Phase 4 – Maintenance

Congratulations! You have reached your ideal weight! It’s a fantastic achievement – and a position that many many people who are overweight would like to be in. I’m sure clothes shopping or beach holidays are much more fun now! And hearing positive comments from people you haven’t seen in a while!

You can be sure that your health markers are all telling a positive story too – if you had a check up before you started now would be a great time to do it again to see exactly how much those numbers have improved. You might well find that if you were on medication for high blood pressure, cholesterol or other conditions that these are no longer needed – check with your doctor. If you are diabetic, you should have been closely monitored by your doctor during this journey and have possibly already reduced if not eliminated your medications under their guidance.

If you think back to before you started this journey, you have probably noticed many minor ailments or some not so minor have disappeared along this journey to the slim healthy new you. Here are just some of the benefits our customers have told us about:

  • Improved cholesterol 
  • Lower triglycerides (these are a marker for heart disease)
  • One diabetic reported blood sugar dropping from 7.9 to 3.9 – which is in the normal range
  • Sleeping better
  • Migraines gone
  • Acne cleared up
  • Painkillers not needed for PMS anymore
  • Acid reflux gone – had been on 2 tablets a day for 15 years
  • Bloated feeling after meals gone
  • ‘Mental fog’ gone
  • More energy
  • No longer needs a nap in the afternoon
  • Joint pain gone
  • Improved self-esteem

Of course, these improvements often lead to improvements in other areas of life and business too. See our Success Stories page for more. Many of these benefits kicked a mere week or two after starting Induction. However human nature being what it is we tend to forget it after a while and feeling this good becomes the new normal, as it should. Now that you have reached Maintenance it is worth taking stock and thinking back on all the benefits you have gained with this way of life – both in terms of weight loss, health, vitality and general feel-good factor. This will help you with staying on this path and maintaining all of these benefits.

How to do Phase 4 – Maintenance

In Pre-Maintenance you learned what your ACE (Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium) was– this is the number of grams of carbs you can eat daily and neither gain or lose weight. All you need to do is continue to eat the way you’ve been eating in Pre-Maintenance, remaining at or just below your ACE.

For those with a high ACE:

If you have a high carbohydrate threshold and are physically active you are already eating foods from rungs 7 – 10 of the carbohydrate ladder. These would include starchy vegetables, fruit other than berries and whole grains – see the Atkins Carb ladder for more. As before when you introduce new foods, pay attention to how they make you feel and whether they weight gain, hunger or cause cravings to come back.

For those with an ACE below 50g:

If your carbohydrate threshold is below 50 grams of Net Carbs, you’ll probably have to stay away from starchy vegetables, most fruit and whole grains or eat them rarely or in very small amounts. Exercising is one excellent way to increase you carbohydrate level and many people feel much more inclined to do so after they have lost some weight and have increased energy levels. Even if it turns out that your ACE is quite low – it’s important to keep in mind that at least now you know what you need in order to maintain your weight and keep all those benefits we spoke about. After all the goal is to banish that extra weight forever – not win a competition for having the highest ACE possible!

You also know at this stage that there are lots of delicious meals you can enjoy no matter what your ACE. And as only someone who has followed this nutritional approach can understand, you know that giving up those refined carbs you used to eat for good is not at all a difficult prospect you you imagined before beginning this way of eating. So it really is fantastic that you have learned what you need to stay slim and healthy forever – whatever the carb level.

What you can eat in Phase 4

In the Maintenance Phase your level of carbohydrates will essentially be the same as it was in Pre-Maintenance. Of course, you can re-introduce new foods in the months and years to come while staying below that carbohydrate level – as before be alert to see whether they cause weight gain or any other adverse affects.

Many people find that their appetite increases slightly as they approach their body’s natural healthy weight even as they stay within their ACE. Now that you are no longer burning body fat for fuel it’s important to understand that the extra fuel to keep your weight stable should come from dietary fat instead. In this way, your body stays in fat-burning mode. This is important so that you don’t veer back to a state where you body burns carbs as it primary fuel – which brings back those blood sugar swings, poor energy and inevitably weight-gain. So if your weight drops below the desired level or you find that you are hungry you should also slightly increase good fats in your diet. To give you some ideas, you could add 3 – 5 portions of the following (as your appetite dictates) to your diet:

  • 1 tablespoon of oil for dressing salads
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of cream
  • 5g cheese
  • 10 large ripe olives with a teaspoon of olive oil
  • Half an advocado
  • 30g of almonds, walnuts, pecans or macadamias
  • 1 tablespoon of full fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of pesto
  • 2 tablespoons of nut butter

Hopefully by now, you are no longer afraid of fats (as many people are due the the fat-phobic advice we’re all been given over the last 30 years) and you know that dietary fat is good for you in the context of a low carbohydrate diet. Your body at this stage is a very efficient fat-burning machine and these additions of fat in your diet will help keep your weight stable (as counter-intuitive as this might sound). The only dietary fat you should truly avoid are trans fats. An increased intake of trans fats is associated with an increased heart attack risk and inflammation in the body. They are typically found in foods you should be avoiding already, including fried foods, baked goods, biscuits, crackers, sweets, snack foods, icings and vegetable shortenings. See the post from the Atkins nutritionist for more details on healthy fats. And check out the Phase 4 Atkins recipes for more ideas on incorporating healthy fats into your meals.

Phase 4 and the rest of your life

Hopefully you understand by now that you will remain on phase 4 – the Lifetime Maintenance Phase – for the rest of your life! This makes sure the weight you have so successfully lost, stays lost forever! As we’ve said from the outset this diet is more of a lifestyle change and way-of-eating for life than a ‘diet’ you follow for a few weeks or months and then stop. If you go back to the way you used to eat, you will get the results you got the first time – weight gain and all that goes with it.

Of course we are not saying that you can’t ever eat a slice of cake or the occasional slice of pizza. In the same way that some people are fine with alcohol in moderation, some people will find they can have these foods occasionally and it doesn’t cause any problems. However, for others having just a little is the same as someone that can’t handle alcohol – they find it much easier to avoid it completely and that its just not worth the chance of eating these foods leading to a full-blown binge.

It is important to arrive at a place where you are mindful of your weight but not obsessed with it. Keep an eye on your weight and your measurements. Be alert to cravings coming back, unreasonable hunger or the return of any symptoms you had banished. Then take a look at what you have been eating. Maybe it was a case of carb creep or the effects or one or two recently added foods. Never let yourself gain more than 5 lbs without taking action to restore your goal weight. If this happens simply drop 10 to 20g of carbs and the weight should retreat. Or if need be, return to OWL for a week or two under it is under control again.

Keep in mind too that life events can affect your weight and cause you to slip:

  • You used to play a team sport but had an injury and had to stop
  • You had a baby and find yourself stressed and sleep deprived
  • Your doctor prescribes anti-depressants to help you deal with a family crisis
  • A new job means you need to travel more making it more difficult to keep up with you fitness regime and plan suitable meals
  • You suffer a disappointment or a break-up and this sends you back to your old unhealthy eating habits
  • You start a new relationship with someone who doesn’t follow the Atkins diet

The key in all of these situations is to be mindful of these life changes and make adjustments to remain at your desired weight. There are lots of strategies you can take to deal with different life events so they don’t derail the fantastic progress you’ve made and so that you achieve the ultimate goal of staying slim.