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South Beach Diet experience Thu, Apr 28, 2011
I've had slightly high cholesterol for a while now, and after a few different failed attempts at regulating it with natural supplements and exercise, I decided to give the South Beach Diet a try.  My normal diet consists of lots and lots of carbohydrates, both in the "pure sugar" variety and in the "chocolate-covered" variety.  Thankfully I was blessed with genetics that enable me to eat whatever I want and never gain any weight.  But unfortunately I was cursed with the silent killer of high cholesterol.  There's some evidence that a diet high in vegetables and fiber and low in carbohydrates might have a beneficial effect on cholesterol.  As sort of a last ditch effort before I started taking prescription drugs, I decided to try it out for six months. 

The first few days were unpleasant.  Heck, the first half of the first day was unpleasant.  I stopped eating sugar and all other carbs before slowly reintroducing limited whole grains after a few weeks.  My body had to go through a period of withdrawal, where I felt tired and annoyed, and no amount of food made me feel satisfied.  It's a truly unique feeling to have a stomach full of food but to not feel full.  This mostly went away over time, and I found a few foods (like peanut butter) that took away hunger like magic.  I was surprised that I lost about 8-10 lbs in the first couple weeks, which was an added benefit I suppose.  I really didn't have a problem eating meat and vegetables all the time.  I'm a fan of things like Brussels sprouts, so it wasn't difficult increasing my intake of vegetables.  But after a solid month of daily salads for lunch, I got sick of them, though largely because of the dressing.  It's hard to find salad dressings with no or low carbs. 

Each week I was supposed to introduce a new whole grain carb, such as whole grain rice, whole grain bread, etc.  But by about the third week, I couldn't really find any more room in my diet for more food without cutting out the good stuff like meat and vegetables.  The diet's literature says to keep adding a carb until you get up to seven per day, which I still think is ridiculous.  You'd have to eat a boatload of food to reach that amount. 

It was interesting how my brain changed while on the diet.  I began thinking of my diet in terms of right and wrong, so that the foods I could eat were considered right, and the foods I couldn't eat were considered wrong.  That made it so that I didn't get too many cravings for things I couldn't eat.  And when I did give in on occasion, I felt bad about it.  I couldn't even have a guilty pleasure.  It was only guilt. 

My birthday occurred while I was on the diet, and my method of celebrating consisted of Dunkin Donuts coffee and a muffin, pizza and root beer for lunch, and ice cream cake for dessert.  That was a good day, and aside from that initial rush of sugar directly to my brain, my body experienced no ill effects. 

At about the three month mark, I happened to get a blood test for life insurance.  I fasted for twelve hours before the test just so my cholesterol readings would be accurate.  The results came back a few days later and showed that my cholesterol hadn't changed a single point.  I really wasn't expecting that outcome, so I took a few days before I decided to give up on my diet early.  The thing is, I was kind of looking forward to the diet not working because that would mean I could go back to my normal way of life and just take a magical pill to prevent a future heart attack.  Someone suggested that it was kind of cheap or weak to have to depend on a drug to fix me; I think of it as a miracle cure for something that would've killed me by middle age if I was living 50 years ago. 

I also feel bad about giving up on something early.  I'm not a quitter, but I just can't see a point in continuing this lifestyle change when there is absolutely zero benefit.  It was suggested that I continue the diet anyway because it seems like a good idea to eat healthy, but I argue there's literally no benefit to a change in diet for me, and that was proven pretty conclusively by a blood test.  I think it helps that my normal diet is actually fairly healthy, with only the occasional fast food and somewhat limited snacking (i.e. I don't eat a whole package of anything in one sitting).  Even without the diet, I typically eat healthy meals and exercise regularly, which is most likely a good thing.  So it looks like I'll continue doing that, with the addition of a daily pill.  It was worth a shot. #health

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