my weight loss journey part 2 – the diet

read my weight loss journey part 1 – the background here.

The diet that my doctor recommended was the South Beach Diet.  He said that South Beach (SB for short) closely mimicked the way someone who was diabetic should eat.  I bought the book (apparently I still wasn’t sold on the idea because I bought the book at a used book shop – not even willing to pay full price!) and started learning about SB.  I urge you to check it out if you are interested in losing weight or just trying to eat healthier; obviously you would need to read the book in order to get all the small details but I’ll give you an overview here.  Grab a cup of coffee and settle in because this is going to be long.

SB consists of three phases.  During Phase 1 you cut out all sources of sugar, including carbs and fruit.  This seems extreme, and it is, but Phase 1 only lasts two weeks.  The main goal of Phase 1 is to retrain your body to not crave sweets.  So on Phase 1 you can have meat, cheese, beans,nuts, eggs, and veggies but no bread, potatoes, fruit, or sweets (please know this is not an exhaustive list).  Many people call Phase 1 a low-carb diet but it really isn’t as you’ll see in Phase 2.

After the two weeks of Phase 1 the cravings should be gone; I know in my case they were.  The first few days were hard but it didn’t take long for my body not to be dependent on sugar anymore.  The book claims you will lose 8 – 13 pounds during Phase 1; I lost 10.  People who have less weight to lose upfront will not lose this much; this is mostly water weight that you have built up and you haven’t really started the major weight loss.

one of my early dinners: chicken, black beans, broccoli, grapes (would be a Phase 1 meal without grapes, Phase 2 with them)

After the first two weeks You then enter into Phase 2.  Many people (I was one) are reluctant to start adding carbs back into their diet because they are afraid they won’t continue to lose.  However, Phase 1 was only to help rid your body of cravings.  It is too restrictive to maintain for the long term and it isn’t a well-balanced way to eat.  In Phase 2 you slowly begin adding in good carbs.  This is another key to SB – the carbs that you do eat are good carbs, meaning that they have a low glycemic index (your body has to work harder to break them down – I’ll talk about that more in a minute).  I think the book recommends that you start with one item the first week, then add something in the next week, continuing slowly to see how your body reacts.  I believe apples were the first thing I added back in.  In Phase 2 you can have fruit, bread, pasta, etc. just in smaller quantities than you might have originally and making better choices.  Phase 2 is the weight loss phase and that is what you will follow until you have reached your desired weight.

a good SB dessert – strawberries dipped in a little dark chocolate

Phase 3 is the maintenance phase.  This is basically how you will eat for the rest of your life to maintain your weight and your health.  I think Phase 3 is basically the same thing as Phase 2, except you can be a little more lenient on treats.  I never consciously said “I’m moving on to Phase 3 now” but I suppose that is where I am now.

Like I said before, SB teaches you to eat foods that have a low glycemic index.  The book goes in to this in great detail but basically you want to eat foods that make your body work, that release sugar gradually into your body rather than all at once.  For example, eating an orange is much better than drinking orange juice – with the orange your body has to break down the white stuff and the pulp while the orange juice is already totally processed for you and is basically just a sugar dump (why do you think that orange juice is commonly given to diabetics when their sugar drops too low?).  Another example is oatmeal.  The instant oats have had all the good fibrous material stripped from them so your body doesn’t have to work hard to digest them.  If you eat old fashioned (rolled) oats or steel cut oats they keep you fuller longer and don’t turn to sugar as quickly.

Some of the changes I made were switching from white bread to wheat, eating sweet potatoes rather than white, brown rice over white, and whole fruit rather than juice.

whole wheat, homemade pizza (see dough recipe here)

SB is not a low fat diet, either.  They do recommend eating/drinking low fat cheese, sour cream, and milk, but most items they encourage you to eat the full fat version.  The reasoning is that good fats help keep you fuller longer so you eat less.  Also, many low fat or fat free products have more sugar that has been added to make up for the lack of taste from the reduction in fat.  So I eat nuts, peanut butter, full fat dressing, and I cook with olive oil or canola oil.

Another thing SB teaches is how to pair up carbohydrates, which will break down in your body quickly, with fat and protein, which don’t break down as quickly.  If I just eat fruit for breakfast I get hungry very quickly.  If I pair that fruit with fats and/or proteins I will stay full for longer (i.e. apple with peanut butter).  Because of that, I eat some form of eggs nearly every morning for breakfast along with whatever else I’m having so that I know I’ve gotten some protein.

What SB doesn’t do is count stuff.  No counting calories or points (although I have used that some – I’ll talk about that another day), just eating whole, healthy foods.  They do give you a sort of template of how many servings of protein, fat, dairy, vegetables, and carbs to have per day but I didn’t always follow that.

The book gives far more details.  There are lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid as well as recipes and meal ideas.

Also, if you’re serious about SB, check out – this is a discussion board where you can get support, recipes, and ideas.  I used this tons when I first started out.

Alright, well that’s the longest post I’ve ever written!  But I hope you know a little bit more about South Beach and will check it out if you are wanting to have a healthier lifestyle.  Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have.

(keep reading: part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, and part 7)


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