Above photo: Getty Images
I'm not ashamed to say it. I love food that isn't good for me. Cheesy pasta, fries, pizza, you name it, I indulge in it and don't feel the slightest bit guilty. It occurred to me when I moved to Los Angeles that living in the wellness capital of the country may naturally alter my eating habits, but it turns out that a city teeming with people who swear by charcoal-infused water doesn't hinder my access to calorie-heavy meals. In fact, thanks to a slew of food-delivery apps, I can have any and everything I want delivered right to my door after a long day at the office.
When I learned I'd be heading to Miami early in the new year, my lack of shame about my diet did a complete 180. The thought of putting on a bathing suit suddenly made me cringe, and I knew I had to do something to boost my confidence while I still had the time. As I thought about options, I remembered hearing that Kim Kardashian lost 60 pounds post-baby on a low-carb plan that our parents swore by in the '90s: the Atkins diet.
I re-read stories in which Kim shared her food diary and tips about her diet (which barely even sounded like a diet, at least not of the overly restrictive dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free ilk we're used to nowadays). Meats, cheeses, eggs and dressings accompanied by vegetables sounded pretty good to me. Kim hasn't always been a healthy eater (she's been known to keep Nerds in her purse as a snack), so I figured if she could handle it, so could I. As I clicked through photos showing her weight loss, I thought to myself, "Yup, I'm 100% going to do this."
The Atkins Program
Atkins is a low-carb diet designed to make the body burn fat (instead of carbs) for fuel. It's not considered a high-protein or low-calorie diet, it's simply low in carbs. There are two options: Atkins 20 and Atkins 40. Kim reportedly chose the Atkins 40 program because she was breastfeeding at the time, and needed to maintain specific nutritional requirements.
I opted for Atkins 20 because I want to see results fast. The regimen has four phases, and each allows a specific number of daily net carbs, which are calculated by subtracting dietary fiber from total carbs (don't worry, the Atkins app does the math for you). I decide to stay in phase one (Induction) for a month. It's considered safe to do so, and I felt it was the best way to discipline myself. (Some people stay in the Induction phase for up to six months.)
All protein, including fish, poultry, meat, eggs, cheese and foundation vegetables (there's a fairly extensive list of veggie options, both raw and cooked), are fair game. Thanks to all the potential combos, I know I can get creative (and rely on the app to monitor my net carb count). Now for the bad news: Alcohol slows down weight loss, so I have to ditch my wine stash. I also limit myself to just two cups of coffee a day.
Week 1 Starting out, I decide to stick to basic options rather than get overly creative. I struggle a bit with breakfast—I typically down a cup of black coffee and some Greek yogurt. Throughout the week, I try eggs with two strips of turkey bacon and cheddar cheese, and if I really don't feel like eating I grab an Atkins Meal Cookies & Cream bar. For lunch, I stick to mixed greens topped with chicken breast, avocado, cheese and creamy Italian dressing, and I love every bite. For dinner, I have chicken or salmon with a side of greens—easy enough to whip up after a long day. I feel lighter and cleaner, and I lose two pounds by the end of the week.
Week 2 I'm still going strong and eating bigger portions at breakfast. I ditch the bacon and add veggies to my omelets, which I cook with heavy cream. Lunch options include ground beef with chopped onions and cheddar cheese, meatballs with a side of mixed greens, and my now-beloved chicken salad. I discover a new favorite dinner option: lettuce cups with spicy chicken, avocado and cilantro. While I admit I was tempted to order a drink when out with friends, I opt for a Diet Pepsi. Two more pounds gone!
Week 3 I head out to dinner with my colleagues and things get ugly. My willpower completely disappears. I give in and order a steak quesadilla plus a margarita—a huge no-no. The next morning I feel bloated and uncomfortable, which motivates me to get back on track. As much as I'm not in the mood for breakfast, I bake two eggs into two halves of a red bell pepper (I stick to my usual scrambles the rest of the week). Lunches include a salmon Caesar salad, a tossed salad with shrimp, and tuna lettuce cups. My big discovery: zucchini noodles topped with spicy chicken sausage. Despite my cheat day, I still lose one and a half pounds.
Week 4 My schedule is a lot more hectic this week and I have less time to cook. I head to the grocery store and buy more Atkins meal bars along with a few Atkins frozen meals to stay on track. Thankfully an egg scramble is easy enough to prepare, but for lunch I fluctuate between an Atkins bar or the Frozen Crustless Chicken Pot Pie. For dinner, I have steak or chicken with a side of greens or the Frozen Sesame Chicken Stir-Fry. I lie low over the weekend, and by the end I've lost another two and a half pounds.
While I certainly don't look like Kim K, the Atkins program was realistic and sustainable, and I'm happy with my results. I did feel lethargic at times, but that may have been a result of cutting back on caffeine. Because I was tired, I found myself working out less than anticipated, but I certainly adopted healthy eating habits and found new recipes I'll continue to use.
So far, I've lost eight pounds, but I know it's on me to maintain that weight loss in the long run, which might be the only thing Kim and I have in common. That, and some newfound confidence: I'll take it.