Most people starting Atkins notice a number of feelings that they describe in different ways. I have heard over and over and over that: “I can’t do Atkins because it makes me [fill in the blank].”
Some of the things I’ve heard is:
- I can’t do Atkins because it make me dizzy.
- I can’t do Atkins because it makes me weak.
- I can’t do Atkins because it makes me shaky.
- I can’t do Atkins because I get headaches.
Now low carb diets certainly aren’t for everybody, and Atkins Induction is a bit of a shock to your body – but so is eating an entire tub of Hagen Daz – it’s just that you’ve probably done that to your body more times than you can remember, so it’s a shock you’re used to.
Atkins is a different type of shock to the body – you are depleting your energy stores of glucose, so your body has to go into the basement and fire up the generator (so to speak) that burns fat – because there isn’t any sugar around to keep things humming along the way it’s always been.
Atkins induction changes the entire fuel system your body runs on – and yes, this does feel like something – there’s no doubt about that. I think the problem here is twofold:
- It is easy to do Atkins wrong and feel awful when you start.
- It is easy to focus on these new feelings and blow them way out of proportion.
Let’s look at both in more detail:
It is easy to do Atkins wrong and feel awful when you start.
What makes Atkins, in my opinion, a diet that gives you an advantage that other diets don’t is that when you switch your body over to burning fat as it’s primary source of energy, it reduces your appetite. Ketosis – the chemical process your body goes in to that makes those ketosis strips turn red when you urinate on them – is a powerful appetite suppressant.
Still hungry, you say? Well, this isn’t magic, and it’s hard to change a lifetime’s worth of eating habits in a day. We eat for a number of reasons other than actual physical hunger. My suggestion is that if you are hungry, eat – but only eat from the list of induction-friendly foods. Don’t get too hung up on the bathroom scale at this point – we’re more interested in getting the generator started than losing weight right now. We’re in this for the long haul and right now it’s about changing body chemistry and food choices – the weight loss will follow.
I think many people find the appetite-suppressing powers of Atkins so amazing – they have never forgotten to eat lunch before – that they take advantage of this and skip meals. This is a good way to feel awful. Atkins said make sure you eat at least every 6 hours. Do it. Otherwise, ‘graze’ – small portions of high-quality, high fat foods can work well.
I want to emphasize the fat here because my own experience shows that the fat is important – it helps the process. So if I was to have a hard-boiled egg, I would put a spoonful of mayonnaise on it. My theory (worthless as it is) is that the fat in the diet replaces the carbs and proteins and accelerates the body’s cutover to burning fat. It is a misnomer to think you eat fat and your body just takes it and stores it – it has to go through a lot of work to convert it into a form it can store – so it’s easier to just burn it as fuel. It is much easier for the body to store sugars as fat – which is why Atkins works. (Reminder: I’m no doctor and never believe anything you read without doing some fact-checking.)
This diet change has side effects and Atkins requires a certain level of knowledge – you have to stay away from trans fats, which means you have to read labels – anything with partially hydrogenated on the label is a man-made fat that has never existed in nature and your body doesn’t know what to do with – it’s great for ruining your cholesterol profile – stay away.
I have personally found that making sure that I eat – even a little – at regular intervals, as well as make sure I have enough water – probably way more than you are used to – helps reduce the symptoms that most people describe.
Don’t starve yourself, eat high-quality food, and keep a large glass of water and drink at least 8 glasses a day, if not more.
It is easy to focus on these new feelings and blow them way out of proportion.
If you’ve never done Atkins before, I guarantee you that you will feel weird. If you are doing Atkins sensibly, the symptoms mentioned above should be minimized, but not eliminated.
Is this a bad thing?
Maybe it is a matter of putting things into perspective: you are trading one set of symptoms that you are very well used to for a set of symptoms that are new to you. The intensity of these new symptoms is not that great, but because they are new, you focus on them and make them worse.
In my own life, on day 2 of doing Atkins that mid-afternoon sleepiness after lunch disappeared. If I had never experienced this feeling and it suddenly occurred, I would have been seriously alarmed by it. But because I suffered from it almost every day of my adult life – and other people talked about it – it seemed a normal part of being human.
It doesn’t have to be.
Now, as I sit here writing this, I am just starting induction again. I feel a slight dizziness and a very mild headache – both manageable. I view this as an indicator that I’m on the right track, that my body is beginning the chemical changeover to burning fat, that I am going to notice a sudden appetite reduction, that I am going to get on the scale in a few days and be maybe 7 lbs lighter.
Notice that I am describing these feelings as positive feelings. I’m doing so because I’ve done this a number of times and know that if I’m being sensible, no harm will be done and I’ll feel better in a few days – and you can get used to the feeling just like you get used to being fat, having GERD, being tired and sluggish, and all the other things you are used to now that you have a chance to get rid of forever if you can acclimate yourself to these new symptoms.
If you look at what you are eating and see that it is high-quality food, as close to nature as possible, that you are eating reasonable portions, that you are taking supplements and getting enough water – all things you should know because you’ve read Atkins’ book – then you probably have less to worry about than you did when your diet was full of trans fats, nutrient-depleted white flour, tons of sugar, and foods with labels that resemble an inventory list of a chemical manufacturer.
Of course, good sense requires you to determine for yourself if this is something that is manageable. As stated before, people differ, and Atkins might not be for you. You – and your doctor – need to determine this. My own doctor was skeptical at first, but willing to let me try as long as I was a good patient and had my bloodwork checked regularly.
He was amazed when I lost 80 lbs without exercise and my bloodwork came back better than ever and my blood pressure finally went to normal.
Don’t be stupid, but also don’t let a few small symptoms deter you from the potential of a lifestyle that could possibly change your life for the better.