Atkins diet 2.0 is more balanced, adds exercise

In her quest to try out five of the most popular diets, Vani Naidoo turns her attention to the revamped Atkins diet.

DO you remember a decade ago when Atkins was the only diet on everyone's lips?

It seemed like every celebrity and his dog was doing it. So were everyday mums and dads, overweight teens and even Mrs Smith down at the local convenience store.

Most of them were lured by the promise of weight loss by bacon and eggs, thick-cut steaks and oodles of thick creamy butter.

Developed by cardiologist Robert C Atkins in 1972, it was credited with starting the low-carb revolution.

The main premise of the Atkins diet was that eating too many carbohydrates - especially sugar, white flour and other refined carbs - leads to blood sugar imbalances, weight gain and cardiovascular problems.

To that end, the diet restricts carbohydrates and encourages eating more protein and fat.

Those who embraced it were as happy as the proverbial pigs in mud for a few months, revelling in a diet that promotes the type of high-fat foods usually frowned upon in excess, and one that requires not much exercise to encourage weight loss.

But it wasn't long before drowning in a sea of bacon and eating a tonne of gum to combat bad breath, forced them off the Atkins train as they joined critics who screamed about high levels of cholesterol, kidney stones and the early onset of osteoporosis.

But like all things, the Atkins diet has adapted to survive and has been revamped as the Atkins Nutritional Approach.

It still focuses on low-carb principles, but now includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, plus elements from previously forbidden food groups.

According to the people at Atkins Nutritionals, the new program encourages followers to build a diet around whole foods rich in vitamins and good carbohydrates including low sugar fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, dairy, good fats, and protein (fish, poultry, red meat and tofu) - while at the same time eliminating bad, processed carbs such as white flour and sugar.

The new Atkins presents as a flexible four-phased program with followers starting at the phase that best suits them, depending on the amount of weight they want to lose and their goals.

The diet does not require calorie counting or portion control, but does require you to track your net carbs, which is total carb content minus its fibre content.

The new Atkins now also allows you to exercise, acknowledging it does accelerate weight loss and has other benefits for general wellbeing.

There is also a range of Atkins-produced snacks like milkshakes and bars to curb cravings, but given their make-up I will not be eating them this month.

So this week I am starting on Phase 1. This is apparently the strictest and most difficult phase and has to be adhered to for at least a fortnight.

Protein comes in the form of meat, eggs, shellfish and poultry while carbs are restricted to 20g a day and need to come from vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, cucumber, green beans and peppers.

Oils and fats are unrestricted but there is a big no for sugar-laden foods, fruit, bread, grains and alcohol (aaargh).

Okay, so not only is there no alcohol but we go camping on Friday for 10 days so it's going to be seriously hard.

Wish me luck and look for my updates online.

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