The Atkins diet was first published in 1972 by cardiologist, Dr. Robert C. Atkins its founder in his phenomenally popular book titled "Diet Revolution". The diet came under scathing criticism from many nutrition and diet experts who were shocked by its recommendations.

In the midst of the criticism, dieters’ become cynical of the effectiveness of low-fat diets which were being recommended by nutritionists and diet experts alike and this cynicism lead to the reawakening of interest in low-carbohydrate diets. Consequently, there was a resurgent massive popularity of the revised version of the Atkins diet in his "New Diet Revolution" book. Although there have been some revisions of the Atkins diet, it has nonetheless stayed true to its basic principles. Dr. Robert C. Atkins died in February 2003.

The Atkins diet and other similar diets and even organizations such as the Johns Hopkins (which started using a modified version of the Atkins diet in 2003 to control epilepsy seizures in children and adults) that have adopted its underlying principles have achieved not just definable but remarkable results. However, the emotional debates from nutritionists and other health authorities on the long-term benefits of the Atkins diet still rages on.

The Atkins diet is based on the premise that excessive consumption of carbohydrates (especially simple sugars and starches) leads to weight gain and thus recommends a dieting regimen focusing predominantly on the consumption of proteins and fats with significantly reduced amounts of carbohydrates, along with the daily intake of nutrients through the use of vitamin and mineral supplements.

Like other ketogenic diets, the Atkins diet is deliberately designed to reduce insulin production and resistance and ultimately inducing the state of ketosis. When there is excess amount of glucose in the bloodstream due to excessive intake of carbohydrate-containing foods, the body produces insulin which removes the excess glucose from the blood and stores same in the liver and muscle cells as glycogen and as fat in fat cells (adipose tissues).

Conversely, when the body is starved of carbohydrates for too long, blood sugar level and insulin production drops drastically causing a significant drop in energy fuel for the body which consequently forces it into turning first to its glycogen stores in liver and muscle cells and when these are significant depleted, it finally turns to burning up its fat stores as its primary source of energy. The increased dependence on fat and the resultant increased rate of lipolysis (fat breakdown) causes the body to go into a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a state whereby the body is practically being forced into breaking down its fat stores for energy supply resulting in increased production of ketones (by-products of fat breakdown) and accumulation of same in the bloodstream.

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The main idea of the Atkins diet is to allow the dieter basically enjoy eating almost their regular foods while drastically cutting back on their carbohydrate intake. Atkins Advantage (a new web-based version of the Atkins diet) and the newer revisions of the diet now help to make clearer distinction between trans fats and other fats as well as between carbohydrates in general and sugar in particular.

There is a general recommendation to drink at least 8-oz glasses of water daily to avoid dehydration and constipation as well as getting plenty of exercise to accelerate weight loss. The Atkins diet has four phases designed to help dieters achieve and maintain their healthy goal weights.

Induction Phase

This is obviously the most restrictive and somehow the most difficult phase of the Atkins diet as it is designed to help the body break its "addiction" to carbohydrates. Carbohydrates at this stage are restricted to just about 20 grams per day. This initial amount of carbohydrate restriction is what is most often mentioned and reported as being promoted by the Atkins diet. This is however not the case as other phases of the diet allow the dieter to gradually increase the amount of carbohydrate consumed when appropriate.

The induction phase comes with a list of acceptable foods with liberal amounts of protein including poultry, fish, meats, and eggs as well as fats that can be consumed at this phase. While fatty condiments such as mayonnaise, butter, and sour cream are permitted in unlimited quantities, anything that is not on the list of acceptable foods is strictly forbidden during the induction phase.

The induction phase normally last for about 2 weeks and as long as the dieter stays within the carbohydrate food types and calorie limits, they are allowed to eat as much as they like. Weight loss during the induction phase is usually drastic due to a lot physiological impacts of the diets but most is due to water loss due mostly to the metabolism of glycogen which is made up of about 75% water. Therefore dieters are strongly encouraged to drink There is Dieters are encouraged to drink a lot of water (at least 8-oz glasses of water daily) at this stage and during the other stages of the diet in order to avoid dehydration and constipation.

Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) Phase

This phase of the diet is deliberately intended to slow weight loss in order to form the foundation for permanent weight management. Atkins diet gives dieters the opportunity through this phase to start tailoring the diet to fit their particular tastes while still maintaining the main rules of the diet.

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The OWL phase involves the gradual introduction of more nutrient dense carbohydrates into the diet. However, this gradual addition is advised to initially come from mostly vegetables such as cauliflower and asparagus, then from other fresh nutrient and fiber rich sources. Dieters are reminded that the “quality” of the carbohydrate food is as important as the “quantity”.

To ascertain what the Atkins diet calls the dieters’ Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL) – the daily threshold for carbohydrate consumption at which weight loss still occurs, the dieter is allowed to add not more than 5 grams of carbohydrate each week. If weight loss continues, the dieter is encouraged to increase his or her carbohydrate intake by 5 grams per week until weight loss stalls.

Once the dieter stops losing weight at any stage of this phase, they have to drop back to the previous carbohydrate gram consumption level at which weight loss was still occurring. Dieters using the Atkins diet are encouraged to continue doing OWL until they have reached a stage where they have just about 5-10 pounds left to lose before achieving their ideal healthy goal weight.

Pre-Maintenance Phase

The third phase of the Atkins diet is designed to help prepare and acquaint the dieter with the right healthy eating habits as well as also to have a foretaste of what their lifetime maintenance of ideal goal weight will be like. The Atkins diet considers this phase mandatory if permanent weight loss is to be achieved. This stage further slows down the rate of weight loss in order to get accustomed to the best possible carbohydrate intake level that they would be maintaining through the lifetime maintenance phase.

On successfully completing the Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) phase of the diet whereby the dieter has just about 5-10 pounds left before reaching his or her healthy goal weight, dieters using the Atkins diet are required to increase their daily carbohydrate intake count by 10 grams each week for as long as they continue to lose weight. The idea is to continue increasing carbohydrate consumption until the dieter is losing less than a pound of body weight per week. The dieter at this stage will be able to effectively determine his or her Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance (CCLM) – this is the level at which the dieter’s carbohydrate consumption causes neither gain nor lose of weight.

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The additional carbohydrate foods help to provide increased nutrition, variety, and culinary enjoyment. This phase should ideally last for at least a month but dieters are advised to let it last for two or three months to achieve best results. Thus the goal of this phase is to internalize the habits that are to become part of a permanent lifestyle as the dieter moves into the final phase.

Lifetime Maintenance Phase

The lifetime maintenance phase commences when the dieter has achieved his or her goal weight. At this stage, the dieter is allowed to maximize the amount of healthy carbohydrates his or she can consume from 90 to 120 grams per day depending on the gender, age, and activity level.

It is too often the reality that millions of dieters the world over have won so many weight loss battles but always ended up losing the war of weight control. Winning the weight loss war is all about preparation (which is what the Atkins diet is structured around) and learning to adjust to real-world challenges.

The easiest way to achieve success with the Atkins diet is to keep daily carbohydrate consumption at the same level discovered during pre-maintenance and to never let body weight vary by more than three to five pounds before making necessary corrections. This weight fluctuation is normal and is caused by hormonal changes in the body.

Exercising regularly or general increase of activity level is strongly recommended to help maintain goal weight as the body’s metabolism depends to a very large extent on the amount of exercise and physical activities engaged in. Also it is important to continue using nutritional supplements with necessary regimen modifications to meet specific individual needs.

As the Atkins diet rightly puts it "Maintaining weight loss is as much a mental challenge as a physical one." So it is important to keep one’s self motivated while on the diet while making sure to get adequate exercise.