Sunday, Jun. 27, 2004 | 5:53 p.m.
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Three Days of Madness
I just concluded three days of madness and have thankfully returned to my senses. I am deeply embarrassed to admit I got sucked in by a diet -- the South Beach Diet. I got sucked in because it sounded more sane than some of the others out there nowadays -- it doesn't require the elimination of carbohydrates, at least not in the long run.
I knew someone awhile back who was doing it, and I pretty much dismissed it out of hand at that point. The person on the diet wasn't the most stable person, so I just chalked it up to another low carb bs diet and shook my head, chuckling.
Then more recently someone I do feel respect for decided to give it a try and after talking to her about it, I decided to take a closer look at it. I joined the website, bought the book and cookbook. As I read, I had the following doubts:
In Phase 1, the book says you will lose between 8-13 pounds because of the changes in diet. In that phase, these changes include the total elimination of carbs, except for approved vegetables, for two weeks. My initial reaction -- this loss is probably water weight. And if you follow their diet plan, it's also due to a restriction of calories, between 1500-1800 each day.
The book talks a lot about blood sugar and how it affects hunger. And while it claims to NOT be a low carb diet, almost every testimonial in the book talks about how evil carbs are and how the dieters continue to limit their intake of carbs because they are afraid carbs make you fat. In fact, it is stated in several places in the book that carbs are "fattening." Er, no. Too many calories are fattening. My body doesn't really care where they come from -- if I eat too much of WHATEVER, I will get fat. If by some insane trick of nature I managed to eat too much broccoli and exceeded my caloric needs for a day, I would gain weight. And for sure if I eat too much steak, I will get fat. It's calories, people, calories!
I got sucked in, though, by the explanation of how simple carbohydrates, i.e. refined sugars and flours, can make you feel hungrier, which in turn leads to more eating. Now THAT made sense to me because I have experienced eating breakfast cereal and been hungry an hour later, while a breakfast of eggs doesn't have that same effect. The information about how it takes my body longer to process protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates is something I knew from before, so I bought the idea of hyperreactive diabetes, or whatever the hell it's called (I'm too lazy to pick up the book and look). I've since read an article that pretty much debunks the science of this diet. At the time, the science was what convinced me to give it a try.
So Phase 2 and 3 are more reasonable and incorporate complex carbs, but even though the book claims not to be low carb, the author spends a great deal of time discouraging eating much of them, even the "good" kind. If the limits on complex carbs were lifted, Phase 2 & 3 are very similar to a well-balanced diet -- the one we've been told we should be following for years -- and are pretty much the way I eat anyway.
So... I tried Phase 1 for three days. Three days of insanity. I felt dizzy, even though I ate according to plan, supplemented with allowable snacks and drank plenty of water. I had migraines. I felt, in short, like shit and far from healthy. And the weight loss? It was pretty much the same as what I experience when I eat healthily (including complex carbs) and exercise. Basically, my weight loss was the same as when I follow Weight Watchers guidelines, make good nutritional choices and exercise. So why on earth would I want to feel like crap and deprive myself of things I like, like freakin' whole grain bread, cereal with complex carbs and whatever else I feel like having? The recipes in SBD were great and I will probably keep the books for that reason alone, but as for the rest... Well, it's about portions and calories and activity. And I won't be seduced away from that again.
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