The Atkins Diet is considered the daddy of low carb diet plans. Introduced in 1992 in Dr Robert Atkins MD's bestselling book Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution, it took the diet industry by storm and now, over 20 years later, there is a whole industry around the Atkins Diet, with Atkins and other brands making low carb alternatives to all sorts of popular products people following the plan in the early days would have had to forgo.
Endorsed by countless celebrities over the past two decades, Atkins is a popular diet because of the fast results it offers, and because it allows the dieter to lose weight while still eating foods that would be heavily restricted in a fat controlled diet, such as cheese and bacon.
Rather than a diet that you simply follow until you reach your ideal weight, Atkins is actually a long term lifestyle choice. The early stages of the diet are designed to make you burn fat and lose weight, but the final "maintenance" phase is designed to keep you at that weight permanently – providing you use it as your model for how you eat for the rest of your life. This does not mean, of course, that you can never eat carbs again, but rather that in the final weight loss phases you learn how many grams of carbohydrates you can eat per day without gaining weight, and you stick with that. For some people, it can actually be quite a lot, but it is about learning about your own body and how it handles food.
There are four phases to the Atkins Diet. The first, Induction, is the harshest, but it is essential because it is this that forces your body to make the change from burning carbohydrates as its prime energy source to burning fat. The amount of carbohydrates you can eat is very low during induction, and the carbs you do eat should be coming from green vegetables, you will not be able to eat any bran, cereal, sugar or potatoes at all during this phase.
The second phase, Ongoing Weight Loss or OWL, is less extreme but the carbs are still highly restricted, so that you continue to lose weight at a steady rate. This phase lasts as long as you need it to get close to your target weight.
The third phase is called Pre-Maintenance, and this involves gradually increasing the amount of carbs you take in and monitoring the effects it has on your weight very closely, in order to see what your body can tolerate without putting on weight. Once you know this amount, you go into the final stage, Maintenance, where you stick within the carb limit you discovered in Pre-Maintenance, effectively for the rest of your life. Some people often use Induction again as a quick fix or kick start if they have "fallen off the wagon" during the Maintenance phase.
The Atkins Diet is easy to follow, and there are plenty of resources around online and in books that can help you, however it is advisable for anyone starting the diet to read Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution in full before starting, rather than trying to do the diet without fully understanding it.