Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard of the South Beach Diet.
I know – I would stop reading at this point, too.
Isn’t this that crazy diet where you can’t eat anything but like broccoli and water for weeks on end? And aren’t diets a fad of the past? They certainly aren’t a long-term success solution since eventually, with a diet, you go OFF of it. So yes – anytime I heard mention of the South Beach diet – or any other diet for that matter – my eyes glazed over and I all but tuned out.
Then recently in an exchange with a high school friend who has always looked fabulous, I mentioned to her that she still looks amazing now post-baby. I asked how she did it – and how she has kept it off more than a year later. While she did mention Weight Watchers for maintenance (another program I have yet to investigate thoroughly – the whole points thing I just don’t get), she said she kick-started herself with the South Beach program.
I was intrigued. I mentioned the convo to my coworker the same week. She, too, had done South Beach at one point to lose a few pounds – and had great success. Hmm. Two real-life testimonials that it did indeed work.
But back to all my nay-saying…as effective as it may be, I don’t want a “diet” – I want a way of life – something I can stick with, that is truly nutritious and satisfying and doesn’t leave me feeling deprived. Oh – and I’d like it to magically melt off the same 15 pounds I’ve been struggling with for far too long and I’m ready to be over them. For good.
I ended up doing a lot of online research and felt encouraged enough to pick up a copy of the book at my used bookstore. Three chapters in and I was sold. I wish they would re-brand the whole program and lose the word DIET – because while there is some restriction in the beginning, the program ultimately IS a way of eating for life – and nothing is off limits – a concept that is never true of a “diet” in the traditional sense.
I read a LOT of things that I never knew and was surprised to learn about this “diet” – for one, it was never meant to be a weight-loss fad. It was a program developed by a cardiologist (from South Beach) for his high-risk heart patients to get their cholesterol levels in check. The incredible weight loss stories that emerged were just a natural bi-product of the better eating habits.
Here’s the quick breakdown of how the program works. There is no sugar-coating it (literally) – the first two weeks (“Phase 1”) are hard – and many don’t finish them, become frustrated, and abandon the program altogether. During phase 1 there are no sugars and no carbs. None. Scary, yes. But clearly my under-educated attempts at eating right aren’t working and I’m in a good mental place to take it to another level and try something a bit tougher. Big effort = big result, right? Plus, it’s only two weeks.
When I first read “NO sugar, NO carbs” it was enough to scare me back into “yeah maybe I won’t do this after all…” until I used my new favorite tool, Pinterest, to search for Phase 1 recipes. Let’s just say there are so many delicious recipe options with lean meats, low-fat dairy, and tons of veggies, that I will have no problem passing the two-week mark. If I hadn’t searched this way, I probably would have come up with a couple things, burned out on them, and cut the two weeks short. I’m quickly learning to be successful in phase 1 is to PLAN PLAN PLAN – grocery lists, meal plans, and scheduling are all key. And while it seems like a lot of work, it’s only two weeks.
The point of Phase 1 is to cleanse yourself of old habits and old cravings. I’ve heard and experienced for myself that if you do something several days in a row, your body starts to crave it. If I eat carrot sticks for a week straight, on the eighth day, my body is asking, “Um hello…where are my carrots?” or if I work out for a week straight, I find myself itching to move on the first rest day. The same principle applies here – you omit the simple carbs and sugars from your diet – and in return, your blood sugar doesn’t spike and want even more. You start with a clean plate, if you will, going into Phase 2 and in case you’re skill skeptical, there is no mention of portion and no calorie counting. You eat until you are not hungry.
Phase 2 allows you to start working things back into your diet. Forgive me – I haven’t read ahead this far yet so I only know the highlights. You work a single serving of fruit back in each day (which already for me would be “normal” – I don’t eat much fruit), and some whole grains, still in a limited amount. For me, it’s not choosing the whole grain over the enriched product – it’s checking myself on the portion size. (I loooove me a big bowl of pasta!) The process of simply working things back into my diet will be good for me – a great exercise in hitting all the food groups. Again, there are no portions – you just hit all the food groups (same idea as when you were a kid – yes, you can have your pasta, but you have to eat all your green beans) and you stop when you are full, which is sooner than later when filling up on lean protein and high-fiber veggies.
You stay in Phase 2 until you reach the weight you want to be at. For the average South Beacher, between 8 and 13 pounds are lost the first two weeks, followed by a more normal loss of 1-2 pounds per week in phase 2. I’m hoping to hang out in Phase 2 for a few weeks and then move to Phase 3- normal, balanced eating to maintain the new weight.
So there you have it – I wish someone would have forced me to take a closer look a long time ago. I’m feeling very encouraged and anxious to get started. It seems a crazy time to add this to the list of things to manage right now, but there will always be an excuse to wait. And I’m hoping that if there IS any frustration the first two weeks, it will be overshadowed by house stuff to shift my focus. 🙂 I took several days to make the decision to even try this and I’m taking this week to plan out every single snack and meal option for the next two weeks, then I’ll hit the store this weekend. I have this thing about “starting” on a Monday – so a week from today, it’s on and I’m hoping all the planning in advance pays off. My hope is to check in periodically and maybe post a couple notable recipes from phases. Wish me luck! 🙂