NOW THAT WE have put our clocks back and the first heavy rainfalls have finally arrived, I need to talk to you about Christmas and it’s unhealthy ‘side effects’ – overeating, drinking, and subsequently getting depressed when you stand on the scales.
Recently, all my staff and friends have been following the ‘South Beach Diet’ (SBD). They all recently proudly presented their new flat abdomens to me, saying, ‘you need to look at this for your patients, it really works’. So I did.
The South Beach Diet was developed by Dr Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist from Florida. He is well-known in his field and runs a large cardiology practice in Miami. After many years in cardiology, he became increasingly frustrated, because most of the diets he advised his patients to go on did not work. So, he decided to look into why these highly recommended diets were failing so many of his patients.
He started to research all existing diet plans and after studying for some time became a nutritionist. Finally, he developed a very simple diet plan for the patients of his practice. To his own surprise most of them following the eating plan reported back with excellent results and impressive weight loss.
The diet plan of Dr Agatston spread rapidly in the Miami community, and shortly after its initial success, he decided to publish the diet in a book, The South Beach Diet.
In essence, the SBD is not about avoiding carbohydrates altogether, but about eating the right forms. In contrast to the Atkins Diet it does, of course, allow carbohydrates, but only the so-called ‘good’ carbs, with a low glycemic index. It is important to understand the meaning of the glycemic index, to grasp why the SBD does work.
When we eat food that contains carbohydrates, their digestion process begins in the mouth and leads to the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. The lower in fibre and easier to digest the carbohydrates are, the quicker and higher the insulin response is. A peak of glucose in our blood is followed by a peak of insulin and this then transports the glucose to our cells. Subsequently, we feel hungry quite soon after having eaten foods that are high in this type of carbs, which are not filling despite being high in calories. The glycemic index is defined in relation to pure glucose, which has a glycemic index of 100 per cent. Foods with a high glycemic index include white bread, potatoes, white rice, pasta, sweets, sugary drinks, beer and corn flakes – all ranking in the 80 per cent region. Foods that are low in the glycemic index are vegetables, milk, nuts, wholemeal products, fish and lean meat. This list is general and it is important to look at a scientific GI (glycemic index) for a more detailed list. Eating only food with a low glycemic index avoids peaks of insulin. Only with insulin in the blood stream, can the body absorb energy, carbs, fat and to some extent, protein. Food with a low GI satisfies hunger for longer and one experiences less cravings for carbohydrates.
The weight loss in the first phase of the diet is quite impressive, which again is good for the motivation of the user. During the first two weeks of the diet the patient has to follow very strict instructions and precise recipes. However, once that initial phase is finished patients can choose from a wider range of foods – Agatston promises that on this diet, nobody goes hungry.
The SBD seems to have a rather neutral effect on cholesterol and blood fats, despite the fact that one eats a lot of meat. This must be due to the fact that the weight comes off quickly and less body fat also means to some extent less blood cholesterol.
After reading the book and looking at my slim nurses I was quite impressed with Dr Agatston’s diet. The SBD is certainly a safe way of trying to tackle those superfluous pounds, before or after Christmas. Why don’t you give it a try? For help and advice, you can call my Practice Manager, Stella, who is thinking of moving to Florida to join the team on the South Beach.
If you should be a bit tired of the Algarve, I have another good piece of advice for you which I tried and tested for myself, last week. Book a flight to London and go to work for a week in the city. Rise at 7am, squashed in the tube at 8am with thousands of other commuters who are pale, and hungry to see some sun shine. Go back home by tube at 7pm when it’s dark and miserable. And then sit in a traffic jam from the tube station all the way to your house.
To live away from our idyllic existence here in the Algarve is a very effective way of helping us all to appreciate our privileged lives in this part of the world, despite a few holes in the roads.
Best wishes from your
Dr Thomas Kaiser
Dr Thomas Kaiser works at the Family Medical Centre in Quinta do Lago
Tel: 289 398 009, 917 967 424 or
email: [email protected]