South Beached

Last June I wrote about my adventures losing weight. Well they weren’t really adventures. Those who claim losing weight is fun are fooling themselves. It’s never fun to diet. I looked forward to the “adventure” as much as a root canal. Still I knew I was putting on more weight. It wasn’t anything dangerous but I was afraid to get near a scale and learn the awful truth. The awful truth turned out to be 198.8 pounds. For the record that’s 8.8 pounds more than I should weigh to avoid the stigma of being “overweight”.

Now I certainly didn’t look overweight. I get complements all the time about how trim I look. I’ve never been one to neglect exercise either. For two years my exercise has included not just aerobic, but weight training too. I’ve probably converted quite a bit of fat into muscle. I have been conscious for years about what I eat. I can’t eat anything anymore without thinking about the tradeoffs. Even so food is apparently an enormous pleasure to me. When opportunities present themselves (like Christmas cookies arrive from friends) I find it impossible to just say no. So mostly I try to keep these foods out of my house.

Clearly eating less and exercising more was a great weight loss strategy while it lasted. I lost weight regularly, but it was a hard thing to sustain indefinitely. The body resisted. My last attempt at a formal diet was The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet. It didn’t work for me. I stayed pretty much where I was. This was due to the fine print: you can have carbohydrates at one meal a day, but you have to limit them to about a third of your total calories for the meal. I went overboard. I found I couldn’t limit them that rigorously. But more importantly, the diet did nothing to solve my craving for carbohydrates. I still had thate underlying addiction.

So now it is about a year later and I’m trying the South Beach Diet. Much to my surprise here I am two weeks later and I’m still on it! And I was also surprised to find that I dropped four pounds in one week! I have never lost that much weight that quickly before. But I had never tried a carbohydrate free diet before either. The first two weeks of the South Beach Diet are a lot like any day on the Atkins Diet, except the meals are supposed to be low fat. Carbs: just avoid them. And I have. No bread. No milk. No jellies. No fruits. I really crave fruits at the moment.

No, it wasn’t always easy. The first couple days were the roughest. After a few days I found myself at the CVS buying sugar free candies and making a lot of sugar free Jello. The mornings and afternoons weren’t difficult. Substituting eggs for cereal in the morning was easy. For lunch I chose salads or lean meats. String cheese worked for my midmorning snack. A hand full of peanuts was often my afternoon snack. Dinners were heavy on low fat meats, and lots of steamed vegetables. My broccoli and cauliflower consumption has gone way up.

I found sugar free Crystal Lite hard candies and have been eating them as dessert. They taste good thanks to the Splenda in them, but eating more than four or five made my stomach upset. My indulgence lately has been these protein bars. Some of them are excellent. I may be cheating a bit because they while they have only 3g of impact carbohydrates (the type that make you crave more) they have more of the non-addictive type. But mostly they contain protein, so it is balanced. They taste really good, but they are expensive. They remind me of a Snickers bar.

The South Beach diet emphasizes restoring a good blood chemistry. It does this by turning off the craving for carbohydrates. I find my physiological craving is gone but it is still there on the mental level. Tomorrow I will begin phase two. I can’t wait to introduce some carbohydrates back into my diet. Perhaps that is not a good sign, but right now the taste of a fresh apple, or even a bowl of Raisin bran in low fat milk sounds delightful. During phase two of the diet I am supposed to reintroduce carbohydrates slowly. That will be a tough test for me. Even though it could have been much worse I feel like I have been suffering. But I can’t deny the results of this diet so far.

I have learned a lot from this diet. I didn’t understand how addictive processed carbohydrate foods were. I didn’t understand what it was about being “processed” that made them bad for me. Dr. Agatston’s clear writing was an eye opener. I never made the connection that a processed food was essentially a partially digested food. This means the carbohydrates in them are readily absorbed into the bloodstream as sugar. And this raises your insulin level quickly and makes you physically crave more processed carbohydrates. So now I am wiser at last. I will be more selective about not just how much carbohydrates I eat, but how likely they are to make me crave more of them. I am armed with my book giving the glycemic index for various foods. I think with care I can add to my diet decent tasting carbohydrate foods that won’t make me want more.

I have noticed what people on the Atkins diet have told me: they often feel lethargic. I get winded easily. I still maintained my exercise routine, but at the health club peddling away on the elliptical machines I found that it actually hurt to keep up the pace. The blood sugar that I normally would have had running around my blood stream was not there, so it had to be drawn from my fat. It was weird; it was like I could feel the fat actually being burned off!

The rest of this dieting is monitoring what I eat and regular exercise. I will check my weight once a week to measure how I am doing. I will do my best to adjust my eating habits accordingly based on what the scale is telling me. I don’t ever want to be overweight again. I hope this time I am armed with the right information and the right attitude to fully accomplish my goal. I figure if Bill Clinton can lose 25 pounds on this diet, I can do something similar. There are no sure things in this life. But as I look at the numerous obese people around me, I know I don’t want to spend my fifties with cardiac or adult diabetes problems. I have a lot of life ahead of me and I want my good health to last as long as possible.

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