Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Dream Diet

I envy the working mothers who are able to balance work and household demands with their personal needs, because, a working mother myself, I could not for the life of me achieve such balance. The demands of both the household and the office often take precedence over my health and concerns of vanity. My busy schedule along with my healthy appetite and sporadic attacks of laziness make it very difficult to exert that extra effort to exercise and prepare healthy meals.  The decrease in my metabolism as I age do not help any.

It was one fateful day when I had too much of the oft-repeated question of whether I was pregnant (alluding to my big belly) with my second child that I finally took stock of how I have been looking.   You see, I have learned to ignore or feign indifference to my appearance. I have convinced myself that I am beautiful inside, and external appearances do not matter.  That morning, I also got to see KC Concepcion on her morning show wearing this very nice dress and looking great. I thought to myself, that dress would also look good on me-- ten years and thirty pounds ago! Yes, I know, KC is still young, and I am not, so, there is no point of comparison.  But what really got to me was just how sad it was that when I could already buy my own clothes; I no longer had the desire to buy the outfits I once dreamed of having. My closet is in fact filled with clothes that have already gone out of fashion but which I kept in the hope that I could once again fit into them. So, for the first time, in like forever, I swore to lose the weight that was preventing me from looking and feeling great (a la Judy Ann’s Fitrum commercial).

Since losing weight was my primary goal, I scoured the internet for fast and effective weight loss programs.  What I found however were a lot of fad diets. The easiest and fastest diet I found was drinking a cup of diet tea before retiring at night. I was so happy at finding such an easy and inexpensive way to lose weight (a tea bag costs about P10), but feedbacks of dieters’ excruciatingly painful experiences and the diet’s possible adverse health effects made me look for another one. Then I heard about the juice diet which forbids solid food for a couple of weeks. But feedbacks of how difficult and unrealistic the diet was made me search some more. It was through a very good friend from my undergraduate days that I learned about the South Beach Diet formulated by one Dr. Arthur Agatston, an American cardiologist whose diet became such a craze in South Beach, Miami, Florida (thus the diet’s name).  My friend insisted that I read the book which she lent me (old versions of the book are available in second hand bookstores) so I would understand the diet better.  She swore that reading the book made her stick to the diet since she knew and appreciated the reasons behind it. So, I read the book while undergoing the diet, and I came to understand that the diet is more of a life-long commitment as it teaches people to adopt or integrate the diet as a lifestyle. Dr. Agatston created the diet for his heart patients who were finding it hard to stick to diets meant to lower their cholesterol, keep their hearts healthy, and prevent them from having heart diseases. It is neither a low-fat diet nor a low-carbohydrate one, unlike other popular diets that came before and after it.  The diet, which consists of three phases, teaches people which fats or carbohydrates are good for one’s health, and which are not. It actually espouses eating, as it requires one to eat three meals a day with snacks in between. There is no starving oneself, only eating the right kinds of food, even to one’s heart’s content! Weight loss was only a desirable consequence of keeping oneself healthy.

The book lists foods to eat and avoid during Phase 1.  The list has to be followed strictly for two straight weeks. Failure to faithfully adhere to this list entails starting Phase 1 over again. Here is the list of foods to enjoy and avoid during Phase 1:


Beef: lean cuts such as sirloin (including ground), tenderloin, top round

Poultry: cornish hen, low fat turkey sausage (one serving per week), turkey bacon (2 slices per day), turkey and chicken breast

Seafood: all types of shell fish and fish

Pork: boiled ham, canadian bacon, tenderloin

Veal: chop, cutlet leg, top round

Lunchmeat: fat free or low fat only

Cheese (fat-free or low fat): American, cheddar, cottage cheese 1-2% or fat free, cream cheese substitute (dairy free), feta, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, ricotta, string

Nuts: almonds (15pcs), cashews (15pcs), macadamia (8pcs), peanut butter (2tbsps), peanuts (20 small), pecan halves (15pcs), pistachio (30pcs)

Eggs: the use of whole eggs is not limited unless otherwise directed by your physician. Use egg whites and egg substitute as desired.
Dairy: milk (fat-free or 1%), milk soy (plain low fat, 4g of fat or less per serving), buttermilk (fat-free or 1%), yogurt (plain, fat-free)

Tofu: use soft, low fat or lite varieties that contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving

Vegetables and legumes: artichokes, asparagus, beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce (all varieties), mushrooms (all varieties), snow peas, spinach, sprouts (alfalfa), tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts, zucchini

Fats: oil (canola and olive)

Spices and Seasonings: all spices that contain no added sugar, broth, extracts (almond, vanilla or others), horseradish sauce, I Cant Believe Its Not Butter Spray, Pepper (black, cayenne, red, white)

Sweet Treats (limit to 75 calories per day): candies (hard, sugar free), chocolate powder (no sugar added), cocoa powder (baking type), fudgesicles (no sugar added), gelatin (sugar free), gum (sugar free), popsicles (sugar free), sugar substitute


Beef: brisket, liver, other fatty cuts, rib steak

Poultry: chicken (wings and leg), duck, goose, processed poultry products

Pork: honey baked ham

Veal: breast

Cheese: brie, edam, nonreduced fat

Vegetables: beets, carrots, corn, white potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams

Fruits: avoid all fruits and fruit juices in phase 1 including apples, apricots, berries, cantaloupe, grapefruit, peaches, pears

Starches and carbs: avoid all starchy food in phase 1 including bread (all types), cereal, matzo, oatmeal, rice (all types), pasta (all types), pastry and baked goods (all types)

Dairy: avoid the following dairy in phase 1: yogurt (cup style and frozen), ice cream. Milk (whole or 2% fat)

Miscellaneous: alcohol of any kind

The book also provides recipes for Phase 1 meals, and the online site at features a lot of new recipes and very helpful tips.

Prior to starting the diet, one should weigh oneself to monitor future weight loss. Per my recollection of Dr. Agatston’s advice in his book, the next time one should weigh oneself would be after Phase 1. With my low EQ, I weighed myself almost everyday, and after two weeks, I lost 13 lbs., mostly from my waist. The book indeed guaranteed that the first to go would be one’s belly fat.  Encouraged by my weight loss, and against the advice of Dr. Agatston in the book, I tried to extend Phase 1, but with some modifications. I still tried to stick with the Phase 1 list, but should I slip, I would only eat the foods allowed in Phase 2.  It worked for me, but Dr. Agatston in his book advised against it because most of those who extended Phase 1 found it very hard to stick to the diet to the point of having relapses which resulted in food binging and gaining back the weight (if not more) lost during Phase 1 of the diet. The best thing with Phases 2 and 3 was what Dr. Agatston termed as “cheat days” when dieters could indulge in foods that should be avoided. 

Per Dr. Agatston, the duration of Phase 2 would depend upon one’s weight loss goal. If one were to achieve one’s weight loss goal, then it would be time to transition to Phase 3 of the diet which is more of a lifestyle. Dr. Agatston trusts that, armed with the knowledge of which foods to enjoy and avoid, those who underwent Phases 1 and 2 of the diet would then know better to eat the right kinds of food. There is thus no list of the Phase 3 foods to enjoy and avoid.

I achieved my weight loss goal in just 3 months of being in the diet. In August 2010 when I started the diet, I weighed 142 lbs., the heaviest I have been my entire life. In November 2010, I weighed 117 lbs., 25 lbs. lighter. My target weight was 120 lbs., but I was only too happy to have lost 3 extra pounds. I went back to eating white rice and bread, but somehow, my appetite was never the same. I immediately feel full when eating, and my newfound knowledge of the right kinds of fats and carbohydrates keeps me from eating or indulging in unhealthy fares.  For some time, I was somehow “addicted” to Phase 1 of the diet that everyone was already exhorting me to stop lest I lose some more weight (attention/concern I thoroughly enjoyed and basked in!).

I strongly recommend South Beach Diet for the following reasons:

(1)            The food lists and the book are easy-to-follow guides;
(2)            Immediate weight loss serves as encouragement to stick to the diet;
(3)            The diet fosters healthy eating habits;
(4)            Weight loss without exercise (although recent versions of the book include moderate exercises to go with the diet), need I say more?

Finally, I have an ongoing wager with KSP here on which one of us would be able to bring back her college days’ weight in time for KSP’s family’s return to the country. Although I have every intention of not losing, I would not mind sharing my victory with her. So, KSP, want to give it a shot? :)


I now weigh 114 lbs. I want to be 110 lbs. What do you think? :)

[by MTK]

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