Friday, July 27, 2007

Rule Five: Break Free from Contradictions

Thus far we've looked at four of the Rules of Induction for the Atkins diet. I've used the Atkins diet rules because no matter which low-carb diet one chooses, these rules have little "gems" that can broadly apply to any controlled-carb diet based on its design, carbohydrate restriction and/or phases.

Today, we'll look at rule five. At first glance, it appears to be in a rather harsh tone toward the reader:

Rule 5:
  • Eat nothing that isn't on the Acceptable Food List. And that means absolutely nothing. Your "just this one taste won't hurt" rationalization is the kiss of failure during this phase of Atkins.

Simply put, this rule is reinforcing the importance of being able and ready to begin something new and different while letting go of the "diet baggage" we all had/have that will not serve us well throughout weight loss on a low-carb diet, and certainly not when we maintain our weight later. The only way to say it is straight-out and without sugar-coating it - if you start the diet with bad habits and do not address them, they'll be your undoing on this diet (or any diet) you want to utilize as your means to lose weight.

This rule makes clear that everything on the 'acceptable foods list' is allowed, go and enjoy these foods; those not on the list are not allowed right now - not even one bite, not even if you can manage to include them within your carbohydrate allowance for this period. The time frame here is two weeks and you will not die without the foods that are excluded during this period.

You may crave them, want them, think you need them - but what you 'want' is not always what you 'need' and for now, there are plenty of nutrient-dense foods you are allowed to eat, so take this period to eat those and only those foods; more variety will come in time.

Many wonder why this rule is so harsh. In part it is helping to break habits of the past, in part wiping clean years of eating foods that were not the best choices for health and well-being, in part imploring you to ignore many current dietary contradictions, and in part to help you naturally supress cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods.

Did you catch that last item?

It is true for the vast majority of those starting a low-carb diet; if you can simply stick with the 'acceptable foods list' for your first two weeks, you'll find that cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods diminish quickly and by the end of two-weeks, they're supressed so you no longer think much about having bread or pasta or potatoes or sweets.

Now granted, these foods will always be around you; but you will now have a powerful way to make them less tempting in the future if you can avoid them completely for a couple of weeks.

In the process you'll be rewarded for your efforts and discipline too - you'll lose weight in the first two weeks, find you have more energy at the end of the two weeks, and also realize that the foods you used to reach for in times of stress or to celebrate can be replaced by foods that are better for you and your health.

What this two week period is teaching for the long-term is that you ultimately control what you choose to eat. It is a period that is allowing you time to step back from everything you think you know, retreat from all the contradictions we hear from the "experts," step back from all the habits you've developed over the years, and start again - at the basics.

This particular rule goes against everything we hear and read so often; on the one hand we're repeatedly told part of the underlying reasons for obesity is lack of willpower and discipline; on the other hand we hear often this insistence that if you want something eat it, if you're on a diet and craving whatever it's better to eat it than to not because it's not good to deprive yourself of something you want.

How in the world is one supposed to develop this necessary discipline if they're never challenged and expected to discipline themselves?

As I said, this rule sets a standard for you to hold yourself to, that for a short period of time - two weeks - you will avoid any food that is not on the accepted food list so you can prove to yourself some big things:

  • What you think you want to eat isn't always what you need to eat
  • Food is not the enemy, nor do you lack willpower; given adequate time and nourishment, your body will help you re-learn how to eat well
  • You really don't have to punish yourself to lose weight with feelings of hunger, eat what's allowed and you'll be sated
  • You really are empowered to make good decisions and eat delicious food while you lose weight
  • You'll really get to experiment and play more with your eating later, as you move forward and continue to lose weight

These first two weeks extend to the longer term as you are empowered to listen to what your body is telling you; you'll initially get over the idea you need starchy or sweet foods all the time, and then understand as you continue, when and where these foods will fit into your long-term menus. Once again, you'll also begin to appreciate just how good real food tastes, and take the foods from these first two weeks into your long-term eating, so they serve as your foundation for the future.


  1. Great as always, Regina. Besides those who say "a little bit won't hurt", we have the other extreme, where Induction becomes a safety net. So much so, that many believe Induction is all there is to Atkins, and develop an "Induction" mentality. Weight loss at all costs. If Induction stops working, drop the fat, or reduce the calories, etc.

    Yes, you're supposed to master the basics, but Dr. Atkins never intended us to stay on Induction. At some point we have to take these lessons in addition to lessons taught in later stages and apply them to our eating lives, developing a a proper ratio of fat, protein and carbs that is unique to each of us.

    Thanks for taking time from your busy life and sharing with us on your blog. I always look forward to it. Have a great weekend!


  2. This series has been outstanding, Regina, and I appreciate you doing this. Now if people will simply heed the five rules you have clearly laid out, there shouldn't be any problems, right? :P

  3. Stay tuned....there are more to come!

    Glad you're back Jimmy!

  4. I think this is the sticking place for many people. Yes, it's only two weeks, but they literally can't imagine "Life Without Bread."

    When I tell them that I don't crave bread anymore, they simply DO NOT BELIEVE ME.

  5. This is a big one for me. It's so easy to have the "just a bit won't hurt - I can just go back on Induction" mentality. I still struggle with it. It really helps to remember what you wrote here, that what you want isn't always what you need.