How You Feel When Starting Atkins Induction

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:

  1. It is easy to do Atkins wrong and feel awful when you start.
  2. 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.

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13 thoughts on “How You Feel When Starting Atkins Induction

  1. It took me about a year to go from 260 to 195. I then more or less stalled for maybe 9 months, then the last 15 came off.
    It’s critical to remember that this isn’t a diet you go on for a few month’s, lose the weight, then go back to your old habits. I recently did that and the weight just came right back – now I’m doing induction again.
    It’s also critical to understand that exercise is great for you – it just doesn’t help you lose weight. Check out http://backacrosstheline.blogspot.com/2007/12/exercise-not-good-for-weightloss.html for more info on this topic.

  2. what concerns me is so many people write in saying they’re doing induction again (and again and again) because even though they love low carb and lost weight, they went off the diet and gained all the weight back. i’m quite interested in low carb but if it works so well why does everyone go off it?

    • It’s been almost 3 years since I last did induction and lost several inches. I work in an atmosphere where lots of food is brought in by customers as their way of saying thank you. Unfortunetly. most of it is wonderful chocolate candy, cakes, muffins, donuts..you get the idea. Slowly but surely I was indulging and was putting on a bit of my weight back. I could usually go a few days of my normal Atkins eating and get back to my normal weight, but again indulge. I am now doing the induction again. Although I have only put on 3 pounds, it is apparent it isn’t going to go away. For me the induction phase is a way to rid the sugar addiction. It kicks starts the engines — like a tune up and I get my mind back to what has really been life changing for me. It’s a fun way to challenge myself, and it also reminds me of portion sizes and really getting to know the foods and their carb counts along with nutritional value!!!

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  5. People go on and off the atkins diet because once they lose a large amount of weight and they build muscle mass, they can eat a lot more and they start to forget to count the carbs. They are so happy being thin, and can start eating more carbs (vegetables) that they forget to keep a log book and remember to count the carbs. It is so easy to go over your carb count. Some people have to stay at 20 and other can eat as much as 40-60 carbs a day. 1 cup of vegetables is like 5 carbs. 1 apple is like 20 carbs. You can imagine how much you have to monitor yourself. You see, once they start losing weight rapidly, they have already figured out exactly how much to eat and don’t have to count anything. After months of that, they get lazy and start adding an apple here and too much salad there and too many vegetables and pretty soon, they start going over their carb limit and blood sugar gets too high and they start feeling hungry. If you can keep your blood sugar low, you don’t get hungry, but if you cheat and your blood sugar goes too high you get too hungry. That is why.

  6. What an excellent article very inspiring. Im in day 4 of induction and was feeling pretty low until reading this. It is SO important that i carry on because just as you say , it will change my life. Thank you x

  7. This is truly a great article; you really know what you are talking about. A LOT of people don’t understand Atkins (esp “Induction Phase”). I started Atkins Induction Phase 1 last March 2013. The first 2-3 weeks I lost about 18 lbs!! – Awesome; I was inspired! Back then I thought I knew everything I had to about Atkins. I absolutely did NOT drink enough water/liquids, and since I was never hungry (at all) I did not eat as often as I should have. I ended up having a gallbladder/bile problem. This PROBLEM WAS NOT caused by Atkins; It was my lack of complete knowledge. Doctor said I may have had some gallstones from years back that reared their ugly heads when my bile acids and bile duct contractions changed. To make a long story short, I will tell you that since March 2013 I have lost 60 lbs. Nov/Dec 2013 I became frustrated because I reached a plateau i.e. the scale did not go down for a couple of months, although I was losing a lot of inches; pants & tops become too big even though the scale wasn’t changing. Losing more pounds was still my desire, so last week I started induction AGAIN — with a little bit of fear and heaps loads of additional knowledge & experience. For me personally, I’ve learned that I should (and do) take a soy lecithin softgel when I am adding more dietary fat to meals; it prevents my gallbladder AND bile from getting sluggish; dissolves fats, and makes all cell membranes more permeable. I also need to take Milk Thistle because I want to make sure my bile is sufficient (Bile is really good stuff – keeps your digestion healthy incl. liver health)! Additionally, you can become dehydrated very easily. I drink A LOT of filtered water, and this is a habit that is easy & pleasurable to do. By the way, you need to drink more water esp more so if you take a lot of vitamins/supplements.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience in case it helps anyone out there. You REALLY TRULY CAN DO IT!!! You have to pay attention and be knowledgeable. Dr. Richard Atkins knew what he was talking about — God Bless Him!!! Many popular diets knowadays follow his lead. I am not “finished” with Atkins . . . I think it will be a lifestyle for me. I am 51, 5’8, large body frame, and have a genetic family history of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Since 2013 I have drastically lowered my cholesterol numbers, and my blood pressure levels are so low that I do not need lisinopril anymore. Honestly, I feel wonderful — with the exception of this week (Atkins Induction Week 1)!! I don’t feel miserable — just mild headache, constant urination, a little diarrhea (TMI ?!! – sorry), chills, never hungry. The first couple of days I noticed “flu-like” symptoms i.e. total muscle aches all over my body and fatigue. I got nervous, and then I remembered about how low potassium levels can definitely affect muscles. I took some natural potassium supplements, and remembered to DRINK LOTS OF LIQUIDS. Feeling So Good Here. I like my energy. In the process of Atkins Lifestyle I naturally with pleasure changed over to non-processed foods, and only natural, organic. I immediately noticed a change in my entire body. I want to lose about 60 more lbs. before June 2014. . . . and you know what?? I Know I Can DO it!! We learn as we go along. I’ve always been interested in natural remedies. A few books in my house have provided a wealth of information & support esp: “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine” by: Michael Murray, N.D. & Joseph Pizzorno, N.D (of particular note: pages 479-483) – this book is my 2nd bible! … “Living Low Carb”, by: Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS … “The Carbohydrate Addict’s Gram Counter” by: Dr. Richard F. Heller-and Dr. Rachel F. Heller, I use it all the time.

    The Best of Luck, Success & Health to All of You!! Atkins is a Lifestyle, not a diet. Thanks so very much for this article.

    • Thanks so much for all this great info Stephanie (from another Stephanie)!! I really appreciate it!! I’m a week into it and just so tired and foggy :( I’ll try some of your advice.

  8. First time I did it was two years ago and the only side effect I got was tiredness. I lost about 8 pounds in a month or so. I just started it again last week since I gained a lot of weight last couple months from careless eating. Now I am breaking out in hives for the last two days. Today I’m even breaking out during the day. Has anyone else gotten hives?

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