Does The Atkins Diet work?

Following on from last week’s article about high protein diets, I thought we’d take a look at The Atkins Diet this week. The plan has received a lot of publicity over the 50 years that it has been available, but does it really work in helping with weight loss.?

The Atkins Diet concept is that if we are overweight, then it is probably because we consume too many carbohydrates. Our metabolic functions burn carbohydrates for energy before fats, so it follows that if we reduce our carbohydrate intake, then the body will turn to fat for energy and burn that instead, hence losing weight. This process is called ketosis. This is the basis for a lot of controversial discussion surrounding the Atkins Diet as many doctors believe that the regimen promotes heart disease, cancer and stroke.

The diet plan allows for meat, fish, chicken and many other high protein sources as food items but forbids pasta, rice, sugar, bread and other carbohydrates, not just for the duration of the diet, but off the table for ever. The success of the program depends on the body being able to “kick-start” the ketosis process by reducing carbohydrate intake down to as much as 40g per day. This has to be done over a two week period. Unfortunately, according to the medical profession, the body needs 150g of carbohydrates per day just to maintain normal bodily functions. Hence the conflicting opinions. Additionally, there are other unpleasant side effects such as abnormal smelling breath and constipation caused by the ketosis process.

Claims that the Atkins Diet also reduces appetite have been made which is a crucial step in the right direction as again, we’ve tried to focus on this blog on changing our attitudes as well as our food habits. This would be a huge help to that thought process. The success of the plan has been increased by its attraction to dieters who may have lost interest in food because of unimaginative meal plans when on other weight loss programs. In 2003 and 2004, the diet reached the pinnacle of its popularity as high level publicity and a sudden realization that we all were slowly eating ourselves to death, pushed the good Dr Atkins front and center. Some experts say that the diet was directly responsible for the 8-10% decline in sales of the pasta and rice industry during those years.

The Atkins Diet has evolved over the years to include a more balanced diet of meat and fruit in order to alleviate some of the adverse publicity that some experts have thrown its way. However, it has become one of the standard bearers of the multi-billion dieting industry in the US today and there is always one glaring fact that is common to all successful business ventures that survive for the long term. The product must work, and obviously, the Atkins Diet does do that.

At the end of the day though, to my ever increasingly cynical mind, it’s all about the calories, food intake, and burning up fat with exercise. The Atkins Diet has developed a plan of weight reduction that has proven successful for many people, but the health issues are a worry. My own philosophy is that a person can develop their own dieting program, based around an Atkins Diet principle, without stretching the limits to an extent where the body’s health suffers damage.

At the end of the day, I’d say the Atkins Diet works. Would I use it? Probably some of the concepts but I feel i can lose weight the conventional way but like anything else, if you choose the way of Dr Atkins, be careful and use in moderation only.

High Protein Diets: Good but in moderation

I’ve always been a proponent of incorporating a high protein diet to my weight loss program simply because I try to work out a lot and I’d like to build up some muscle mass too, but generally speaking, we should be wary of too much protein intake for a variety of reasons, not least the addition of extra fat which is what we’re trying to avoid.

Protein is generally a good thing to put into any daily regimen of meals provided that we are being smart about how we use it. The general rule of thumb is to figure gaining about 25% of daily calories from protein. Any more than that and we’re getting into some foggy areas regarding overall body health. Protein can be obtained from several different sources, of course. Red meat, chicken, fish, eggs and nuts are common sources but again, we should consider what other elements we acquire from these food sources. Red meat tends to be high in protein but also provides a lot of harmful saturated fats, cholesterol and some undesirable Amino acids that can affect the body’s digestion. Eggs are high in cholesterol. Chicken and fish are generally safer options and nuts, despite being relatively low in protein concentration, are also good.

Two issues I’d like to mention about high protein diets are fairly important. Bodybuilders will tell you that the higher the protein, the quicker the weight loss. What they don’t tell you is that their exercise regimen demands that extra content in order to build muscle. If you are up-taking huge amounts of protein without the extra exercise, the body will immediately convert that into body fat. Also, eating large meals at night that are high in protein also causes issues. Think about it. It’s 11.00pm and you have a big meal of steak and fries. Your body is getting ready to shut down for the night and exercise is done for the day. While you sleep, all of that protein goes immediately to your middle as the body’s metabolism is in idle. My work schedule in my last job demanded late night meals and I’m convinced that is where my belly fat came from. Nice one Raymond!

The other aspect of high protein diets that we have to be careful of is the nutritional supplement obsession that seems to invade every dieter’s mentality. Once we get wind that protein is good, we all trundle off to the GNC store and spend hundreds of dollars in large quantities of protein powder that we immediately think will drop weight off like a stone. Wrong. It won’t, but what it will do is affect your kidney function if you consume too much protein. A by-product of protein breakdown by the kidneys is urea which has to be excreted as urine. Force more protein in the system and the kidneys have to work harder. Just a thought.

High protein diets like everything else in life are good provided they are implemented with just a modicum of common sense. Remember, 25% of daily calories and no more. Throw the bottles of protein powder away. No late night steak dinners or the like and concentrate on fish or chicken to give that extra protein boost.

If we can do that, those high protein diets can be a huge asset to your weight loss program.

The Gastric Band: Drastic and difficult

As someone who doesn’t suffer from a major, debilitating weight problem, it is difficult for me to imagine ever resorting to the Gastric Band to enforce my weight loss principles. However, despite being drastic and difficult, sometimes it is necessary but surely the trick is to act before we get to this point in our journey.

Surgery for me under any circumstances is so painful mentally, that if I can figure out a way to chicken my way out of it, I’ll do it. Weight loss for many people is a simple process. Eat less, exercise more and the weight falls off. Not everyone is that fortunate so in some cases, people resort to extreme solutions such as the insertion of a device called the Gastric band. It consists of a saline filled piece of silicon that wraps around the opening to your lower stomach like a plastic tie. It reduces the size of the volume of your stomach so that it takes less food for the body to tell the brain “No Mas”. The surgery is done laparoscopically and the patient generally recovers quickly in a matter of days. A relatively simple procedure if that is what is needed.The device has achieved mixed results across the board with all demographics and has several side effects that can become very unpleasant.

Before I move onto my next point, let me first say that I understand that there are many medical reasons where the only suitable weight loss option is the Gastric Band, and that regular dieting and exercise might not be possible. I am directing my comments towards those of us who haven’t had the stones to follow a dieting plan, and haven’t been dedicated enough to exercise regularly as part of their daily routine. My sympathy simply dribbles away for this person who now, as a result of having reached a weight that has become unmanageable because of sheer size, has to have the Gastric Band inserted which has become their only option to lose weight. To these people, I ask why?

I can recall mentioning on many occasions that weight loss is all part of a general state of mind. It’s about creating a culture so that the person, rather than the diet, controls the weight problem. Regimens of that type are far more successful and long lasting than the short, sharp, shock that many people employ with only meager results. I implore anyone reading this who is facing the possibility of surgery and who has an opportunity to avert it through self-management. Forego the surgical procedure and dedicate yourself to following the simple procedures that we have discussed over the past several weeks. It has to be the easier option, doesn’t it?

The Gastric band has many features that make it a fit for dieters with specific weight loss needs. To the rest of us, it should be a last resort.

How to Lose Weight the Old Fashioned Way

Let’s face it. There are literally hundreds of diet plans and exercise regimens available today that will drop the inches off any waistline given enough time. Some are affordable, some are not, but either way, if you are really committed to the cause, it is relatively straight-forward to lose weight the old fashioned way.

Losing weight is truthfully just simple math. Provided that the calories your body uses for energy is more than the total consumed through food and drink in a day, then your body will lose weight. It is at times, a little more complicated than that but basically that format will start you off on the road to weight reduction. As a rule of thumb, for every 250 calories that you burn over and above what is consumed each day, in a seven day period, the body should lose just over 1lb in weight. The trick with this regimen is to position your levels at points where the body doesn’t decline because of a lack of nutrients and where too much exercise doesn’t cause injury to a stressed metabolism.

Calorie intake should be pegged at about 1250 per day, along with an hour of exercise with 20 minutes of that vigorous. This should be a benchmark to start work from. Reducing fat, sodium and starch intake will also help as fluid will be lost at a greater rate than normal. Along with that, you must consume a healthy amount of water per day, about 6-8 eight ounce glasses will make sure the body stays hydrated properly.

Focus on eating 5-6 times per day and dispense with the huge meals, especially after 7pm. Food groups should be fruit, vegetables, fish and lean meats such as chicken and shellfish. Soda has to be eliminated, even in diet form, and can be substituted with soy products. Whole grain cereal and bread will maintain roughage levels and help to prevent intestinal problems especially during the period immediately after the new regimen has begun. Processed foods should be regarded as ‘Kryptonite” as their nutritional value is appalling and they contain a huge amount of sodium.

Measuring serving amounts is a great tool for understanding exactly how much food a person consumes on a daily basis. Many dieters are horrified once they start to record their food intake as the comparison to what had been the norm for them, is now so much less. As we have talked about before on several occasions, what we are looking for here is to change the culture of eating and poor exercise. Tracking your numbers in this way daily helps to create that confidence and encouragement that we sometimes need to sustain us through the dog days of any weight loss program.

If we can follow some of these guidelines, we can eliminate some of the excessive cost involved with structured diet plans that involve the purchase of large amounts of pre-packed food, and embark on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

As we can see, it isn’t hard at all to lose weight the old fashioned way. You just have to earn it.

Dieting or Exercise for Weight Loss: Why not both?

Many people have long held the belief that exercise has to be a part of any weight loss program and that it forms a more important part of losing weight than anything else, including diet. However, recent studies have shown that for the long-term, exercise on its own is not sufficient to lose weight consistently. So dieting or exercise? Why not both?

For me personally, I’ve always felt that exercise is essential to any weight loss program that is going to show success over time. No matter how many calories you drop, if you cannot burn them during the course of your regular day, then your body will find a way to store those chemicals as fat and add to the poundage. However, recent studies have shown that dieting seems to provide better results.

The theory is that control of calories is much more of a realistic and achievable target than an exercise program that involves trips to the gym, along with strenuous and sometimes difficult work-out sessions in uncomfortable environments. Human nature being what it is suggests that we are more likely to throw in the towel on the gym membership before we start eating the chocolate cookies again. A lot of this, to me is common sense, but I guess in order to scientifically prove the theory, researchers had to travel to deepest Africa and subject an ancient tribe to all kinds of weird experiments with “tagged hydrogen and oxygen molecules”, GPS sensors and strict diets to track how fast they burnt calories and also how far they traveled on their hunting expeditions. All too much for me.

Basically, I maintain that a stringent weight loss plan has to have BOTH a dieting and exercise component and that the successful people that lose the significant weight are typically those who manage to find time, and the willingness, to do both. I always found that dieting came relatively easily but that the exercise, unless a ball was involved, had to be structured. The old exercise bike in the garage along with the headphones just wasn’t enough to float my boat for long enough to lose any noticeable pounds.

Weight loss is a state of mind and not just some schedule that’s written on a calendar or an entry in a personal trainer’s daily log. It is a commitment that needs to be made not just to achieve the goal of losing your target number of pounds, but extends into your activity habits for the rest of your life. I’d rather all of this hard work and sacrifice actually led to a healthier, and happier life. The intention is not to go grab a double cheeseburger once I break the tape of my weight loss target. It is to continue on beyond to maintain a constant healthy weight, and with that in mind, at least for me, both dieting and exercise need to form a solid partnership in my weight control schedule.