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The Promise

Can you lose weight by drastically cutting back on carbs like bread, potatoes, and sweets while still eating bacon, mayonnaise, and butter?

That’s the idea behind Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution. Robert Atkins, MD, wrote the book more than 40 years ago. There are newer versions of the diet, including New Atkins for a New You, and a web site.

Old or new, the Atkins diet turns the typical carb-heavy American diet on its head.

The theory is that when you drastically cut back on carbs, your body turns to your fat stores for fuel. The result is you burn body fat, releasing a by-product called ketones that you’ll use for energy.

The plan is not recommended for people with severe kidney disease.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

The first part of the plan, called the induction phase, has these rules:

  • No more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day, mostly from certain vegetables
  • Protein and fat from poultry, fish, eggs, red meat, butter, and vegetable oils
  • No pasta, bread, grains, fruit, starchy vegetables, or dairy other than butter, cheese, and cream
  • No nuts, seeds, or legumes like beans
  • No caffeine
  • No alcohol

Next comes the "ongoing weight loss" stage, when you slowly add more vegetables, and you can include seeds, nuts, legumes, berries and other fruit, wine and other low-carb alcohol, and whole grains.

After that, to help keep the weight off, you may be able to eat more carbs and add more foods to your diet, depending on your body's needs.

Newer versions of the diet, including New Atkins for a New You and the Atkins web site, emphasize making good food choices, such as healthy fats.

Level of Effort: Medium

You don't have to go to meetings or buy special foods. But you're probably going to have to make some big changes in your menus.

You may notice that your breath has a distinct smell, due to the ketones your body makes. Some call that smell bad; Atkins said the smell is "not an offensive one." You may also have headaches and feel irritable.

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