Alert readers of the Jersey Exile will remember that the wife and I tried out the South Beach Diet in the Fall of 2005, and succeeded in losing over 100 pounds combined while doing so. Dr. Arthur Agatson's approach to the "low-carb" diet is to differentiate between complex and simple carbohydrates, with the result that if you follow the diet you don't count carbs so much as pay closer attention to quality of carbohydrate that you're putting into your body. Moreover, once you've managed to lose weight using South Beach, it's very difficult to put those pounds back on unless you somehow manage to convince yourself that eating an entire pound of pasta or loaf of bread in one sitting is a good idea.
After almost a year and a half after losing more than seventy pounds, the closest I've come to gaining so much as a fraction of it back was this past holiday season, when baked goods abounded both at home and at work and good sense took a vacation all its own. Even then I couldn't have put on more than five or ten pounds, but that was more than enough excuse to return to Phase One again starting with the New Year, not only to wipe out the Christmas gains but perhaps to lose a few more pounds past where my body had stabilized the last time I'd gone on the stricter phases of the diet.
Make no mistake about it, however -- the first two weeks of this diet sucks, as you are pretty much restricted to meats, dairy, and vegetables, with nuts and such insubstantialities as Cool Whip Free with unsweetened Hershey's cocoa powder for dessert (I call this particular concoction "Chocolate Sadness"). This time around seems a little less painful than the first time, though, when I literally wanted to throw myself either off a very tall bridge or into an extra-large vat of Cheez-It crackers. We're six days into Phase One, and already the holiday pounds are a thing of the past for the both of us. After this phase is over you can start re-incorporating such foods as fruits, whole grain foods, and even a little alcohol, although beer is always a no-no.
Since my mind is wallowing in the realm of forbidden foods, let me share my Top Five South Beach (Dis)approved Foods that I tend to crave during the long march from Day One to Day Fourteen of this diet:
1. Uno's Rattlesnake Pasta. There's no reason in the world this should be as good as it is, since everything else I order at Pizzeria Uno's tends to make me want to wish I'd eaten anything else. Maybe it's the liberal sprinkling of pickled jalapeno slices?
2. Mack and Manco's Pizza. A Jersey Shore classic. Just dough, sauce, and cheese, baked to perfection. Best when eaten when the cheese is still molten and can slide off your slice onto your "nice" white O.P. corduroy shorts, as happened time and time again when I was a kid at the Ocean City boardwalk with my family (and did they ever let me go back to our rental house to change my clothes once it happened? Not on your life! Thanks for another traumatic memory, Mom and Dad...).
3. Cheez-Its. Dear God, I think they must be sprinkled with crack as well as salt and MSG.
4. Any pretzel from Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Utz, Snyders, Tom Sturgis, or any of the smaller companies whose product don't make it out of Delaware Valley due to the insatiable hunger for pretzels among the local inhabitants (nowadays I like to refer to my home of South Jersey as "Land of Type II Diabetes", what with the insane pretzel consumption and the fondness for Southern-style sweet tea -- iced tea with no lemon and extra sugar, something I grew up as a baby in lieu of milk or Simulac).
5. Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, from Stonewall Kitchen. Okay, pretty much anything from Stonewall Kitchen, but this is bar none my favorite jam or jelly in the universe. The best part is that my daughter loves it too -- she'll eat it out of the jar with a spoon!
Okay, now I'm ravenous...