A Healthy, Satisfying Diet
Sunday, October 28, 2012 • 10:48am
There's something about names and titles of things that grab our attention and that is the first enticement of The South Beach Diet. South Beach? Woo-hoo! Sexy bodies on the sand, crowded dance floors at hot night spots filled with beautiful people, heat, sunshine, upscale and fabulous lifestyle. So, yes, I admit it, I love Miami, love South Beach, and wanted to try the diet with the hot name.
Surprise! Except for having the same name, the diet has nothing to do with South Beach itself. It is a healthy diet. The best thing is that it is a diet that is easy to maintain for life. This diet junkie has finally found a food lifestyle that I can live with easily.
Through my nutritionist, Michelle, I learned about 'south-beaching' and why it was the best way for me to not only lose the 22 pounds I wanted to lose, but keep it off. I was never, ever hungry on South Beach while losing weight and in addition to that I learned about my body and what it really needs to function well.
A little background on the South Beach Diet is necessary. It was created by Dr. Arthur Agatston, an established cardiologist. In the mid-1990s, in response to his disillusionment with the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet that the American Heart Association recommended, Dr. Agatston believed that the low-fat regimens being prescribed were simply not working long-term. He had patients with heart problems and diabetes who were obese and needed a diet they could stick with over the long haul. Their blood chemistries needed to be stabilized, and the up and down dieting track was not helping them. Keeping hunger at bay was a must to avoid having his patients, whose quality of life and, in some cases very lives, depended on losing weight, go off the diet wagon.
Besides encouraging healthy meals of protein, salads, vegetables, and low carb fruits, Dr. Agatston promotes strategic snacking. You're not doing it right if you don't snack. There's no counting calories or strict portion sizes, but there's no gorging, either. The idea is to eat normal snack portions. The problem is that too many of us don’t know what a “normal” portion is! (My husband thinks a normal snack is 2 doughnuts!) Be that as it may, once you are able to determine what a normal portion is, snacking becomes easier. A piece of low carb fruit, a handful of nuts, a piece of low-fat cheese; you’re snacking healthily!
The diet comes in 3 phases. It’s a comfortable, gradual way to begin a lifestyle program. Call it a learning process about what your body needs to maintain optimum health.
On Phase 1, you’re allowed lean protein sources (eggs and egg whites, seafood, remove skin from poultry, lean cuts of beef and pork, soy foods), fat free and low fat dairy products, one serving beans, low starch vegetables, small amount of nuts (you have to count them), olive oil, low carb condiments and beverages. Nothing else, including fruits and alcohol.
Phase 1 was the hardest and I did insist on having cream in my coffee. Coffee without cream would have been a deal breaker on this diet for me. As I liked everything about it except for not being able to have cream in my coffee, I made that one adjustment. I did miss fruit but I rationalized it was only for 2 weeks. After the 2 weeks I had lost 12 pounds and food tasted differently to me. I felt healthier, too.
Phase 2 is a little trickier because, in the first two weeks on South Beach, you eat from a prescribed list of foods, and that’s it. After the first phase, it’s time to start individualizing the diet for your own body and tastes. The idea now is to gradually reintroduce some high nutrient, high fiber, low glycemic carbohydrate into your diet. How much and what types will vary between individuals. I added back two fruit servings a day. It is very important to pay attention to your own body’s reactions to adding the carbs. I did and found out what foods made me feel sluggish and what made me feel energetic.
South Beach also offers a plan for vegetarians which I am currently following. (There is one for vegans, too.) The food that you can have on the South Beach Diet will also depend on how strict of a vegetarian you are. Eggs and low-fat milk can be consumed through all phases of the diet. You can also substitute these items with soy milk or egg substitutes, like Egg Beaters.
On the vegetarian and vegan plans you are encouraged to choose vegetables and legumes high in protein, beans, chickpeas, split peas, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, low fat cheese, tofu, soy nuts, veggie burger without the bun, meatless chicken nuggets, eggplant, cucumbers, pine nuts, walnuts and cashews. Some new foods for vegetarians have recently been added during
phases 1 and 2 and they include apples, apricots, beets, carrots, corn, oatmeal, wild wheat and brown rice.
Again as with the other diets I have written about during the last two weeks, the Calorie Restriction Diet and Weight Watchers, no one diet is a fit for everyone so here are the pros and cons of the South Beach Diet.
- You won't go hungry on The South Beach Diet. Protein satisfies the body and staves off hunger longer than carbs. I learned that not all carbs are created equal; an apple has carbs and sugars but is infinitely better for you than a piece of apple pie! I’ve been south-beaching for over 4 years and do not get hungry. I eat more than many people I know and I’ve been able to keep the weight off.
- Weight loss is faster. I lost 12 pounds after 2 weeks and felt healthier. During phase 2 you will lose about 2 to 2 ½ pounds a week.
- Eating out. You have to love a diet that allows you to eat out with friends. Granted alcohol, desserts, and fruit are not permitted the first 2 weeks, but a normal meal of salad with olive oil, lean meat or fish protein, and vegetables, is a plus. No more eating a dry salad while everyone else is having a normal meal.
- Exercise is encouraged. Because the diet was originally created for people who were ill and unable to do strenuous exercise, walking and light weights were recommended. I did ballet barre and Pilates during the first phase and went on to playing tennis during the second phase.
- Nutrition. I like a diet which emphasizes variety, nutrition, and whole foods while deleting processed foods.
- Energy. My energy did go up and that dragged out exhausted feeling after working long days diminished. Snacking in a healthy way may have had something to do with it.
- Very Restrictive First Phase, which could turn some people off to the diet. "Carb crash" can occur, depending upon the individual dieter's food selections.
- Not Enough Structure for some people when it comes to adding carbs back in. This diet leaves a lot up to the individual, which is good in the long run, but is probably harder in the short run.
- It is not individualized. There are no differences in the diet for men versus women.
- False expectations. After a weight loss of 10 – 14 pounds the first 2 weeks, some people may have unrealistic expectations. Weight loss in the next couple stages is considerably slower.
Would I recommend this lifestyle diet? Yes, to anyone who wants to lose some initial weight fast and yes to anyone who likes meals that you can tailor to your needs. I would also recommend it to those who are willing to find out how certain foods affect their bodies and yes to those who find most diets leave them feeling hungry.
I wouldn't recommend South Beach to any person who is a carb lover; that's like waiting for disaster. If you like bread, pasta, and rice dishes and would feel deprived without them, this is not for you.
As for me, this is my lifestyle eating plan. I feel healthy, am active, and am not hungry. Whatever works, and works well, is the best diet for you.
© 2012 copyright Kristen Houghton all rights reserved.
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Books by this columnist:
No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut
And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First
Remember, Hetty? (An award-winning YA ghost story)
Nourishing Thoughts: The Little Book of Sayings for a Healthy, Happy Life