People often criticize Atkins and label his low carb diet as a meat and fat only diet, but really this honestly isn't so. I have done the Atkins-diet myself and I can quite frankly say, that I ate more vegetables during it, then I ever did, and I have always loved my vegetables. I achieved this by ignoring the old generic cup rules during induction (I believe the cup rules have gone from newer versions) and instead focusing on my carb counts and the more lower carb counts of some veggies. Of course, after Atkins Induction, which is only the first 2 weeks, you start increasing your carbohydrate counts - which again increase your veggie intake more and introduces fruit and nuts.
What I like about Atkins as a low carb diet, is it really focuses on settling those cravings and removing some really bad habits, getting you into the habit of eating the right foods first (nutrient dense) and making educated choices, as well as taking away the focus of eating constantly. Low fat diets just don't do that in my opinion. I think this is very important when it comes to maintenance later and is one of the drawbacks of diets that require several meals a day.
But as I always say, pick a diet to follow and then make it into your own so that you can live with it for life, a diet should never be about perfection because all that does is set you up to fail at some point.
The Atkins diet is made up of four parts:
Phase 1 - Induction
Induction, basically you can eat liberally, combinations of protein and fat in the forms of meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, butter, mayonnaise and selected cold pressed vegetable oils. To compliment that, you can eat a limited amount of cream and cheese, as well as vegetables and salad greens on his allowed list, that keep you within a maximum of 20 grams of carbohydrates a day or by following his cup rule - caffeine and alcohol are not allowed. The purpose of induction, is to wean you off your addictions and put you into the fat burning mode called ketosis, this lasts for 14 days but you may choose to stay on this phase longer if you have a lot to lose. I would let how you feel be your guide, don't just stay on induction because you think you have to because you have lots of weight to lose - if you feel bleh, try going up the carb ladder. We have a great summary on what is allowed here: A Rundown on Atkins Induction and a recipe thread here: Atkins Induction Recipes
Phase 2 - Ongoing Weight Loss
Ongoing Weight Loss, here you are allowed to slowly introduce more low carb foods such as strawberries and nuts and eventually some legumes and starches, as well as increasing your maximum carb count. You do this by increasing your carb count by 5 grams each week until you find your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL). This number, is the number where you cease losing weight, so as long as you sit under it you will continue to lose weight at a good rate. This phase is where you get to know what foods you can or can't eat and lose weight as well as how some make you feel (food intolerances).
Phase 3 - Pre-Maintenance
Pre-Maintenance, this stage is where you increase your carbohydrates in 10g increments to the point where your weight loss slows down to less then a pound a week or by allowing a 20g treat 2-3 times per week. Here is where you practice maintenance, by getting to know your body a bit more and finding a way of eating that you can do for life, and by finding out your Critical Carbohydrate Level for Maintenance (CCLM) which is the maximum you can eat without gaining weight . This is where you really practice dealing with those demons and learning to deal with temptation and eating in a healthy manner.
Phase 4 - Lifetime Maintenance
Lifetime Maintenance, now that you are at your goal you can increase your selection of foods and carb counts again to a point where you don't exceed you CCLM but more importantly where you are comfortable with the foods you are eating (no bloating, cravings etc...). Get rid of those fat clothes and fix what demons remain once and for all.
If you wish to read up about Atkins I highly recommend you buy his book called Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution, 2002 edition or earlier. A later edition like some other recent books from Atkins Nutritionals is said to promote their low carb junk products which I think just defeats the purpose of what this diet is all about. If you do it please try to avoid eating a lot of this type of food.
Having said that they have a new book now, written by some low carb scientists which is great titled New Atkins, New You.