The New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight & Feeling Great
By Eric C. Westman, MD, Stephen D. Phinney, MD, and Jeff S. Volek, PhD
Simon & Schuster (2014)
Reviewed by Kim Larson, RDN, CD, CSSD
The New Atkins for a New You is a four-phase program that claims to be simple, easy to understand and a long-term, well-balanced plan, in which the dieter can lose up to 15 pounds in two weeks. The program begins with restricting carbohydrates to 20 grams and gradually increases carbs in small increments until the weight-loss goal is reached.
Synopsis of the Diet Plan
The Atkins Nutrition Approach has four phases:
- Phase 1: The Induction Phase: This is the jumpstart to the diet that essentially puts the dieter into a state of ketosis with a daily net carb intake of 20 grams — 12 to 15 grams in the form of foundation vegetables from a specific list. Protein and fat are allowed from poultry, fish, red meat, butter and vegetable oils. No nuts, seeds, legumes, caffeine or alcohol are allowed, and no dairy except cream and cheese.
- Phase 2: Ongoing Weight Loss: This phase broadens the vegetable group and adds back berries, nuts and seeds, as well as small amounts of legumes and wine. Net carbs are increased 5 grams at a time. The individual stays in this phase until he or she is 10 pounds from the weight-loss goal
- Phase 3: Pre-Maintenance: Total carbohydrates are bumped up here by adding more fruit, starchy vegetables and whole grains back to the diet, 10 grams at a time. The book is careful to add a disclaimer saying that not everyone can add these foods back or eat them regularly and still lose weight.
- Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance: Not a phase but a long-term lifestyle, varied whole foods are consumed while sticking to the individual’s weight-loss goal by monitoring weight and other measurements.
Eating three meals and two snacks are required and meal plans are provided with varying amounts of net carbs for each phase of the program. A carbohydrate ladder shows how to reintroduce carbohydrate foods in a systematic way, prioritizing amount and frequency as the dieter advances to each phase. Vegetarian and vegan meal plans are included. Recipes and lists of foods in different categories (whole grains, fruit, legumes, starchy vegetables, dairy) with their net carb amounts are outlined. Charts show the daily recommended amounts of protein for both men and women. Few parameters are given on how much fat to eat daily and they encourage fat intake, mostly healthy fats, to provide calories, satiety and taste.
Nutritional Pros and Cons
The diet claims to be a way of eating for life, not a quick weight-loss diet. Although, the induction phase of the diet includes only 20 grams of net carbs, which clearly supports fast weight loss that is primarily water from the severe carbohydrate restriction. The physical activity recommendations are oversimplified, with basic suggestions implying a one-size-fits-all approach.
Multivitamins with calcium and magnesium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids supplements are recommended because the diet lacks nutritional adequacy. The authors state that some people may need to stay below a net 50 grams of carbs for maintenance, but this is less than half the established minimum level of 120 grams of carbohydrates that are required for adequate brain function and daily energy. This carbohydrate level doesn't support good health or energy needs for regular physical activity and may actually slow down metabolism.
The program doesn't seem to prioritize regular exercise until the lifetime maintenance phase of the program, possibly because the very low carbohydrate intake may make regular exercise next to impossible due to fatigue and headaches that can accompany ketosis.
The book glosses over specific guidance on how to find the right amount of carbs for maintenance and leaves the reader to judge how much is the right amount to stabilize weight. Very little information is given to coach the dieter on true behavior changes necessary for weight maintenance. Goal setting is not incorporated as an important motivating strategy until the very end of the program.
Any diet that omits whole food groups will not provide optimal nutrition for optimal health. A diet like this is restrictive and difficult to follow long term. This is not a sustainable lifestyle approach, nor is it a diet I would recommend for modest weight loss. That said, these diets do induce weight loss as effectively as traditional calorie-restricted diets and have been shown in studies to improve cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar control.