Atkins Induction: The Rules This Time

I’ve been in the state known as ketosis, brought about by following the rules of Atkins Induction, more times than I can count. I have also been either very successful or not-so successful at staying in Induction for an extended period of time and losing weight.

While I am not recommending long-term ketosis- Atkins doesn’t, and you’ll find few people who do as there’s little research as to what it might do to long-term health – I try to stay in Induction for extended periods – months.

Anyways, for those of you who don’t follow my blog, to summarize the last couple of years: I’ve been maintaining while trying to lose – win on one level, but a big fat fail on another.

I lost my weight in 2003, when I was a carb fiend. Such an abrupt change to low carb produced phenomenal results: 65 lbs. in the first year – another 15 in the second.

As is standard with losing weight and aging, some has crept back on. I’m still down 50 lbs. from my high in 2003, but I’m not satisfied.

So I did some looking back at what I’ve tried that succeeded, what failed miserably, what caused initial progress to evaporate, what and what traps have I fallen into again and again.

I started with a very personal list of concepts that I wrote up a few mornings ago:

Find What You Lost, Remember What You’ve Forgotten

You forgot how to live surrounded by cookies, cake and ice cream and not eat it. Remember how you had your low carb sweets and managed to stay away from the regular stuff.

Remember how you used to fill your mind with spiritual and motivational content. You’re more cynical now, it seems. It might be a good time to revisit it.

You forgot how good it felt to be thin and don’t feel it’s worth the effort so you attempt half-heartedly rather than whole-heartedly.

You forgot how poisonous the news is to your mind and how much healthier you feel on a total news diet.

You forgot how good simplicity feels, how less is more, how to live without needing so much.

Your existential crisis of the moment is because you’ve forgotten how to live in the moment, awake, and counting all the riches you have through good luck and hard work.

You’ve forgotten how good self-discipline can feel if you only hang in there and make it through the initial rough part.

You feel like a fraud because you’ve forgotten that education isn’t knowledge, degrees do not impart wisdom, and study does not inevitably lead to good judgement.

You also feel like a fraud because you’ve forgotten that setbacks do not equate to failure.

You’ve forgotten how procrastination is evil in that it fools us into thinking that ‘tomorrow’ doesn’t really mean ‘never’.

Pretty words – but the trick to ask yourself is how to make them actionable. Without actions attached to the above, it’s all just mental masturbation.

In my experience, at least for me, losing weight is mainly a head-game – a battle between who you are and who you want to be. It’s not a fair fight. Who you are at present has the home-court advantage.

Go ahead – try and break a habit. You might have initial success, but those years of ingrained habituation will wait until you are not paying attention or weak and try to sneak back in.

This is why I think the ‘Just do it’ crowd – who can’t seem to fathom that someone might be having a problem – are pinheads, in my humble opinion.

Plato said: ‘Know thyself.’ To which Oscar Wilde retorted: ‘Only the shallow know themselves.’

So, keeping this all in mind, not as discouragement, but armament against what I will inevitably come up against, I’ve turned the pretty words into some actionable, measurable goals.

So here’s my checklist for this particular try at VLCD. It’s complicated by the fact that I have been withdrawing from nicotine (from my failed nicotine-as-weight-loss-device -experiment), and my doctor recently advised me to cut way back on the coffee. (I told him I only drink a pot.)

This gives me absolutely NO substance to overconsume, which will be tough – I always had some small vice to compensate for a vice I had recently given up. Now, whatever portion of the brain controls the love of small vices, it will now go hungry.

Anyway – the rules I am trying to follow this time are:

  1. One large coffee per day. Decaf is fine if I want more.
  2. Resist the temptation to look at the news. It is not actionable and only depresses me.
  3. Instead of reading the news, journal your progress. This has proven helpful in the past and prevents ‘forgetting’ what has been learned.
  4. Measure weight once a day. Any more is noise.
  5. Check blood glucose a few times a day, as I am still learning about my early-stage diabetes.
  6. Eat a fatty breakfast – somewhere around 3-400 calories. Even though I’m not hungry most mornings, past experience shows I lose weight when I eat breakfast.
  7. Take my vitamins after breakfast.
  8. Drink at least 2 liters of water per day. Seltzer is fine.
  9. Explore hunger. Meditate on it. Allow myself to be hungry. Explore the fear and learn to be unafraid. I had food, and I am going to have more food. The fear is primal. Conquer it rather than trying to eliminate it – that has been a failed strategy.
  10. Don’t go more than 6 hours without eating. I’m not out to starve. The larger goal is to be healthy. The weight will follow.
  11. Zero bread – even the low carb type.
  12. No low carb junk food. Sorry, Atkins, this means the bars and shakes.
  13. Three heaping teaspoons of fiber therapy every evening before dinner.
  14. No eating after 8pm. After 8 pm is my ‘stupid time’. Here is where I am most vulnerable to the ‘just a little taste’ trap. A total prohibition prevents this.
  15. Count calories without fixating on it. We’re trying to be close and use the act of counting as an awareness exercise.
  16. No alcohol. While I have proven time and again I can drink alcohol and maintain, I have also proved that I cannot lose weight and have alcohol – and losing weight is the point of this.
  17. Think you’re doing good and want to ‘reward’ yourself? Go ahead – but have it have NOTHING to do with what you put in your mouth. Clothes, toys, movies are fine. But don’t allow yourself to be tricked into thinking that a cheat is a ‘reward’ – this is a mind game you play on yourself, pure and simple.
  18. Make this list a checklist of sorts. You should be able to go down this list daily and see if you’ve followed all the rules.

There you have it. I’m starting day 4, have been successful so far, and lost a few pounds. Right now, the coffee issue is the toughest.

It’s way too early to tell how I might bet blind-sided – caught unawares by the forces inside me that are absolutely against this plan and conspire to trip me up.

In a way – that’s kinda the fun of it.

7 thoughts on “Atkins Induction: The Rules This Time

  1. Here’s commentary about Joel Marion’s approach from Matt Stone’s blog:

    Bodybuilders have been practicing “cheat days” for ages, but Marion has put the cheat day into context of the discovery of the hormone leptin – the master regulator of energy balance in the human body.

    In his book, Cheat to Lose (interesting, but probably not enough to impress anyone here), he points out what is the dieter’s dilemma. That is that calorie restriction in some shape, form, or fashion is required to lose body fat. You have to eat less than you burn, burn more than you eat via exercise, etc. to lose fat. And when you do that, your metabolism slows down, your appetite goes up, you lose muscle mass, and the body does anything and everything it can to protect itself from further weight losses.

    While my emphasis is, and will continue to be finding how to make that happen automatically within the body instead of relying solely on behavioral changes – the reality is unchanged. You must burn more fat than you store to lose fat, and this, in general, necessitates at least a slight deficit in calories ingested vs. calories burned through total metabolic and physical activity.

    What I’m more interested in, is whether one could do any type of dieting that they want to create a calorie deficit and get away with it (metabolically-speaking) by doing an aggressive “cheat day” once every seven days. Marion certainly thinks so, and I’d like to believe him.

    The premise of Marion’s program, both his old program and his new, even more radical approach, is that leptin levels are not solely linked to body fat levels but to calorie intake also.

    I would agree with this. While leptin levels tend to rise as body fat rises (increased metabolism, decreased appetite, inhibited fat storage) and fall as body fat falls (decreased metabolism, increased appetite, inhibited fat burning), the peaks and valleys in leptin are way out of proportion to body fat when it comes to altering calorie intakes.

    For example, an often cited quote by Russ Farris that I often throw out, is that during an overfeeding study leptin levels increased by 68% during the study, while body fat levels didn’t even come close to increasing by 68% (it was probably more like a 10% increase).

    Likewise, Marion repeatedly refers to a study in which calories were restricted in dieters, and by the end of just 1 week, leptin levels fell by 50% despite a drop in body fat by only a few pounds.

    This is precisely why trying to cut calories – and even perhaps the act of cutting calories automatically (which often happens with a new exercise regimen, on a low-carb diet, uber low-fat diet, or a whole foods diet), works short-term, but continued over several weeks and months often stalls and results in accompanying health problems (no matter how “clean” or nutritious your food may have been).

    This is exactly why a smarter and more sophisticated approach is needed, and, in the context of leptin, Marion has created just that.

  2. Day three here, and I completely agree with your sentiment that this is a mind game. I also agree with meditating on hunger, but for me, it’s more about meditating on the “not overstuffed” feeling that comes with eliminating junk food (jeez, I just accidentally typed “junk god.” Paging Dr. Freud, sugar worshipper in the house!). When I was a successful low-carber previously, I was in the right frame of mind for it: I felt totally out of control in my life, mostly due to a quickly-deteriorating marriage, and taking control of my nutrition and fitness was the perfect remedy to help me regain some control. Fast-forward seven years and I’m in the happiest of circumstances, which make me feel less like wanting to exert control over *anything,* much less something boring and difficult like nutrition and fitness. However, I’ve realized that this is a mind game I must play for the sake of my long-term health.

    1. A very interesting comment, Christine. Yes – I have found that following a diet has the ability to give me a sense of control when all else around me seems out of control. It’s a way of making lemonade out of lemons, isn’t it. And the flip side is it can be harder when things are going good. Gosh, we human being are complex, aren’t we?

      I also think your meditation on ‘enoughness’ is a great approach. It’s a little more advanced than a total prohibition, and requires a lot of awareness. I’d like to think I can work myself up to that point – but as of late I’ve been having problems with that, which I called ‘my stupid time’ in the post. I hope I can get there in time.

  3. I like your list of concepts. I’m at the beginning of this journey, but seeing what you have discovered while eating healthy is inspiring as I work through these awful cravings and the fear (why I’m afraid, I don’t know why) of giving up sugar and all the other “white foods”.

  4. All the best on your weight loss.

    BTW, you shouldn’t be hungry on a low carb diet. That shows that there is something wrong. You are probably not eating enough protein. Read what Atkins says about your protein requirements an implement them.

    I use to feel week during the day and tired, before I realized that as a tall man I was not eating enough protein, so I now have a much bigger breakfast with 4 eggs, and some fish, or bacon.

    Protein is the most satiating experience, and while you can overdo it, there is benefits of being full, and preserving muscle mass.

  5. Glad I found this blog. Thank you for writing it.

    Yesterday I began (again Atkins) and found this site after searching ‘Atkins and eating Spam’.

    When I woke yesterday morning and decided it was now or never for beginning what I hope to be a substantial weigh loss by December, I knew I didn’t have the luxury of a shopping trip first. Budgetary restrictions would require me to use what I had.

    I had Spam. “Bacon’ Spam. It was delicious.

    In 2004, as a 48 year old woman, I embarked on Atkins, bought a scale, all the books, ketosis strips, etc. Lost 65 pounds in 4 months remaining the entire time in Induction. The weight simply fell off of me until I stalled 20 pounds short of my goal, and eventually gave up. Now, 6 years later, I am proud to say that that I maintained a majority of this weight loss.

    So now, beginning again – I will share some of the things I learned before:
    1. I don’t need a scale. I obsessed with the scales before – weighing every time I visited the bathroom. This time I am going to judge my progress utilizing my pant size. I am a size 18 now. My goal is to be a size 12. (Women’s pant sizes run in even numbers). So I have to lose to a 16, then a 14, and then I’m there. No scale necessary.
    2. I can have coffee with half and half any time I want ,and a glass of red wine, or vodka with diet soda. These prohibited during induction pleasures had no effect on my weight loss.
    3.I need to take my own Ranch dressing when going out to eat. Very important!
    4.Take my multivitamin and extra D3 every day.
    5. Water is my friend. Drink it throughout the day.
    6. Eat enough. I was never hungry on Atkins after the first few days and often didn’t eat enough.
    7. Incorporate physical activity into every day. Its summer now and the pool (pool volleyball!) has kept me very active. Winter is coming to the NE. Must find a substitute activity!
    8. Keep ‘go to’ foods in my cupboard for anytime eating. Spam, tuna, salmon, beef and chicken broth in the cupboard. Sugar free jello and real whipped creme for a sweet treat. Steak-Ums and frozen burgers in the freezer
    9. Never feel deprived. I have good health, a roof over my head, a few dollars in the bank, and a remarkable family and friends. How could I possibly feel deprived of anything?

    Thanks. It helped to write all this down!

    1. Thanks for writing. Seems to me you have a solid plan – and the attitude to go with it. This is a good list and I might need to add a couple of these ideas to my own list.

      And it DOES help to write these things down. It helps to clarify one’s thoughts – always important when embarking on a project.


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