ll never make it to the finish line. That’s why Atkins’ strongly recommended you customize the diet to your likes and lifestyle.

“All that matters is that you add back to your diet a little carbohydrate at a time, and that you stop adding carbohydrate when you’ve reached your CCL (Critical Carb Level)….Just keep track of the grams of the grams of carbohydrate you’re adding to the basic diet per day – keep them under eight – and take your choice.”

He didn’t care if that was grapefruit, peaches, tangerines, sugar-free chewing gum, bread made with gluten flour or soy, nuts, vegetables, sour cream, or alcohol. In fact, even though he had you carefully find your daily carbohydrate allowance, you were even allowed to bend the rules by eating slightly higher carb goodies in weekly allowances, if that’s what it took to keep you on plan, and you were still losing weight comfortably.

For the diet itself, check out my older post, Atkins 72 – An Alternative Plan.
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