The Basics: Atkins is by far the most popular of all the low-carbohydrate diets. Created by cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins in the 1960s, the diet replies heavily on high-protein, high-fat foods and eschews calorie-counting entirely. Atkins dieters can load up on protein – but must avoid sweets and carbohydrates, as well as "traditional" diet foods like fruits and carrot sticks.
How It Works: The diet functions in the body on a chemical level. During a two-week Induction phase, you eliminate all sugar and breads from your diet, eating 20 grams of carbs a day. (An apple, for example, can have as many as 30 grams.) This sends your body into a state called ketosis. In this state, "you end up burning fat instead of sugar for energy," says Celebrity Fit Club's Dr. Ian. During this phase – the most restrictive of the Atkins diet – you lose the most amount of weight (approximately 1-2 lbs. a day). In the second phase (the Ongoing Weight Loss, or OWL phase), some vegetables and other carbs may be added back into the diet – up to 25 grams a day. The next two phases, the Pre-Maintenance and Maintenance phases, allow more carbohydrates into the diet, but Atkins followers may return to the Induction phase to quickly lose any weight they may have gained.
What You Can Eat: In the Induction phase, protein-rich foods including bacon, steak, sausage, heavy cream (not milk) and eggs are allowed. In the OWL stage, vegetables such as asparagus and cauliflower are permitted back in the diet.
What You Can't Eat: White bread, potatoes, rice, sugar – refined carbohydrates are forbidden for the length of the diet.
When You Can Expect Results: Within two weeks.
Pros: Weight loss is extremely fast.
Cons: Although some dieters complain about constipation and low energy, there are also health risks to the Atkins diet, says Dr. Ian. Therefore, as with every diet, it's recommended that you consult your doctor before attempting Atkins.
Who Did It: Mary Smith, 40, from Albuquerque, N.M., did a modified version of the Atkins diet, eating mostly meat and green veggies. "Sugar and carbohydrates are foreign to me," says Smith. (See her transformation here.) "I would never think of picking up a donut or bread."
For More Information: Check out the Atkins Web site here or pick up the official book about the diet, Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution.
The Atkins Diet
12/26/2006 AT 11:00 AM EST