Confessions of a Low-Carb Dieter
In October, 2003, I started yet again to try to lose some weight. I started "eating sensibly" and lost a few pounds but was as hungry and miserable as always when on a diet. Then in November, my doctor's nutritionist suggested that I try the South Beach diet. Bingo! I've now lost 52 pounds (as of December 2004), am rarely hungry, and think I can stick with this for the long-term. Lots of people have asked me questions about this diet, even suggesting that I start a "low-carb diet support group" at our church. I don't have time for that, but I thought I would provide some thoughts about why this seems to be working so well for me with hopes that it will be helpful to others.
First, a big fat disclaimer! I don't know what I'm talking about. Pay no attention to anything I say!
Seriously, I have no formal training in nutrition and can only give you my personal opinion. Even professional nutritionists and the U.S. government appear to be confused about what constitutes a healthy diet. So take everything I say with a grain of salt and consult your own doctor to see if this diet fits your particular medical situation.
Here are some questions I am asked frequently and how I respond to each:
What is your diet?
There are numerous low-carb diets which are currently popular. The one I am following is the South Beach diet. I won't give you all the details because I think that you should buy the book The South Beach Diet by Dr. Arthur Agatston. It is packed with recipes and useful information about nutrition. Besides, Dr. Agatston deserves to make some money for figuring this out.
The basic concept of all the low-carb diets is to limit your intake of sugars and starches. The theory is that eating carbs (whether sugars or starches) leads to an increase in your blood sugar level. In people who do not have diabetes, this will cause your pancreas to produce insulin to digest the sugar. But your pancreas often produces too much insulin for the blood sugar level, which causes your blood sugar level to drop too low, which in turn makes you hungry. So the theory behind the low-carb diets is that eating carbs makes you hungrier than eating proteins and fats.
Where the low-carb diets differ is in what they suggest you eat in place of carbs. I haven't ever investigated the Atkins diet in depth, but it is my understanding that it is a fairly high-fat diet. Recent research studies I've been hearing about indicate that high-fat diets may not be the problem for cholesterol that nutritionists feared, but I haven't seen any studies saying that high-fat diets aren't a problem for breast cancer and colon cancer. So I have avoided Atkins and other high-fat low-carb diets.
The South Beach diet, on the other hand, urges restraint in the amount of fat you eat and pushes eating lots of non-starchy vegetables instead. Fiber is a carbohydrate, but it does not have a negative effect on your blood sugar level, so you are encouraged to eat lots of fiber-rich foods as long as they don't also contain sugars or starches.
popularity of the Atkins diet does have one major benefit for all low-carb dieters
- low-carb food is now far more widely available than it was a year ago. Great
Harvest sells wonderful low-carb bread. Subway has low-carb sandwiches. There
are delicious low-carb candy bars available. Many restaurants now serve low-carb
entrees - at some places it's just a burger without a bun, but in many places
it's an excellent entree. One breakfast place I ate in this summer now offers
stir-fried veggies as a substitute for hash browns with all their meals. Just
be careful to watch the fat content of these low-carb things.
How does it work?
I've not read this anywhere, but it seems to me that it works by limiting the number of calories you are eating to fewer than the number you are using each day. There simply isn't any other way to lose weight! The principle way diets differ is how they lead you to eat fewer calories.
Low-fat diets work (for those folks they do work for) by cutting out the most calorie-dense foods. Fat contains nearly twice as many calories per ounce as protein or carbohydrates. Since a lot of high-protein foods (meat, cheese, eggs) also contain a lot of fat, low-fat diets often tend to be somewhat low-protein diets also. But that leaves you with only high-carb foods. That type of diet leaves me hungry, headachy, and very grumpy. I can never stick with them for any length of time at all.
The South Beach diet, on the other hand, limits your caloric intake by keeping you from getting hungry. One of the principles of the diet is that it takes more food to cure hunger than it does to keep you from getting hungry, so you eat six times a day - three meals and three snacks. No more feeling noble while suffering hunger pangs and then feeling like a failure when the hunger leads to over-eating!
Is it healthy?
I don't think anyone really knows the answer to this question. It is a higher-fat diet than has been recommended in recent years, although it isn't as high-fat as some of the low-carb diets. My doctor's nutritionist and a friend's cardiologist both recommended it as a healthy diet. It is a high-protein diet, and there is some thought that that isn't very healthy in the long term. But being overweight isn't healthy either. So I've decided to stick with this until I get back to a healthy weight, which I expect to take another year or so. Then I'll reconsider whether to stick with this way of eating. I truly do think you should talk with your doctor before starting this diet because you may have some reason you need to stick with a lower-fat diet than this one is.
Don't you ever get bored with the restricted food list?
Humm... [Looking at my left hand] Boring diet. [Looking at my right hand] Loss of 52 pounds. [Looking back and forth] Boring diet. Weight loss. Boring diet. Weight loss. Nope, I don't get bored!
Seriously, I have had no problem with getting bored with this diet. Although there is a long list of things you can't eat, there is also a long list of wonderful foods you can eat.
And if I do start to get bored, I remember "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!"
Do you ever deviate from a strict South Beach diet?
There are two major ways I deviate from South Beach.
First, I weigh myself every morning. I understand why they say not to. Day-to-day fluctuations can be wide and are not necessarily directly tied to how you ate the day before. Some people find it demotivating to gain a pound or two. But I find that if I know I won't be weighing myself for another week, I am more tempted to eat badly "just for today." On the other hand, I find it very motivating to continue eating well when I lose a pound and also motivating (to be stricter about how I eat) when I gain a pound. But I know that this approach isn't for everyone.
second deviation is due to being from Wisconsin. I eat more full-fat cheese than
Dr. A recommends. I eat lots of low-fat Swiss in salads and on sandwiches where
I can get extra flavor from salad dressing or mustard. And I eat part-skim milk
mozzarella cheese and low-fat Kaukauna Club cheese for some snacks. But sometimes
I want the full flavor of 4-year-old cheddar and I have that for a snack instead.
(Dr. A does say we mustn't let ourselves feel deprived!) I will likely have to
give this up to get to my final goal, but we can't be perfect at the beginning.
Isn't it hard to eat in a restaurant?
The short answer is "no."
Even places like Papa Vino's and Olive Garden have meat entrees as well as their pasta dishes. Olga's has lots of options besides their Olga bread wraps. Subway now has a low-carb bread for their sandwiches. Many restaurants can provide a chicken Caesar salad - just don't eat the croutons. Low-carb diets are becoming so common that nearly always a restaurant will offer you a vegetable in place of pasta or potatoes. Just ask! Many restaurants even have their low-carb entrees labeled so you can find them easily.
Remember to have a snack before you leave for the restaurant, especially if you are dining later than your usual meal time. That way you won't order so many different courses when you first arrive.
tough part is the dessert. When you start on this diet, you might ask your dining
companions to be kind and skip dessert. I hope you'll have the same experience
I have had, however, and find that soon it doesn't bother you to sit with others
while they eat their dessert. Just order some coffee or tea and enjoy chatting
while they do all that unhealthy stuff to their bodies!
But it takes so much time!
Everyone who starts the South Beach diet finds that they are spending far more time with food than they did before they started. Eating six times a day takes time! Cooking with all those fresh veggies takes time! Going to the store several times a week to replenish the fresh produce takes more time than going just once a week to get frozen things. There aren't (yet) as many shortcuts such as frozen meals for low-carb diets as there are for other ways of eating.
I started out using exactly Dr. A's menu plan and all of his recipes. I quickly found that I could make small changes to many of my own recipes to convert them to low-carb and that they were faster to make than his recipes. I do still make two trips to the grocery store each week, but each is a shorter trip so it isn't really much extra time.
Most importantly, the math here is very funny. Yes, I'm spending more time on food. But I feel so much better and have so much more energy that I don't feel that I've lost time! And I figure it's giving me years at the end of my life which I wouldn't have had if I had continued to gain weight.
friend on this diet pointed out that she still shops only once a week and purchases
things like frozen stir-fry vegetables instead of fresh vegetables, saving time
shopping and time chopping.
Doesn't it cost a lot?
My grocery bill has certainly gone up since I started South Beach. All those wonderful bell peppers and nuts and cheese aren't cheap. But it doesn't have the expenses that many commercial diet programs do - paying for weekly meetings or buying special food supplements. It seems to me a very reasonable price to pay to lose all this weight.
Why does it work so well for you?
I have found this diet to be very successful for me. I stayed on Phase One (read the book!) for four weeks and lost 16 pounds. For quite a while I then lost about a pound a week on Phase Two. More recently it's been about 2 pounds a month. But the important thing is that I'm still losing weight after nearly a year on the diet!
The reason that I'm succeeding on this diet isn't that I've become a morally superior person with super will power. I'm the same person who failed long-term on Weight Watchers, several low-fat diets, and the grapefruit diet of my youth.
I think I'm succeeding on this diet because it is both physically and psychologically so satisfying. It deals with my physical hunger very nicely. I feel like I am eating all the time, and I find both the meals and the snacks to be very satisfying. More importantly, the fact that I am losing weight without being miserable is psychologically very satisfying, so when I am tempted to have a food not on my allowed list it is actually pretty easy to say "no."
reason this works so well for me is that I'm not having to count and weigh and
record everything I eat. Dr. A doesn't have many quantities in his book. He even
says "at least n ounces" in several places. So I feel that this
is a long-term way of eating rather than a short-term diet.
Is it a miracle?
Obviously there is no miracle in the sense of "eat this magic ingredient and you can then lose weight while eating anything else you want."
Losing 16 pounds the first month was spectacular, but since then I've been losing only 2-4 pounds a month. But I've been able to do that month after month. So yes, I do consider it something just short of a miracle to find a way to eat which is so satisfying, allows me to lose weight, and feels like something I can continue to do for many years.
Does it work for everyone?
No, it doesn't. I have one friend who lost only one pound in the first two weeks while on Phase One. Others have lost weight a bit faster than that but not as quickly as I did at first. Some people get very bored eating the somewhat limited list of foods. You have to love veggies to succeed. Some folks find it takes more time than they have. For some, it just isn't the right time to start a new way of eating - it is tough to get through the first couple of weeks when you do have lots of desires for things which aren't part of the diet. So I wouldn't be critical of anyone who didn't succeed with South Beach, but I would encourage them to try it again at another time when the hurdles which kept them from succeeding might be less high.
I've been on the diet for a while and I'm stuck.
Sometimes I've gotten stuck at a weight and gone up and down 2 pounds for several weeks. I don't really know why this happens - perhaps I'm not being as careful about what I'm eating or perhaps it's water retention or maybe it's the phases of the moon! Who knows? It can be pretty demotivating. Here's the message I give myself when this happens
I've already lost ___ pounds! That's terrific!! If I drop off the diet, I will certainly put those pounds back on. It's taken me 20 years to gain all this weight, and I'm in this for the long haul. If it takes another year to lose the weight, that's OK!
do know that I've always gotten past that stage and headed on down again. I've
heard the same story from others on this diet. Dr. A suggests that you go back
onto Phase One for a week, but I've never bothered to do that.
What tips have you discovered?
Some of these tips come from Dr. A's book, some come from friends, and others are my own.
Eat frequently. It takes more food to cure hunger than it does to prevent it, so eat before you get hungry.
Don't let yourself feel deprived. Try to find some foods which are an indulgence but aren't high in carbs. For me, that is cashews and aged cheddar cheese. But Dr. A says that if you really need to have that chocolate cheesecake, go ahead because if you start feeling deprived you are much more likely to quit the diet. He suggests that if you are at a restaurant, you have a bite or two of that cheesecake and then pass it around the table. If you are at home, have a bite or two and then put it away for at least 20 minutes. In both cases you will probably get what you wanted from that small amount without setting off an insulin reaction.
It takes about 20 minutes after eating something to stop feeling hungry. The amount you eat isn't as important as the passage of time. Eating fast means that you'll eat more in that 20 minutes. In the summer, I try to take time out of my busy day to sit on the porch enjoying some music and the lovely summer weather while slowly eating my lunch. It seems to work.
USA Weekend had an article in the November 19-21, 2004, issue which said "Enhancing the aroma and flavor of foods can trick the brain into thinking you have eaten more than you have. ... The nose's smell-sensing olfactory bulb is directly connected to the brain's satiety center. ... Smells can convince the satiety center you've filled your stomach." This article goes on to suggest that you sniff your food, chew your food a lot, eat food hot, and blow bubbles into soups and gravies to release aromas. Some of that sounds pretty silly to me, but the idea of using strong flavors and aromas to enhance your feeling that you have had a significant meal makes sense to me.
Before going to a restaurant, have a snack. You'll eat far less at the restaurant.
Drink lots of water. There are lots of reasons given for this: it is good for your kidneys (especially when doing a relatively high-protein diet), it flushes the poisons out of your system, it keeps your skin plump so you have fewer wrinkles as you lose weight, it helps "keep you regular" (as your grandmother would say). I don't know which, if any, of these make sense, but I do feel better and seem to lose weight a bit faster when I am drinking lots of water.
When going to a party, offer to bring something you can eat. Your hostess will appreciate it and you won't be tempted by all the high-carb food at the party.
When going out to run errands, take along your next snack. String cheese and nuts are particularly convenient for this.
When flying, take along plenty of food. Even when the airlines do offer food, it is nearly always very high carb. You may feel like a refugee bringing your food along, but you'll be a thinner refugee as a result! And you certainly won't be the only one doing this.
Be selfish! Don't ever think "I'll offend my hostess if I don't eat some of the delicious ___ she made for us." Let her know in advance that you are on a low-carb diet so there will be some things you can eat even if you can't eat everything. Don't ever think "No one else is hungry so I won't suggest that we eat right now." Plan ahead so you have food available before you get hungry, even if it means eating in front of others. When starting on this diet, ask your dining companions if they would be willing to skip dessert and ask them to keep the basket of bread on their side of the table.
When I'm tempted by some food, I try to remember how hard I've worked to lose all this weight and what a great bore it would be to have to lose those same pounds over again. I also repeat the mantra "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."
Don't berate yourself if you eat something which is high in carbs. Nothing is forbidden on this diet - it's just that quantities of some things have to be limited. If you have a really tough few days, go back onto Phase One for a few days to get back on track. Also try to figure out what it was that led to the high-carb indulgence and what you could do next time as an alternative.
The desserts recommended during Phase One are all based on part-skim ricotta cheese. I found the flavor of these to be quite nice, particularly the one with almond extract and slivered almonds. But the texture was a bit gritty. My husband ate one and commented "I know what this is. It's Soviet industrial cheesecake!" That hit is right on the head. I've since found that the Miceli brand of part-skim ricotta is much less gritty than others I've tried.
up milestones in your weight loss so you get frequent positive reinforcement for
your efforts. See my milestones in the next section.
What milestones have you set for yourself?
Just losing each pound has been very satisfying, but I found that I wanted short-term goals and the psychological satisfaction of periodically achieving another milestone. Since my ultimate goal of reaching a healthy weight was (and still is) far away, I invented intermediate milestones.
Have fun with these! They don't have to be milestones which mean anything to anyone but you. I tell everyone when I reach a milestone - even the embarrassing ones! Here are some of my milestones.
One of my first milestones was to weigh less than I did at the height of my pregnancy. Yes, it's an embarrassing goal. But how much better it feels to have met it than not to have met it!
Another milestone was to weigh less than my husband does today. It's another embarrassing one because he's 10" taller than I am. But it was a great one to achieve. When we were kayaking in Florida last spring and our kayak went aground, it was great to feel "This is as much his fault as mine" rather than "If only I weren't so fat, this wouldn't have happened." I confess that I cheated a bit on this milestone: for the 2 weeks before I reached it, I worked at fattening him up by bringing him lots of chocolate treats! But now I'm well under his weight and have stopped such irresponsible behavior.
Another milestone which no thin person would understand was to weigh less than 200# in the middle of the day with my clothes on - in other words, weigh less than 200# at the doctor's office. It is so nice to know I won't have to suffer the humiliation of having the nurse start at 150#, keep moving the small weight to the right, then have to move the large weight to 200# and start moving the small weight again. (Since writing this, I have been to the doctor - and she had replaced her old scale with an electronic one! Drat! I may have to change doctors to enjoy this benefit of losing so much weight!)
Another type of milestone which is scattered throughout my weight loss journey is the weight I was at various ages. I recall my weight at a few key points in my life - when I got married, when I got pregnant, etc. But I don't have detailed info. My sister-in-law suggested asking my doctor for a list of weights over the years. Now I can set milestores of "being 40 years old again". That sounds very silly, but I do feel a lot younger already.
One of my favorite silly milestones was 42# of weight loss. If you've read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this milestone may make you chuckle. If you haven't read it, this milestone will mystify you. (I recommend the book.) I thank my son for the suggestion of this milestone. I try to have a milestone about every 5 pounds, but I was having trouble coming up with one in this weight range! No one ever said these had to be serious milestones!
But there are some serious milestones worth putting onto the list. Body Mass Index is one of them, since it's believed to be a good indicator of how overweight you are. To compute your BMI, you need to know your height H in inches and your current weight W in pounds. Then you can compute the BMI for your current weight or the weight for a given BMI via
BMI = W x ( 703 / H x H )
W = BMI / ( 703 / H x H )
Here is how to interpret the BMI (this is the combination of information I found on several reputable websites):
BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is healthy weight
BMI >= 25 is overweight
BMI >= 30 is obese
BMI >= 35 is severely obese
BMI >= 40 is morbidly obese
A friend who has a family history of diabetes started this diet and set her first milestone as the weight recommended as significantly reducing her likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. According to an article entitled "Even a small weight loss will help" which appeared in the Detroit News health section on March 3, 2004,"If you are overweight and at risk for diabetes or if you've been recently been diagnosed with the disease, losing just 7 percent of your body weight can mean a major improvement in your health." It goes on to say that if weight is lost and one leads an active lifestyle at the early stage of Type 2 diabetes, the disease can be reversed. I've heard this same thing from several doctors and have personally seen it happen with a family member of mine, whose Type 2 diabetes disappeared when she lost about 10% of her weight. The Detroit News article also touts regular moderate exercise and eating fewer processed carbohydrates, which it says make you hungry sooner.
Don't you ever cheat?
First, I try not to think of it as "cheating". That implies something furtive which I am ashamed of and hope no one catches me at. Thinking of it that way only makes me feel bad about myself for not having the will power to resist. And I obviously don't fool anyone - these hips let everyone know about the late night noshing.
Instead, I think of it as "splurging" either on a special occasion or when things aren't going well.
I never splurge with high-carb foods. I may eat too many cashews or too much full-fat cheddar cheese or too many low-carb candy bars, but those don't set off the insulin reaction which leads to more overeating once the urge to splurge is over.
At first, it bothered me a lot to watch other folks having foods which I couldn't eat. But after all the months I've been eating this way, it doesn't even bother me to watch other folks eating the things I can't have. Part of it is just that it is so satisfying to lose so much weight! Part of it is, I think, a real change in my metabolism - I actually didn't feel very well the few time I have eaten some high-carb food. I regularly bring home muffins from a restaurant meal for my husband to eat, purchase desserts for my family, dish up desserts when we are at my father-in-law's home, etc. I've heard from others on this diet that they, too, have reached the point that it doesn't bother them to watch others eat bread and dessert.
I don't mean to sound superior here. I'm the same person who failed on numerous previous attempts to lose weight. I don't think I'm any stronger-willed than I was before. I think that what is different now is that this diet is the right one for me. Any diet that lets me indulge in a small bowl of cashews or in 4-year-old Wisconsin cheddar cheese is not boring in my book!
What about all those triggers to eating?
We all have lots of triggers to eating. Everyone know about "Let's celebrate by eating" and "Let's cure our depression by eating." I've been amazed at the number of other triggers I have and the fact that I'm still discovering new ones after all these months. When I buy a book at Borders, my right hand automatically pops up to grab a few of the wonderful chocolate truffles available at the checkout counter. One day I was doing some paperwork I hated and suddenly found myself going through the cupboards looking for a snack - I hadn't even been aware of getting up from the desk to go out to the kitchen.
One I'm still fighting with is snacking during long drives, when I am used to eating lots of crackers to stay alert. Another I haven't yet solved is staying in a hotel. On one recent driving/hotel trip to Carnegie Mellon I gained 2 pounds in 4 days, and on another I gained 4 pounds in 2 days - there's a strange kind of symmetry there, I guess.
I don't have answers for all of these triggers. One key is just to be aware of them. Another is to laugh at them rather than berate yourself. Another is to plan for them in advance once you are aware of them. I've never much liked pop, but diet Coke solves the problem of staying alert while driving. Arranging for appropriate snacks when in a hotel for several days will take a lot of planning.
My worst time for noshing is late at night, when I've eaten all I should for the day and I'm sometimes feeling a bit stressed because I have not accomplished as much as I had hoped to that day. Knowing this will happen, I save my last snack until shortly before bedtime. And I sometimes go to bed early just so I won't start to eat - which is good for me anyway!
Can you give me some recipes?
A typical day's meal plan
Breakfast: scrambled eggs with veggies, V8 juice
Midmorning snack: part-skim milk Mozzarella cheese stick, water
Lunch: salad with some kind of meat and cheese, a little fruit, water
Mid-afternoon snack: celery stuffed with low-fat Kaukauna Club cheese, water
Dinner: chicken, tossed salad, stir-fried veggies, a little fruit, water
Evening snack: almond ricotta creme (recipe in Dr. A's book)
Scrambled eggs. I use Egg Beaters to reduce the fat content and often turn this into a frittata by adding leftover veggies from the previous night's dinner. Sometimes I add cheese, but I really prefer to save my cheese (with its fat) for snacks. I also vary the eggs by adding different herbs and spices. Lemon pepper, garlic pepper, tarragon, and Thai seasoning are all excellent. Nutmeg is weird! Salsa is a great addition to spice it up. The vegetable quiche cups (recipe in Dr. A's book) make a nice alternative to scrambled eggs. They take longer to make, but you make enough for 6 days and they freeze nicely.
Juice: It is much better to eat fruit than to drink the juice (see Dr. A's book for the reasons). The only juices I ever drink now are tomato juice and V8 juice. And I'm the woman who drank OJ with seltzer as her favorite recreational beverage all year round!
Entree salads: These can be varied almost infinitely by your choice of each category of ingredient. Here are a few suggestions, but the varieties are endless.
Greens: romaine, spinach, spring greens
Meat: chicken, turkey, beef, fish, tofu (OK, the last two are not meat!)
Cheese: low-fat Swiss, feta, blue, fresh grated parmesan
Something crunchy: almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, water chestnuts, celery
Fruit: strawberries, apples (not too much fruit, since it has so much sugar)
Dressing: balsamic vinaigrette is my current favorite
Here is one excellent version of this kind of salad: Red Lobster Chicken and Apple salad.
Sandwiches: When a sandwich is called for, just substitute leaves of romaine lettuce for the bread. You can spread mustard etc. right on the lettuce, add the meat or whatever the sandwich filling is, and then roll up the lettuce leaf. It isn't very tidy to eat, unfortunately, so if you are going to be taking it out in public it may be better to turn the ingredients into a salad instead of a sandwich.
You can also make sandwiches using the wonderful low-carb breads now being sold by places like Great Harvest. I have had a problem with the bread getting stale before I used it all, but a friend on this diet said that she just keeps the unused bread in the freezer to avoid that problem.
Potatoes: I was amazed to learn that sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index than white potatoes. But sometimes you just want mashed potatoes. Dr. A's Surprise South Beach Mashed Potatoes recipe is amazing - it's made from cauliflower instead of potatoes. It turns out that the color and texture of the pureed cauliflower is very similar to potatoes and the addition of the butter spray convinces your nose and taste buds that you are eating mashed potatoes. Just don't buy the cauliflower which has a green tinge or the potatoes won't look very appetizing! And do follow the recipe exactly - leaving out the butter spray results in something which isn't remotely like mashed potatoes.
Stir-fried veggies: This is a real mainstay of my diet. Many nights I have some stir-fried veggies, and I often put the leftovers into my eggs the next morning. My favorite veggies for the stir-fry are bell peppers (red, yellow, orange, never green!), onions, mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower. It looks lovely as well as being delicious and very healthy. Any non-starchy veggie works. Cutting up the veggies takes a lot of time. When I get back from the grocery store or the first time I make a stir-fry after that, I cut up all the veggies. Sometimes I put each one into its own container so I can have different combos on different days. But since I don't get bored with this, I often just put them all into one large plastic container. Then each night I scoop out a couple of large spoonsful and stir fry them in olive oil. The cut-up veggies last several days just fine in the fridge and having them ready means that I'll take the time to cook them even if I'm a bit rushed that night.
You can also add some protein to this and make an entree of it. Here's a very quick recipe using pre-cooked chicken strips: Southwestern Chicken Stir Fry.
Party food: Nuts are a great way to indulge yourself at a party without setting off an insulin reaction.
Here's a recipe for a great appetizer you can take to a party: Jany's Hors d"Oeuvres. Everyone will enjoy it and it's completely legit on this diet.
What about low-fat foods?
Many low-fat foods achieve that status by adding sugar so that the percent of calories attributable to fat is lowered! Check out that low-fat peanut butter label. So you need to be careful on this one. Some low-fat foods, especially those naturally low in fat, are terrific when you are on this diet. Others are a disaster.
What about vitamins?
I haven't investigated this one yet. When I first saw the special vitamins for low-carb dieters, my reaction was "What a ripoff!" But they do claim to contain extra things you may be missing when eating less fruit and bread. So I still need to look into this further.
What about exercise?
There is no point in kidding ourselves. Exercise is terribly important to our health. But I will be honest and tell you that, due to having developed plantar fasciitis during the summer of 2003, I didn't actually exercise much during the first 9 months I was on this diet and I still lost all that weight. Think how much faster I'll be losing it now that I'm back to walking on our treadmill regularly! One of the wonderful benefits of losing this weight is how much more energy I have and how much more I can enjoy getting that important exercise. And because I'm exercising, I now have even more energy!
What about getting enough sleep?
There was a short but fascinating article in the November 17, 2004, issue of the Detroit Free Press.
Study links obesity to a lack of sleep
Here's a novel prescription for people who want to shed pounds: Get some sleep.
A study of 18,000 people through the 1980s has found a strong link between the amount of shut-eye people get and their risk of becoming obese, said Columbia University researchers presenting their findings this week at a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity.
Those who got less than four hours of sleep a night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who got the recommended seven to nine hours of rest, scientists discovered. Those who averaged five hours of sleep had 50 percent greater risk, and those who got six hours had 23 percent more.
Sleep deprivation lowers leptin, a protein that suppresses appetite, researchers said. Sleep deprivation also raises levels of grehlin, a substance that makes people want to eat.
I have certainly observed that my worst urge to snack comes late at night when I'm still up trying to get through my "to do" list for the day even though I should be in bed. If I do that several days in a row, it is very difficult for me to fight that urge to snack on whatever looks good no matter how unhealthy it may be. That doesn't sound related to this study, but it certainly points in the same direction - going to bed on time is good for my weight.
What about Atkins?
I have not researched Atkins, so I am going to quote some articles I've seen recently.
A recent (fall 2004) article in the Detroit Free Press said that "headaches, muscle weakness, and either diarrhea or constipation are reported more often by Atkins dieters than people on conventional diets." Another side effect I've heard about is bad breath. I can confirm that one week when I was traveling and found veggies hard to come by, I ate in a way that I think was similar to Atkins. By the end of the week, I was very aware of the bad taste in my mouth and my bad breath. I have certainly not had any of those problems when I stuck to the South Beach diet.
The same Free Press article also said "Several small studies in the last year or two have surprised the experts by showing that people lose more weight on the Atkins diet than on the standard low-calorie, low-fat diet, at least in the short term, with even better cholesterol improvements." Those studies are cited a lot by Atkins advocates. But the article goes on to say "Longer studies have since shown that when dieters are followed for a year, the total weight loss ends up almost the same with the two approaches. The long-term effect on cholesterol has not been studied yet." So they don't know the long-term effect of Atkins on cholesterol, and I haven't seen any studies saying that high-fat diets aren't a problem for breast cancer and colon cancer.
I'm sticking with South Beach, which seems to have the same characteristic of being a very satisfying diet without some of the problems of the Atkins diet.
What about Curves?
I've just read a bit of the new Curves book. There are a few bizarre statements, like suggesting that horseradish is made from radishes. I'm doubtful of the claim that once you have lost the weight you can keep it off by dieting 2 days a month and eating whatever you want the rest of the month. But overall the book seemed pretty sensible. Certainly the emphasis on exercise makes eminent sense. I hope to read more of it one day. I've heard people who are on the Curves diet say that it is a lot like the South Beach diet.
What about The Zone?
Like Sargent Schultz in Hogan's Heros, "I know notink!"
What about Dr. Phil?
What an offensive man!
Since I watch no TV, reading his book on weight loss was my first introduction to his approach to "helping" people. I'm not sure he actually said "you fatties" in the book, but I certainly heard that implied comment as I was reading it. I've had the book for several months but have only managed to force myself through a couple of chapters because he offends me so. The fact that his first "Key" is "right thinking" certainly says to me that he thinks the problem is due to my lack of will power or resolve - while I now understand that it was in significant part due to my eating a high-carb diet.
Looking ahead, I think he may have some useful things to say. For instance, Key 3 is "a no-fail environment," which sounds to me like the sort of thing I said earlier about arranging to have the right kinds of food available when and where you will need them and not to have the wrong kinds of food available. Other keys in his book involve nutrition, exercise, and a circle of support. So I'm planning to plug on through the book and I'll add any useful things I glean from it to this web page. But I sure hope you won't go out and spend any money on this book!
What about keeping the weight off?
Since I'm still in Phase 2 losing weight, I don't have any experience with this issue yet. My current feeling is that I enjoy this diet enough that I can stick with it for years, but it's hard to predict these things.
A November 16, 2004, Detroit Free Press article discusses a study which shows that folks on low-fat diets do better keeping the weight off than do folks on low-carb diets. The article didn't say for sure but it sounds like the low-carb diet in the study was Atkins. According to the article, "People who started eating more fat ... regained the most weight over time." I can believe that folks who stay on Atkins eventually start eating a lot more calories because of the amount of fat you are allowed on Atkins. But my looking at it that way could just be wishful thinking because I like South Beach so much.
What about an alternative diet?
Here is an alternative diet in case you don't think much of South Beach,