Thursday, August 02, 2007

Rule Six: Empower Yourself

You may recall that in rule one of the Rules of Induction (Atkins), those starting the first phase of the diet are reminded to eat regularly and develop a pattern of eating each day that they're comfortable with, be it three meals a day or four or five. Also within that rule was the caution not to go more than six waking hours without eating something. I bring rule one up again today because it complements rule six, which says:

Rule 6:
  • Adjust the quantity you eat to suit your appetite, especially as it decreases. When you're hungry, eat the amount that makes you feel satisfied, but not stuffed. When you're not hungry, eat a small controlled carbohydrate snack to accompany your nutritional supplements.

Where rule one speaks to our need to establish good eating patterns to take with us as we lose weight and then maintain our weight, this rule helps us understand that over time, as our weight declines, our food intake will decline and we still need to be aware that even with a diminished appetite, it's important to nourish our bodies for good health.

So many diets play on our fears - and one of the biggest is our fear that we lack enough willpower to actually stick with a diet long enough to lose the weight; forget about keeping it off!

One of the draws of a low-carb diet is the natural appetite suppression that comes within a few days of carbohydrate restriction. A large number of studies have noted that even when allowed ad libitum access to any and all of the foods allowed on a low-carb diet, those who stick with the allowed foods experience a "spontaneous" reduction on caloric intake while consuming an adequate level of protein and dietary fats to sate appetite and lose weight.

Sometimes the appetite suppression is so good that it's easy to miss a meal or go without eating too long. This rule reminds us that adjusting our food intake as we lose weight is expected, but we do not need to limit our intake to a point where we're potentially doing more harm than good, nor to we have to rely solely on willpower to lose weight or live with hunger pangs as we lose - we need nutrients from food, we need energy from food (even while losing weight) and we need to establish good eating habits.

That means eating for both to nourish the body and to sate appetite; adjust how much you eat to satisfy your appetite, allow yourself - give yourself permission - to eat and feel satisfied. Satisfaction with your meals keeps you motivated as you lose weight.

This rule does have a caution and that is to be aware not to overeat and stuff yourself, not to gorge or binge. For some who are new to low-carb this may be something that could become problematic - eating too little and then binging - so the caution is there to listen to your body, pay attention to your appetite and learn when you're hungry and when you're satisfied. Over time, if you're paying attention to this you'll find your body really does trigger hunger when you're hungry and if you're eating well, establishing an eating pattern happens!

The last part, to include a small carbohydrate controlled snack with your supplements, reminds us that including nutritional supplements is considered a benefit on the diet and eating something small with them can help you with rule one to establish good eating habits!

Over time as you lose weight, your appetite is going to naturally diminish and your energy requirements will adjust too. This is something to be aware of for the long-term - what you eat when you start - whether it's 3000-calories or 2000-calories - is going to slowly decline in time as your body weight is reduced. Someone who weighs 300-pounds needs more calories each day to maintain their weight than someone who weighs 150-pounds. So, in the long term, this rule is establishing this in your mind to remember later, as you reach a lower weight - you won't eat the same as you do at the start of the diet!

Overall this rule fosters a sense of empowerment - the understanding that you can, perhaps for the first time in your life, listen to your body and learn how to eat well over the period of losing weight and then as you maintain your weight!


  1. Until I started eating lower carb to keep my blood glucose under control, I did not believe that it was possible to walk away from a plate of food, or refuse a treat because you were full. What a revelation! I'm also trying not to pass on the same hangups to my kids that we learnt, such as finishing all the food on your plate!

  2. what does "eat till you are satisfied" actually mean? It's way too vague. I ate till I was "satisfied" for five years, and let me tell you, there wasn't enough appetite suppression going on to get me to my goal...

    he really should have added an entire chapter all about calories, how much they matter, how to set a realistic goal for yourself, etc. etc.

    there should be clear instructions on limiting calories, or at least portion sizes, so that you are eating enough to control your hunger, but not so much that you remain overweight.

    instead, the overall impression is to not worry about all that... which is why we see so many people who stall out short of their goal.

    and that's why we now have this Kimkins monster amoungst us.

  3. Anonymous7:26 PM

    What is a "small carbohydrate controlled snack"? A small snack that's mostly carbohydrates? Or a snack that's low in carbohydrates? I wish Atkins had chosen a less ambiguous phrase.

  4. Jonathan,

    A small snack that's low in carbohydrate. In the first couple of weeks that might be 3 or 4 cherry tomatoes stuffed with tuna; or a deviled egg; or maybe a few olives (I think I recall it was up to 10 a day?)

  5. Anonymous3:33 AM

    In response to -> what does "eat till you are satisfied" actually mean?. In my experience, it means to stop eating the moment you don't feel like you're starving. (Sounds kinda mean, rite?) Yeah, but its absolutely essential during the initial stages of weight loss. Here's what worked for me: Come meal time, set out what you reckon is a decent serving, eat it and drink 2 cups of water. If you think you're still hungry, drink another half to one cup of water and wait half-an-hour. Try to do something else during that time. If after half hour you're still hungry, zone out a reasonable low-fat snack. All the best losing weight!

  6. Jian, Dr. Atkins certainly wouldn't advocate "low-fat" in any form. I think there is a reason we keep hearing all this noise about calories. People begin Induction and lose some weight. Then, they get smart and try to start reducing protein and fat and they overeat on good carbohydrates. It's the fat that triggers your brain to stop eating. Fat also helps us absorb the major nutrients in the good carbohydrates. Animal protein has an appetite suppression mechanism built-in. It's very difficult to overeat on a steak because that mechanism kicks in long before you've eaten a dangerous amount. The gap between being full and feeling full is much less when you eat animal protein at the center of the meal.

    Dr. Atkins only mentioned not overeating on protein because it could stall ketosis and your body could convert a small amount of it into glucose and your body might react the way it does to other glucose. Dr. Atkins clearly intended to jump-start our weight-loss but it's not necessary to hang out in ketosis for months on end, although you could.

    During my 44 pounds in 7 month weight loss, I don't think I was in ketosis at all and I certainly did not watch calories and even at goal, I still don't. However, I make sure I have protein with every meal and generous servings of fat whenever I eat good carbohydrates to lessen their effect. I'm sure I am eating less calories now, but it doesn't feel like it because I never leave the table hungry. Not to mention, exercise covers a multitude of sins!

    If you've been paying attention to Regina's work here it's clear that there can be no "clear instructions" for portion sizes because that will vary wildly among people. However, if you have an amount of protein and fat with each meal, which varies according to your weight, size, and metabolism, and keep half your good carbohydrate allowance to low glycemic vegetables, you should be able to continue losing or maintaining your weight as long as your ratio remains constant, regardless of the calorie count.