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Atkins Diet Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL) Carbohydrate Ladder


The Atkins low-carb diet consists of four phases: Induction, Ongoing Weight Loss, Pre-Maintenance, and Maintenance. This article focuses on phase II of the Atkins diet, ongoing weight loss, or OWL.

The OWL phase of the Atkins diet begins immediately after the two-week induction phase. This is the fun part of the diet where you get to experiment with new foods and determine how they affect you.

As you move from one rung to the next, you add carbohydrate foods back into your diet in the order prescribed by the OWL carbohydrate ladder. Adhering to this order tends to minimize blood-sugar surges that could reactivate food cravings. While fat and protein will continue to be the mainstays of your diet, you will eat less of them as you add carbohydrates.

As you choose foods from each rung on the ladder, you should choose most often from foods with a low Atkins Glycemic Ranking, or AGR. The concept of AGR was followed in the 2002 edition of [i]Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution[/i], but it was formally introduced in [i]Atkins for Life[/i]. Foods with a low AGR will have the least impact on your blood sugar for each rung of the OWL ladder. The foods listed in each rung of the ladder below are examples of low AGR foods for their rung.

As you hit each Atkins OWL rung, you can add up to 5 net carbohydrates from that rung. For each food group you add, you should eat from it no more than three times the first week and monitor your body for changes, using foods from induction and lower rungs to increase your carbohydrates on the off days. You need to give it the entire week as a couple of days may not be enough to know how a food is affecting you. You can eat daily from same food group the second week as you continue to monitor your progress.

I personally recommend spending a minimum of two weeks on each rung of the ladder, and preferably a month. This allows you time to adjust your diet and learn how different foods affect you. For example, one brand of cheese may cause you problems while another brand is just fine.

You should only skip a rung if you do not plan on eating from it. For example, someone may have dairy allergies, so they may skip the Atkins OWL dairy rung #2.

If you do skip a rung, I have found that it is best if you spend the time you normally would have spent for that rung before moving to the next one. This helps to give your body enough time to adjust before giving it the higher AGR foods. For example, if you normally spend three weeks on each rung, and you want to skip alcohol rung#5, then you should spend six weeks at berries rung #4 before proceeding to legumes rung #6. In the same example, if you normally spend two weeks on each rung, then you would spend four weeks at the berries rung #4 before proceeding to the legumes rung #6.

Your ability to add all the food groups back depends upon your Atkins Carbohydrate Equilibrium, or ACE. The term ACE was introduced in Atkins for Life, and it replaces the old term CCLL, which meant Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing. For example, someone that does not exercise and has a low ACE would probably not be able to add legumes back during OWL, while someone who is young, works out regularly, and has a high ACE might have no problems climbing to the top.

Once you begin consuming alcohol on rung #5, be sure to count the carbohydrates and monitor your weight loss. Spirits have no carbohydrates, while white wine and red wine have 0.9 and 2.0 carbohydrates respectively. Alcohol will suspend weight loss as you do not burn fat while your body has alcohol to burn. If you find that you are stalled, discontinue your alcohol consumption.

When you get to the last three rungs of the ladder, you are eating foods with the highest AGR. Make sure you do not eat those foods alone. Eat them with foods high in fat and fiber to help minimize their impact on your blood sugar.

With fruits and vegetables, the more color they have, the more nutrition they have. If you have a choice between red grapes and white grapes, choose red. Also, be careful of dried fruit as it concentrates the natural sugar and could potentially make a small piece have as many carbohydrates as the entire fruit.

When looking at low carbohydrate pre-packaged foods, check the ingredients against the ladder below. The highest rung for the ingredients is the rung you must be on to eat it.

The OWL Carbohydrate Ladder

The foods listed in each rung of the ladder below are examples of low AGR foods for their rung, unless noted to eat in moderation. This is intended to be an example of some of the foods you can eat, not an exhaustive list of all the foods you can eat.

Vegetables
More salad and other vegetables on the acceptable foods list

Dairy
Fresh cheeses:
Cottage cheese
Farmer's cheese
Ricotta cheese
Pot cheese

Keep portions small for
Hard aged cheese
Cream, heavy and light
Half and half
Sour cream
Low-carb ice cream, yogurt, and milk

Seeds and Nuts
Macadamias
Almonds
Peanuts/Natural Peanut Butter
Coconut
Sunflower seeds
Sesame seeds
Walnuts
Pistachios

Berries
Eat frequently from:
Strawberries
Blueberries
Blackberries
Raspberries

Eat moderately from higher AGR melons:
Watermelon
Honeydew
Cantaloupe

Wine and other spirits low in carbs
Spirits
White Wine
Red Wine
Low-carbohydrate Beer

Legumes
Lentils
Kidney Beans
Pinto Beans
Black Beans
Hummus
Chickpeas
Tofu
Soybeans
Soy milk, unsweetened

Fruits other than Berries and Melons
Plums
Kiwis
Peaches
Apples
Grapefruit
Tangerines

Starchy Vegetables
Keep all portions small
Carrots
Green Peas
Acorn squash
Butternut squash

Eat rarely:
Corn
Potatoes
Sweet potatoes

Whole Grains
Keep all portions small and focus on whole, unprocessed grains:
Old fashioned Oatmeal (Steel cut oats
Oat Bran
Wheat Bran
Low-carb (soy) bread and muffins
All-bran
Barley, cooked

Elleth Faewen began the Atkins diet in October of 2003 and provides support for those interested in low-carb dieting at http://www.lowcarbbulletinboard.com She also provides support for women at http://www.babytalkzone.com, an Internet company dedicated to helping women who are trying to conceive, pregnant, or adopting.


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