SuitcaseSince starting the South Beach Diet two weeks ago, I’ve been fairly insulated from the “real word” of food. I’ve been fixing my three meals a day and two snacks for 14 days and so I haven’t had the opportunity to test the diet. Traveling to the 2004 PalmSource Dev Con gave me a chance to try and stay on the diet “in the wild” and it was definitely an experience.

I knew that there would be temptations along the way, but I really had no idea what to expect. One thing I was somewhat sure of is that my usual snacks would be hard to come by, so I packed a handful of string cheese snacks. These little cheese tubes don’t need refrigeration, so it made it easy to keep something handy in case I got hungry. Little did I know how handy they would become.

A Little About The Diet
The South Beach Diet is broken down into 3 phases. Phase One is the strictest part of the diet, yields the fastest results in regards to weight loss, and lasts 2 weeks. I look at this phase a way to cleanse your system and bloodstream of all the junk that you’ve been eating up to this point. Phase Two is when you begin to add back certain amounts of carbs and sugars. Your weight loss is not as fast, but it’s an easier diet to follow. You stay on Phase 2 until you reach your desired weight. Once that happens, you then move to Phase 3, which is the diet you will use for the rest of your life. It’s a very liberal diet, but you still limit your carbs and sugar intake so that you don’t overload your system with sugars.

It’s an easy diet to follow and I’ve had a lot of success with it thus far. During the first two weeks I’ve lost 9.5 pounds and most of that weight has been in my belly, so the results are very noticeable. 🙂 What I like best about it is that if I “fall of the wagon” and eat 100lbs of McDonald hamburgers, I just move back to Phase One for a week and then go back to where I was in the diet. It was designed by a cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston, and he’s made it very easy to follow, but I digress. If you’d like to learn more about the diet, there’s an excellent excerpt from the book that provides a good overview at this link.

A Good Start
Monday morning was the first day of Phase Two and according to the meal plan found in the book, our breakfast included a bowl of Oatmeal. This wasn’t instant oatmeal either. The diet calls for an oatmeal that still retains a lot of its fiber, so we ate a very healthy and hearty oatmeal made of rolled oats. This was the first pure carb that we’d had in two weeks, so I was really looking forward to it. If that wasn’t enough, Monday’s breakfast also marked the return of fruit in our diet. We were able to add fresh strawberries to the oatmeal as well!

The book claimed that after the first two weeks, I would have no more cravings for carbs. I found this ludicrous when I read it. I was born in Louisiana where bread and rice are staples at every meal. I’m also a confirmed junk food junkie, so the idea of not craving French Fries, or my Madelines just seemed impossible. Surprisingly the book is right and I have lost my cravings for carbs! :O That being said, I was still looking forward to the oatmeal, because of the remembered desire for carbs. All in all it was very good, but it wasn’t as good as I expected it to be. It was tasty and delicious, but I could take it or leave it.

Eating And Airports
With breakfast under my belt, I was off to the airport to fly to San Jose. On the way there I had the sudden realization that having a nice big bowl of high fiber oatmeal perhaps wasn’t the best idea. Spending a day traveling with only limited and/or public bathrooms available could present quite a challenge should these rolled oats really get to moving. That’s probably more than you wanted to know, but I had to laugh as I wondered just what my body was going to do to me that day! 😀

Northwest didn’t offer any snacks on the flight from Nashville to Minneapolis, so I ate one of my string cheese snacks. Knowing that they would serve lunch on the flight from Minneapolis to San Jose, I only grabbed a coffee at my layover. That was a mistake. The lunch that was served was a sandwich, which consisted of a large white flour roll (a definite no no), a thin piece of lettuce and a thin piece of turkey. Included in the box lunch was a small bag of Fritos (a no no) and an apple. The only apples I recall being OK in Phase Two are Granny Smith apples, so the only thing I could eat was the lettuce and turkey. 🙁

Just before touch down, I ate another string cheese snack, but by the time we reached the hotel, I was famished. Coupled with the change in time zones, I had had very little to eat that day, so I found a Subway nearby and had a nice grilled chicken salad. I never thought these words would ever come out of my mouth, but that was one damn good salad.

My First Restaurant
As I stated before, since starting the diet, all of the food that I’ve had has been prepared at home. I haven’t been to a restaurant in two weeks, but thanks to the wonderful folks at PalmSource, I was invited to attend a dinner at a nearby restaurant. Looking over the menu, I found that there was a ton of food that I could choose from. Other than a couple of quick questions about how certain things where prepared, it was quite easy to order dinner.

Alcohol is not allowed during Phase One and Phase Two, so I had to skip the beer and wine. That was a little harder than I thought it would be because Mike Rohde ordered a Guinness beer (my favorite) and California is known for it’s wine and I LOVE wine. It was a strong temptation, but I wouldn’t say it was a craving, so it was fairly easy to resist. And that’s the thing about this diet – I do have temptations, but I wouldn’t call them cravings. For example, I may have a temptation to punch someone in the nose, but I know I won’t do it. 😛 That’s how I feel about carbs and sugars. I’m tempted to drink a Guinness, but I’m not craving it.

This distinction between cravings and temptations became even more apparent when the fresh bread was served before the appetizers. I used to be a bread fiend, so I was expecting that I would have a VERY hard time avoiding the bread. In Phase Two some bread is added back to the diet, but it has to be a whole grain bread and none of that was being served. Sourdough was, but that doesn’t come back until Phase Three, so I just skipped it all together. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any cravings for the bread and found it easy to just skip it.

So what did I eat? Well, I skipped the appetizer and settled on fresh Ahi Tuna prepared rare with a dinner salad. The dinner salad allowed me to eat something while others enjoyed their appetizers and the Tuna was out of this world. It was a HUGE slab of fresh Ahi Tuna and was seared to perfection. Some of the best I’ve ever had. All-in-all it was quite easy dining out and a lot of fun to boot! I had plenty of great food to eat and it really didn’t feel all that different than when I wasn’t on the diet. I’m simply eating different things is all.

Conference Food
On Tuesday the conference started and as I sipped my first cup of coffee I quickly realized that nothing that was being offered for breakfast was on my diet. It was a typical continental breakfast of bagels, muffins and Danishes and none of those were acceptable foods. There was some fresh fruit, but I decided eating 6 strawberries was only going to make me want more food, so I just skipped it all together and ate a string cheese snack.

When lunch was offered, I was happy to see that there was were some foods that were OK. There was some fresh salmon and tenderloin, so I stuck to those two with some mixed greens. I wasn’t sure how either were prepared, so I held back somewhat. For example, it looked like there was a glaze of some sort on the fish and that meant that there could be a lot of sugar in the dish.

My hope was that dinner would be more in line with my diet. Unfortunately, dinner consisted of all finger foods and thus tended to be wrapped in some sort of bread. There were some chicken skewers, but there were definitely coated in a sugared glaze so I ate a few of them, but that was it. At this point I was down to one last string cheese snack, so figured I’d call it a night.

PalmSource is a great conference and there’s never enough time to do everything you’d like to do and since my day started at 7:00am and didn’t end until 10:00pm, there wasn’t time to run to a convenience store and purchase extra snacks. I looked at the room service menu, but it was WAY to expensive and nothing jumped out as low-carb. So the downside to the conference is that I didn’t have the flexibility to hop in a car and go to a grocery store, or find other sources of food. Either I paid a lot of money for a fancy meal, or I would have to go off the diet.

The Breakdown
Since starting the South Beach Diet, I’ve never found myself starving. I’ve been a bit peckish at times, but I’ve never been hungry. This was the first time since starting the diet where my stomach was growling. As I sat in my room that evening, the mini bar kept calling to me, but there was nothing in there that was on my diet. Well, I take that back, there was a container of cashews and nuts are OK, but at $12.00, my outrage at the price far outweighed my pangs of hunger.

I busied myself with packing and checking e-mail, but I eventually broke down and ate a Snickers bar. It tasted pretty good and I found it to be pretty filling, but not filling enough, so I ate the bag of peanut M&M’s as well. It was just sugar and I felt no guilt as I popped the last M&M into my mouth. I had dodged a lot of bad food thus far and I figured this one small indulgence wouldn’t be too bad of a strike against me.

Airport Food – Take Two
Knowing that breakfast was going to be the same, I knew that I would have to skip it all together again, so I ate my last string cheese snack. It wasn’t filling, but I figured I could grab something at the airport when I made it there at around 11:00am. So no sooner did I check in and I was headed in search of acceptable food in the Food Court.

To my surprise, I found that Burger King is now serving “platters” of their food. They had a Whopper and a Chicken Whopper platter and I ordered them both. They each are served without condiments (no ketchup, mayo, or mustard) or bread. Instead, they place them in a plastic container and it’s akin to eating a salad with a hunk of meat on it. I ordered both because I knew that I may not find anything else the rest of the day. I put my bounty into a To Go bag and headed through security and on to my gate.

As I sat down to eat the first platter, I realized that they didn’t give me any utensils in which to eat with. I don’t know about you, but I find eating shredded lettuce by hand a little hard to do. There was no way I was walking all the way back and go through the security process again, so I just grabbed the meat and ate it. It was a little messy, but at this point, I just needed something in my stomach.

The airplane lunch on the flight back was the same, so I enjoyed another taste treat of thin lettuce and turkey. I was so glad I had eaten the Burger King earlier, because otherwise I KNOW I would have eaten the bread and Fritos, if not the entire plastic container! At 7:00pm, I reach Minneapolis and was lucky enough to find a Nathan’s hot dog stand just as I reached my connecting gate. I purchased a hot dog with sauerkraut, minus the bun. It wasn’t fancy, but it kept the hunger pangs at bay.

Home To Good Food
Once I arrived home, I was back in my element and enjoyed a delicious meal of grilled chicken, all the vegetables I could eat and a tasty dessert. I have never thought of my home as an oasis for food. I’ve always thought of going out to eat as the norm. Since starting this diet, I didn’t realize just how much my diet consisted of fast food and restaurants. Today it’s a different story and after eating my fill, it was good to be home. 🙂

Final Thoughts
The hardest part about staying on a diet when you travel is the limited options you have when eating. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself in a situation where you have very few options of what to eat. As long as you think ahead and eat when you have plenty of options it’s not hard. It’s only when you’re trapped in a conference, or on a flight where your options can be limiting to the point where you find yourself stuck in a corner.

Next time I travel, I’m going to assume that there is nothing to eat on the plane and plan ahead. I could have easily packed a lunch as I did the snacks and that would have helped tremendously. The only other hurdle is to find a grocery store or an inexpensive restaurant nearby that is open early so that I don’t have to skip breakfast.

All that being said, the beauty of the South Beach Diet is that I could have simply eaten anything I wanted. The diet is designed to be followed in the real world and sometimes things can’t be avoided. That’s why I didn’t feel guilty about eating the Snickers candy bar. If I had eaten what was offered and not worried about it, I would simply go back to Phase One for one week to cleanse my system and then go back to where I was in the diet. I decided to take the hard road simply because I’ve had such great success thus far and I didn’t want to have to take a step back. 🙂