This article ran in my local paper today, written by a local reporter (who I used to work along-side in my former life as a journalist). It's a good read, written by a real person, who is advocating this plan as something that is NOT kooky and weird (something I've heard way too often since starting this... "No fruit? I would DIE... I don't know how you're doing that.") Hurray!
Losin' it on the Beach
The wildly popular South Beach Diet teaches a new, healthy way to eat, and guess what? It works!
Mon Jul 5 2004
By Holli Moncrieff
Winnipeg Free Press Staff Writer
I've always believed I was a healthy eater. Sure, I've loved my fair share of potato chips, and was on a first-name basis with the muffins in the coffee-room vending machine.
But overall, I was doing the right thing -- or so I thought.
Unless you've been living in a cave these past few years, you probably know someone who's on the South Beach Diet. Written by a world-renowned cardiologist in Florida, the South Beach Diet book is so popular in Winnipeg that Chapters has difficulty keeping it in stock.
South Beach promised to end my cravings for fat-laden goodies, whittle my waist-line, and lower my cholesterol. But would it work? And more importantly, could I survive the first two weeks without muffins, cereal and fruit without killing someone?
I was determined to find out. Armed with Dr. Arthur Agatson's book, I started reading about sugars and how they affect our bodies and moods. The South Beach eschews processed foods and their added sugars, hydrogenated oils and starches. Even some natural foods -- including corn, potatoes and watermelon -- are to be avoided because they raise blood sugar too quickly.
By the time I finished the 300-page tome, I was a veritable fountain of nutrition info.
Research complete, I moved on to the next step -- cleaning out the kitchen.
I was shocked to discover hidden nutritional demons even in the most benign of pre-packaged food. Campbell's puts the 'mmm, mmm, good' in their soups with MSG, a flavour-enhancing chemical made from beets. Beets equals sugar. Sugar equals bad. The soup went into the give-away bin.
It didn't stop there. Corn syrup in my "wholesome" spaghetti sauce, enriched wheat flour in my "multi-grain" bread, and otherwise-healthy fruit floating in a sea of sugar.
By the time I was through, my cupboards were literally bare. I donated what I could to Winnipeg Harvest, wondering how many other South Beach converts had done the same. At least someone would get to enjoy my gourmet mac 'n' cheese. South Beach is divided into three phases. The first phase is supposed to regulate your blood-sugar levels and stop your cravings for junk food. This means two weeks without sugar, starches and saturated fat. But I wasn't concerned. How hard could it be? It was only two weeks, after all.
By Day 3, I was willing to sell my soul for one of those gigantic vending machine muffins. By Week 2, I was ready to kill for one. When I saw children shovelling back potato chips, I fantasized about tearing the bags out of their hands.
My friends weren't a big help, either. Grease-laden muffins were foisted on me. "This is South Beach friendly," they insisted. "I got it from an organic bakery!" At a book launch, a well-meaning host noticed me turning down the sugar cookies and guided me towards the fruit tray. I recognized the look in her eyes when I refused that, too. "No fruit?," she said. "What kind of crazy diet is that?"
When I politely declined a glass of red wine (no alcohol allowed on the first phase, either), another friend snapped at me to lighten up. My eyes instantly welled up with tears, but it was probably just the sugar withdrawal.
When I wasn't fighting off temptation, I felt amazingly good. My chronic headaches were gone. So were my sniffles, backaches and stomach pains. For the first time ever, I wasn't lethargic and exhausted by three in the afternoon -- I actually had the energy to go to the gym after work.
When I stepped on the scale at the end of the first week, I couldn't believe my eyes -- 12 pounds? In one week? How was that possible? I wasn't starving myself -- in fact, I was less hungry than I'd been before the Beach.
I'm not the only one who's experienced huge changes in her health.
Stay-at-home mom Susan Gentile noticed an almost immediate improvement in her chronic fatigue syndrome after going on the Beach.
"I feel energetic and healthy, and I'm still shrinking. I keep losing inches, and my clothes fit better," says Gentile, who's been a South Beach convert for almost a year. "Since I have kids, it wasn't realistic to think I'd never eat pizza or ice-cream again. South Beach makes so much sense. It's so easy to follow, and if you do decide to treat yourself once in a while, it doesn't backfire on you." Gentile believes in the plan so much that she hosts an online South Beach support forum.
Forum members have reversed their diabetes, lowered their cholesterol and ended their dependency on medication. One woman recently celebrated a 70-pound loss, and others have lost more than 100.
But, like all popular diet plans, the South Beach does have a dark side.
Dietitian Jorie Lumley, who actually tried Phase 1 for the purpose of this article, is concerned about those who stay on this first phase indefinitely.
If you follow South Beach the way Agatson intended, the first phase lasts for two weeks, and then healthy grains and fruit are slowly introduced back into the diet. This inevitably slows weight loss, so some people are afraid to move on to the second phase. Dr. Agatson has said that staying on Phase 1 for too long is the number one reason people fail on his diet -- it's just too restrictive.
"As long as people understand that Phase 1 is just a phase, it's not a bad plan. I like that it encourages people to eat healthy carbs -- it's not about cutting out carbs entirely," Lumley says. "You need carbs to transport protein through the blood, and if you stop eating an entire food group, you're missing out on valuable nutrients."
Lumley approved of the South Beach recipes, and liked that the plan encourages the consumption of heart-healthy fats like canola, olive and fish oils. But she felt that some of Agatson's credos were unnecessarily strict.
"Having a baked potato once in a while is fine, as long as it's part of a balanced meal," she explains. "And it would be difficult for most people to avoid processed food entirely, but if this plan helps limit it; that's great."
It's been more than two months since I started South Beach. I've lost almost 20 pounds, shed over two inches from my waist and hips, and gone down three clothing sizes. But even more important is what I gained -- better health, glowing skin and more energy. Sorry, potato chips -- our affair is over. I'm staying on the Beach.
Is South Beach
right for you?
Since one person's successful regime is another's personal ****, here's some tips that could mean the South Beach Diet is NOT for you:
* You hate to cook. Sure, you can get away with raw vegetables and hard-boiled eggs, but you'll get bored in a hurry. One of the best ways to keep the plan interesting and fresh is to always be experimenting with new recipes. Once you have some basic knowledge of which foods to include and which to avoid, you'll find adapting your old recipes fairly easy.
* You're not willing to spend more money on groceries. Let's face it, healthy food is more expensive than junk, and in many cases, you'll be restocking your entire pantry. The first few grocery trips on the Beach can be frighteningly expensive, but going to farmer's markets and getting a bulk-food store membership can help.
* You have no time. South Beach is like a new hobby -- there's cooking, researching new recipes, and tons of food shopping. If your schedule's already so tight you barely have time to gobble down a fast-food burger, this plan probably isn't for you.
* You overeat for emotional reasons. The South Beach is designed to help with physical cravings, not psychological. If you're reaching for that bag of chips because you're lonely or depressed, it's probably not going to help you. Support groups like Overeaters Anonymous, or Dr. Phil's Ultimate Weight Solution books are designed to deal with this type of problem.
-- Holli Moncrieff
PHOTO PHIL HOSSACK/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS