Thursday, July 06, 2006

The South Beach Diet Makes My Head Hurt

I am allergic to sugar.

Ok, I’m not really allergic, but my body reacts to sugar. And by react, I don’t mean it makes me hyper hyper hyper and until I bottom out and compact into in a quivering heap, only to wake up 30 minutes later with a craving for powdered donuts. I mean that sugar gives me headaches. Bad tension headaches that start at the base of my neck and work their way up and around my scalp.

This never happened until I went on the South Beach Diet.

I’m not bad-mouthing the South Beach Diet; I’m just saying that they need to be a little more explicit with the warning labels and side effects. Because this diet alters your body chemistry to the point where sugar hurts. In a very real sense, this is what all diets aspire to do, to stop motivating dieters through secondary re-enforcers (new clothes, people telling you how slim you look, school children stop taunting you with Eskimo pies, etc.) to primary re-enforcers (throbbing pain at the base of your skull 15 minutes after you eat a cream-filled eclair).

There are two big things about South Beachin’ that no one tells you. The first, and most important, is that it mucks around with your body chemistry. The first couple of weeks on the diet (what the diet book calls ‘purging’) is just about painful. And the diet doesn’t pull any punches; it tells you you’re going to be in for a rough time. Your body chemistry changes and the transition from one state to another takes it toll. What the diet book doesn’t tell you is that when you fall off the wagon by re-introducing sugars and carbs into your diet, your body goes through that transition all over again, but into the other direction. And, in my case, headaches happen.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make you keenly aware how much sugar is in everything, and how the new and improved South Beach body doesn’t like swimming in it.

The other big secret about the South Beach Diet is that all of the recipes cost you about 400 calories. What I mean is this – all of the recipes are labor intensive. There is chopping and cutting and pressing and sautéing and roasting and blending and sprinkling and serving and… finally… the eating two bites before collapsing out of exhaustion. There are no shortcuts or cooking cheats in these recipes, and absolutely no way to sneak in a little microwave use to make things easier.

My guess is that someone thought it would be great to combine an exercise regimen into the diet and just not tell anyone. So they worked daily exercises into the recipes. The diet hooks you with the promise of every meal being an order meat with a side of meat, and then it tricks you into chopping celery 2 hours a day.

I don’t understand why diet books feel this need to be sneaky. They should be upfront about what they’re promising to do, and then capitalize on it. Can you imagine diet books named “The Sugar Hurts Diet” or “Simmer to Slimmer : A Collection of Calorie-Burning Cooking Exercises.” Best sellers, all the way.

The downside of thinking along these lines is, of course, making up diets just to be creative. Because diets are all kind of absurd to begin with, it is only a slight veer from the world of “eat right and exercise” to the world of “silly.” I used to joke about the soon-to-be-released Lose Your Appetite: HR Geiger’s Ultimate Weight Loss Book until too many people believed that it was a real product. Dieting has become an art form. I can imagine an art school instructor giving the aspiring performance artists a "Create and Market a Diet" assignment right after the "Cover Yourself with Peanut Butter and Insects and Scream for 10 Minutes" assignment.

Ooo! Ooo! Or how about a Diet Reality TV show? People lose weight by performing outlandish meal preparation tasks? This wild gazelle recipe only works on Pike’s Peak where the atmospheric pressure is different. Our contestants must scale Pike’s Peak, wrestle a gazelle to the ground, dress it, and put it in the pressure cooker before the kids come home from school. Can they do it in time? Find out, after these messages!

Whoa. I just read what I wrote. Maybe I need to lay off the sugar.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Sorry to hear about the headaches. The obvious solution to me is not to give up sugar but to give up South Beach.