Before You Begin
You are probably raring to start Atkins and begin losing weight. But there are two medically important steps and several practical preparations that will lay the groundwork for your success. First, a crucial warning: People with severe kidney disease. Should not do any phase of Atkins unless ordered to do so by their physician. Also, pregnant women and nursing mothers may do the Lifetime Maintenance phase but should not do any of the weight loss phases of Atkins.
Review Your Medications
With that sobering thought in mind, let’s look at those medical steps you should take before you begin to change your eating habits. You will need to stop taking any unnecessary over-the counter medications, such as cough syrup or cough drops, antacids, sleep aids, antihistamines or laxatives. Many prescription medications also inhibit weight loss. For a list of these medications, please turn to Chapter 20, page 262. If you take one or more of the drugs listed, you may be disappointed in your weight loss results. Talk to your doctor to see if an alternative can be found.
Checkup and Blood Work
When you go to your doctor, I recommend that you get your blood chemistries and lipid levels measured-and quite possibly the glucose-tolerance test (with insulin levels drawn at fasting and at one- and two-hour intervals)-before you start the program. Lipid levels will reveal your total cholesterol, HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides. These indicators often change with drastic dietary intervention. The blood chemistries will measure baseline glucose, kidney and liver function. Be sure your doctor also measures your uric acid levels.
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The Blood-Sugar Test
Let’s talk about the laboratory test most relevant to people starting Atkins-the five-hour glucose-tolerance test (GTT). If, after reading the last few chapters, you suspect you may have a blood-sugar or insulin imbalance that is contributing to your weight problems, discuss it with your doctor and request a five-hour GTT with insulin levels. Since the onset of diabetes is insidious and damage to the body can occur even before full-blown diabetes is first discovered, it is vitally important to be aware of the possibility you have pre-diabetes and of the degree of risk you may already suffer.
TAKE YOUR MEASUREMENTS
Before you begin doing Atkins, use a tape measure to record some vital statistics. Measure your chest, waist, hips, upper arms and thighs, and write down those numbers! When you measure yourself again in a couple of weeks, you’ll be happy you did; the more ways you have of gauging your success, the more encouraged you’ll be.
FILL OUT THE BLOOD-SUGAR SYMPTOM TEST
This quiz on pages 150-151 is a great way to quantify how much better you’ll soon be feeling. Go ahead and fill it out now but make a copy because you’ll do it again in a couple of weeks, at which point I’m confident it will help spell out exactly how significantly your new way of eating will have affected your quality of life.
CONSIDER ADOPTING AN EXERCISE PLAN
If you aren’t already exercising, I strongly urge you to start doing so now. Even a half hour of brisk walking four times a week will make a big difference, especially if you are almost completely inactive now. Exercise has enormous benefits for your health, and will speed your weight loss! It’s a critical element of the healthy new you, and its importance cannot be underestimated.
HAVE THE RIGHT FOOD ON HAND
Stock the refrigerator and the cupboards with the food you’re going to eat, including plenty of your favorite protein goodies. The next chapter will give you complete lists of acceptable and unacceptable foods specified for the Induction phase of Atkins.
Tell people in advance that you take Atkins seriously and that you’d appreciate their doing the same. We all know what a tricky, emotion-laden business food is. It’s not uncommon for families to have issues surrounding food. I understand that the other people in your house may not be entranced with your new eating regimen. In the nicest possible way, tell them it’s your lifestyle, not theirs. All they need to do is show respect for the major decision you’ve made. You’re about to lose a lot of weight and gain a lot of health. After you’ve done Atkins, you won’t need to request respect for it; the results will speak for themselves.