Atkins Diet Basics

The Atkins Diet, also known as the Atkins Nutritional Approach (ANA), is the most visible and popular low carb diet plan. Developed by Dr. Robert Atkins in the early 1970s and re-popularized at the beginning of the 2000s, the ANA provides detailed instructions about how to cut carbs to lose weight.


The plan involves four phases:

  1. Induction
  2. Ongoing Weight Loss
  3. Pre-maintenance
  4. Lifetime Maintenance

Dieters may start in any phase, depending on desired weight-loss results. A thriving ANA online community provides targeted answers to FAQs. Atkins diet devotees can also introduce you to thousands of low carb recipes and snack ideas.

Most weight loss plans out there instruct dieters to cut calories. Atkins pointedly does not.

Instead, the plan encourages your body to switch over to what's known as a ketogenic metabolic state. Essentially, when your body stops using sugar as its primary energy supply, it burns fat and protein instead and gets energy from byproducts known as ketone bodies.

Resistance from the mainstream

In 1972, when Dr. Robert Atkins published his first landmark book, Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution, both he and his plan encountered swift and brutal reviews from many in the mainstream medical community. These doctors and nutritionists--who believed dietary saturated fat was a primary cause of heart disease and obesity--pilloried Atkins for counseling people to eat more fat and branded his ideas as dangerous quackery. While these naysayers succeeded in scaring the majority of the population away from Atkins or Atkins-like approaches, the low carb diet movement refused to die: namely, because so many people found that low-carbing works.

That said, the campaign against Atkins and his supporters has been quite successful and thorough. Many people today--including apparently the vast majority of physicians and policy makers--continue to think of the ANA as a dangerous fad diet based on whimsy as opposed to good science.

New science supports low carbing

Fortunately, the tide may be turning. Hundreds of studies from the past few decades (some of which are available for review on the Atkins diet website) confirm and/or support many of the diet's fundamental conclusions.

False rumors about Atkins' death

Dr. Atkins tragically died of a slip and fall accident in 2003 at the age of 72. Although rumors circulated that Atkins died of heart disease brought-on by living the very diet he peddled, this rumor is patently false.

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