How the Atkins Diet works – Phase 4: Lifetime Maintenance


Stick with the fourth and final phase of Atkins and your weight problems are history. But, digress and you”re headed for trouble.

Enjoy your more liberal dietary intake, but no way is this a license to return to your old eating patterns.

Your best carbohydrate level is the one on which you can be happiest and healthiest without experiencing cravings and regaining weight.

How to Do Lifetime Maintenance Correctly

Now that you”ve made it to your goal weight, you can continue to select from a greater range of foods and consume more carbs than you did in the weight-loss phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach™.

If your metabolism can handle it, you can—in moderation—eat many of the foods you used to enjoy. (The exception is sugar.) But remember that all too often, people win the battle of weight loss only to lose the war of weight control.

To maintain your goal weight, you must know your metabolic needs. Your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance (CCLM), which you found during pre-maintenance, lets you know how many carbs you can eat each day to maintain your weight.

Stay right at or around that number, and your weight should not fluctuate beyond the perfectly natural range of two or three pounds. (Hormonal changes and other daily fluctuations in your body account for a small seesaw effect.) Later, you”ll learn why and how you may have to adjust your CCLM at various times in your life.

To get an idea of typical grams of carbohydrate intake for people of varying degrees of metabolic resistance, see “Carbohydrate Gram Levels and Metabolic Resistance for Maintaining,” below.

You also must conquer your former bad habits and learn how to cope with real-world challenges. Maintaining weight loss is as much a mental challenge as a physical one. For example, you need to eat right even under stress. How? By realizing that we tend to reach for sugar and starchy foods for comfort, when proper food choices can actually lessen the impact of stress on your body.

Similarly, you”ll need coping strategies for holidays and special occasions, as well as knowing how to get restaurants to serve you exactly what you know you should be eating.

Perhaps you can plan to cheat by cutting back for a few days before an event and then carefully choose a few indulgences. Or go back to a previous level of the plan prior to a vacation or holiday to give yourself some leeway.

As you did in the three weight-loss phases of Atkins, make weight control a constant priority in your life. Re-create that attitude and you can continue your success. One good tool is to—once and for all—get rid of your “fat” wardrobe. When your clothes are getting tight and you don”t have the next size in the closet to retreat to, you”ll be forced to confront your weight gain sooner.

By never letting your weight vary more than three to five pounds, you”ll head off trouble and get off the weight roller coaster for good.

Promise to weigh yourself at least once a week. Choose a lifetime weight range of five pounds, the low number being your goal weight. The higher number will be your maximum allowable weight.

Whenever you reach the higher number, you must promise yourself that, within a week, you will begin the Induction phase and quickly switch to Ongoing Weight Loss until you reach your goal weight again. Do this and you will never have more than five pounds to lose.

Carbohydrate Gram Levels and Metabolic Resistance for Maintaining Metabolic Resistance

Approximate CCLM Range
25 to 40 grams of carbs per day
40 to 60 grams of carbs per day
60 to 90 grams of carbs per day
Regular exerciser*
90 or more grams of carbs per day
*In this context, a regular exerciser is someone who does vigorous exercise five days a week for at least 45 minutes.

Your best carbohydrate level is the one on which you can be happiest and healthiest without experiencing cravings and regaining weight.

A key question to ask yourself as you establish your Lifetime Maintenance eating habits is what level of carbohydrate consumption do you feel best on? That”s a more rational goal than trying to find the highest number of carbs you can get away with. This may mean you actually stay slightly below your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance (CCLM).

Some people find they feel better on a low level of carbs—perhaps only 35 or 40 grams a day—than they do on the most liberal version of the plan. That might be two salads and a couple of helpings of other vegetables. Together with satisfying portions of protein and fat, such an approach could provide good nutrition if you were vigilant about opting for nutrient-dense foods.

Other people feel best on twice that amount of carbohydrate and have the metabolism to support it. That is why CCLMs can vary so greatly from one person to another. This is your opportunity to individualize a perfect eating plan for yourself.

For ongoing success, follow the rules of Maintenance:

  • Adhere to your CCLM.
  • Continue to eat natural, unprocessed, nutrient-dense carbohydrates.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Continue to take nutritional supplements, modifying your regimen to meet your needs.
  • Develop a strategy for dealing with temptation.
  • Avoid boredom by regularly trying new recipes.
  • Never let yourself get more than five pounds above your goal weight.
Dealing With Weight Gain

Even with flexibility and great food, you can come upon a patch of trouble. What if you”re happily eating away and feeling great, and then suddenly you notice those awful pounds and inches are staging a revival?

Since you are in Maintenance and have reached your goal weight, you”re probably no longer in lipolysis, which, by definition, involves an element of fat loss. Newly slim people are no longer trying to shed pounds, and so they don”t burn fat for fuel most of the time because they”re above their Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing.

But here”s the catch: There is very little leeway before you break through your CCLM to the level at which you begin to gain. A typical male of average metabolic resistance may find he has a CCLM of 50 grams. As long as he regularly eats no more than 50 grams of carbs a day, he will not lose more weight and become too thin.

On the other hand, if he starts consuming 60 grams a day, he”ll be above his CCLM and will start to regain weight.

At your goal weight you are, in fact, pretty finely balanced in your carbohydrate intake. Nothing is exact, of course. Life has a way of changing and your weight will, in fact, constantly shift up and down by small increments.

The most convenient way to maintain your best weight now is to not ever let that “up” get too far out of hand. If it does, you may find yourself sliding down an uphill path, to coin a phrase.

Knowing your weight—after all, it”s one aspect of your general health that you can easily keep track of— and getting on the scale at least once a week are musts for successful weight maintenance.

When you find that you”ve gone five pounds or more over your maintenance weight or that your clothes are getting tight, you must put things back on their proper course—and you must do it without delay!