Thursday, January 24, 2008

book review: the south beach diet

I've been doing a bit of research, as part of my plan to take control of my diet, feel healthier and STOP GAINING WEIGHT. Oh, and I'd like to fend off cancer, too.

The South Beach Diet was written by cardiologist, Arthur Agatson, "in order to reverse the myriad of heart and vascular problems that stem from obesity" (p.7). Web MD describes South Beach as "a heart-friendly version of the Atkins Diet."

The premise of the diet is that we feel better and lose weight when our insulin levels are regulated and that the way to do this is by consuming mostly foods with with a lower glycemic index (because I am lazy, I am going to let Wiki fill you in on the details).

The book promises that you will lose eight to thirteen pounds in the first two weeks of the diet (I think the idea is that a quick success will get you motivated), known as Phase 1. And the cover of the edition that I borrowed from the library offered the added bonus, "Lose Belly Fat First!"

Who wouldn't love a diet that offered quick results (although Dr. Agatson is very careful to say that weight loss does slow down in the second phase of the diet, when some previously forbidden foods are reintroduced) and that promised to trim fat from what for many of us (especially those of us who've had babies) is a source of considerable angst? And there is lots in this diet that does make sense.

I know that lean protein makes me feel more full and that, if I get too hungry and let my blood sugar drop, I become a little hysterical (my youngest son is very like me in this. If he gets too hungry, he becomes a little terror. The transformation once he is fed is truly remarkable). I also know that I feel much better when I avoid white sugar.

But I have to say that I am a little leery of a diet that prescribes bacon and eggs for breakfast most mornings and that frowns on whole grain bread (although Agatson does say that whole grains are much better than their refined counterparts).

And I know all to well what a bad idea it can be to try any diet that makes you feel deprived of foods you love.

What I am taking from this diet:
  • A good reminder to follow my naturopathic doctor's advice and avoid refined sugar.
  • Eat smaller meals and avoid getting too hungry.
  • Have snacks with good, healthy proteins.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates (I seldom bother with a bun when I have a burger and I don't have bread with dinner, usually. Avoiding carb-centred snacks, especially when we can't have nuts in the house, is more of a challenge).
I am keen to learn more about the glycemic index and how it affects metabolism, so expect more from me on this subject in the future.

I would also love to hear from any of you have successfully (or unsuccessfully) followed the South Beach Diet. What was your experience like? Does the diet work as a long-term lifestyle? Did all the saturated fats send your cholesterol through the roof?

I have been surprised by how much interest my posts on diet have generated. It seems that some of you actually are not bored when I write about what I've been eating.

This week, I made another small change based on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals: I eliminated the bedtime snack and stopped eating two hours before bedtime (food eaten late at night doesn't get burned off and I feel better when I wake up hungry).

Next week, I will eat fish at least once.


Anonymous said...

I so need to eat more fish, too.

Anonymous said...

I tried Atkins for awhile. My bloodwork, taken while on the diet, was fine. Good cholesterol was high, bad cholesterol was low, and the overall reading was below 200. My doctor was pleased.