Saturday, January 10, 2004

Diet Update

So, some of you may be wondering how this whole South Beach Diet thing is going, anyway. As you recall, I have started it not because I am interested in losing weight, since I am already at the far-low-end of appropriate weights for my height, but because my boyfriend wants to lose a few pounds and has tried the simpler, do-it-yourself stuff like exercising & eating a fairly healthy diet. It seems that for him, it is necessary to make more subtle changes to the types of foods he eats. Also, I have a major sweet tooth and love carbohydrates more than anything else on Earth (except, of course, said boyfriend). I am interested in whether a protein & veggie diet, low carbs, would help me reduce that carbohydrate dependence. After all, even if I don't want to lose weight now, sometime in the future I may need to keep my weight in check if my metabolism changes as I age. In college, I weighed much more than I do now - teaching is extremely slimming!

The diet works like this:

Phase 1 - basically as much protein as you want, lots of veggies (but not corn, beets, & some other sugar-intensive veggies), and small amounts of fats & oils. This lasts two weeks and supposedly some people lose a lot of weight.

Phase 2 - start adding back "good" carbohydrates, like whole grain breads, whole wheat pasta, some fruit, etc.

Phase 3 - eat from a more extensive list of fruits, veggies, protein, whole grain & high fiber carbs, etc. Limit sugars & fats. This is basically how I used to eat, except with a much higher proportion of carbohydrates than is probably good for you.

Halfway through Phase 1, my boyfriend has lost some weight (hasn't stepped on a scale yet, so who knows how much) and I think, from the way my new jeans fit compared to how they fit when I bought them last week, that I may have lost weight as well, which is a bad thing. He claims that he has more energy in the afternoons, rather than "crashing" like he used to. Eating on the diet is easier for him than it is for me, since he has a big cafeteria at his work where he can buy almost anything - salads, eggs, you name it - while I have to prepare & pack everything I eat.

From my point of view, South Beach breakfasts are absolutely horrible - I can eat an omelette at 10 am, but at 6 am it makes me gag. Lunch & dinner are okay, and you get two snacks during the day. I have discovered that I like soy nuts in small quantities as a snack (and they're good for you!), and I also like vegetarian bacon, which I had never tried before. The desserts - various takes on the "ricotta creme" are pretty icky. After a few days you start to smell like a vegetable and feel like you might lay an egg at any moment. I strongly recommend adapting the meal plans to your own tastes, using their lists of okay/avoid foods. It definitely helps if you have a natural affinity for cottage cheese, but I guess few of us do, or we wouldn't need a diet plan to change our eating habits!

Despite all these negatives, this diet has made me appreciate carbohydrates and sugars more, and want them less. I have been cheating in small ways to improve my quality-of-life and because I'm not in it to lose weight nor have I ever been an extremist in any area of my life: I put a few teaspoons of milk in my coffee, and after two days of Equal (ugh!), one package of sugar. This works just as well for me as three packages of sugar used to! On Friday, my colleague brought me a Coke and a chocolate chip cookie, to "rescue me" from my diet, which she thinks is ridiculous. I ate them, but honestly, I really wanted only a few sips of the Coke and part of the cookie... I just don't need as much sweet stuff as I used to. And that was part of the plan. I have cheated a little every day, but in carefully considered ways: Does this small amount of sugar/carbohydrates make my life significantly better? That's a good way to think about all "treats," I believe.

Last night, we went to Caravan of Dreams, a vegetarian, organic restaurant near my house. It seemed like the only place where we could eat out without drastically breaking the dietary rules! I had a scrumptious house salad, a tempeh reuben, which I love, and a dessert involving bananas and soy ice cream, which was awesome, and we shared a bottle of wine, something totally not allowed during Phase 1. It was a good treat, and we were both able to return to the diet today with no problem, while appreciating the food last night. And my boyfriend will really be much happier & healthier if he loses a few pounds.

I know that I am looking forward to Phase 2, and may in fact skip to it so that I don't lose any more weight during Phase 1. The only reason I would ever go on a popular (do we hear "fad"?) diet is if the end result is a sustainable way of eating... which Phase 3 definitely is. And if it has provisions for vegetarians, which this diet does.

So, that's my take on the South Beach Diet for those who are interested.

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