My wife and I have been following the South Beach Diet since July and we've both lost over 20 pounds, and are keeping it off. Our friend Michael Ashby had an impact on our decision, along with several other friends seeing good results doing South Beach.
Some of the most enthusiastic proponents of South Beach have been physician friends we've spoken with about the diet. Interestingly enough, one of those physicians started the diet himself, after speaking with us and seeing our and other people's good results.
At the core of South Beach it's really quite simple: avoid highly processed foods, (particularly processed carbohydrates) in favor of complex carbohydrates, veggies and moderate amounts of lean meats and nuts.
For 2 weeks (Phase 1) you cut out carbs completely, to get your blood sugar and insulin production in balance. Then, in phase 2 and 3, good (complex) carbs are introduced to achieve a balanced diet. It's not really about no carbs — it's about good carbs, in moderation. For example, rather than highly processed white bread or even wheat bread that uses processed, enriched flour, we have substituted whole grain wheat bread, pitas or whole grain tortillas.
In my opinion, the diet has been sensible and flexible, taking into account that I'm probably going to eat desserts and "bad" things now and then. But here's the key — if I consider these "less healthy" foods as special treats, eaten occasionally, I can have nearly anything in moderation. If I fall totally off the plan, I can return to phase 1 for a week, to clear out my system. However, I've had no need to do this yet.
Another key for me has been the emphasis of flavor and taste over quantity. I find I'm eating less now, and can turn away even tasty things more easily, because I'm not in "craving" mode all the time. The severe reduction in sugars of phase one helps reduce cravings, and the introduction of complex carbs helps meter out the sugars in my system.
Since I'm now apparently a South Beach evangelist, I thought I'd share some tips my wife and I have discovered on our journey, in case you're considering the diet.
Teamwork. If you can do the diet as a couple, that's a HUGE advantage. Because Gail and I both were on the same team, we could commiserate about challenges during the first two weeks of no-carbs. It's great to have someone challenge and cheerlead you toward eating better, when you're feeling that you can't go another day without bread or chocolate. ;-)
Sweets. For phase 1, sugar-free and no sugar added popsicles and fudgesicles can be very helpful. after a long day of eating a carb-free diet (phase 1) a sweet-tasting popsicle hits the spot! Dittos on sugar-free hot chocolate. Other friends have commented that sugar free Jello was also very helpful.
Look Ahead. Right about the second week mark of phase one, it's likely you'll want to quit. Just keep telling yourself it's only one more week to go. By keeping my mind on the limited 2-week time of phase 1, I was able to deal with the restrictions. Once you start losing weight in the middle of week two, the dropping scale numbers will stoked you up for a strong finish.
South Beach Recipe Book. We found that the recipes in the green "diet" book were pretty good, but too limited. Once we started phase two, we picked up the orange South Beach Recipe book, which helped greatly in "what to make for dinner" dilemmas.
Take it Slow. When you start phase two, don't go nutzo on carbs. Pick one thing you really love and add it in moderation.
Hummus. I've come to love hummus. In fact, I'd say I'm addicted to the stuff. You can find it as a dry mix (Fantastic brand is good) or there's a good recipe in the South Beach book, though it's a little messy and putzy to make. But it's very tasty.
Olive Oil. I've also come to love the flavor of olive oil. I now have it with whole grain bread and hummus for lunch, and also on chicken when we grill. I now thoroughly enjoy its slightly bitter taste.
Wine. In phase two I have also added a small glass of red wine (6-8oz) at dinner. I've heard red wine praised as a benefit in South Beach and by other sources, and am coming to enjoy the taste of Merlot and Shiraz quite a bit. I understand it's also quite good for heart health.
Nuts. Most nuts are quite good for you, according to South Beach, again in moderation. We especially love cashews, and I am a fan of roasted soy nuts. The South Beach book also has an easy recipe for roasting your own chickpeas.
Cheese. We love cheese, and have found several brands that offer reduced fat versions that taste great and are better for you. String cheese rules!
Excercise. We've tried to incorporate more walking in our lives and have found that even short walks seem to kick in the fat burning process. As a cyclist, my rides also seemed to help, though with winter coming on, I'll have to settle for rides on my trainer in the basement. Whatever you do, keep active!
If I think of other tips, I will add them here. And, if you are a South Beach dieter, or just have some good suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.
By the way, a few weeks back, I read the article Effects of age-old diet long-lasting. This article mentioned the healthy benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet. As I read, I kept thinking "this sounds alot like South Beach." Sure enough, the writer specifically mentions the South Beach diet near the end of the article.
I was encouraged to see our choice to change our lives through diet confirmed. However, we we're already confident that our choice was a good one. It might have something to do with watching our fat melt away, the scale showing smaller numbers, feeling clothes flap around and fall off, and the return of our energy levels. We feel better, are eating better, are eating less and enjoying it.
What's not to like? ;-)