Atkins: Phase 4

Phase 4, also known as the maintenance phase, is intended to be a lifetime eating pattern. Breads and other grains are now introduced to the available menu choices. Ideally, by this time, you have reached and maintained your goal weight and will continue to stay in that range during Phase 4. Having discovered the best net carb range for you during Phase 3, you will keep following that number while expanding your food options even further. In this phase, you might even find that you are able to enjoy occasional off-menu treats as long as they don’t have a significant impact on your overall carb intake.

Unlike the previous phases of the Atkins Diet plan, the maintenance phase is where you are no longer “on a diet” but simply eating in a healthy and pleasurable way that works for you. It has become a new lifestyle with multiple health benefits. Viewed in this way, Phase 4 is like saying goodbye forever to unhealthy eating and embracing your goal weight as the right weight for you.

The list of allowed foods in Phase 4 is actually the same as in Phase 3. Simply adjust your carb intake as necessary if you find that particular foods or portions don’t work for you in maintaining your goal weight. By now, you can enjoy a wide range of foods. These include a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, grains, and proteins. Remember to continue reading ingredient labels on processed foods to be aware of hidden sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup. It will also continue to be important to choose carefully when eating out. Keep in mind that you are in control of your food choices and your cravings. Stay within your net carb intake range for best results.

In Phase 4, protein remains the cornerstone of the Atkins Diet. Unlike our natural urge to binge on carbs, it is much more difficult to eat too much protein, which lets our bodies know when we are satiated. Protein is also processed differently by your body than carbs and provides a longer-lasting burst of energy. In this phase, continue using nuts or berries as a way to satisfy a desire for something that tastes sweet or crunchy. Finally, continue to explore new ways to prepare vegetables so that they are satisfying to your taste buds.

Some people find it challenging to transition back into having occasional treats in Phase 4, such as on special days or when socializing. It’s okay to indulge in a small portion of foods like this as long as you remain aware of your overall carb count. If any particular food causes cravings or binging, take it off your regular menu for a while and find other ways to satisfy your palate.

Along with maintaining your goal weight and your new healthy eating pattern, one goal of Phase 4 is simply to notice any problems that occur and take steps to address them. It’s okay to adjust your carb range or even revisit previous phases of the Atkins Diet as necessary to lose a little more weight. Embracing the maintenance phase of the Atkins Diet means that you can avoid ever having to “diet” again, now that you’re enjoying a new healthy relationship with eating.

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