We’ve been on the South Beach diet for nearly four weeks now, and it’s working.  Painfully slowly, but the scale is trending steadily downwards.  We’ve both lost 16 lbs so far, and it hasn’t sucked too much.  Most of the time, we’re not starving.

One note on the book: I know that they do it because it’s “motivational,” but I find the case studies in the book to be ludicrous. They’re all, “I don’t even look at ice cream in the store anymore.”  Yeah, that’s technically true, but it’s misleading; you don’t look, because it’s so fucking painful to not be able to have that stuff.  Chips isle?  Big no-no.  I come out the other end crying.  Bakery? I hear their voices, in my head, even from home.

By far the worst, though, is the beer.  Beer, to the South Beach dieter, is Satan.  Apparently, if you even look at beer, you’ll gain weight.  The theory is sound: beer is 100% carbs, with nothing redeeming in it to stop your body from turning it directly into fat.  Personally, I think they’re ignoring the fact that beer, like a person, also contains a soul, which is not measurable and is the source of everything good and right in the world.  The inability to drink beer on this diet causes me actual, physical, pain.  You know Munch’s The Scream?  That’s me.

Anyway, to the point of this post: sugar substitutes.  We’ve been through most of them over the past month, and I’m here to tell you:  nothing is as good as sugar.  Anybody who tells you that there is something as good as sugar is delusional (and you have to be, a little bit, to make diets like this bearable).  Rather than lie to yourself, have a little backbone, and man up.  Nothing is as good as sugar, but we did find something that’s pretty darn close.  I haven’t found any substitute for honey, which means that I don’t drink tea any more.  That’s sad, but compared to the other inconveniences of this diet (no baguette ), it ranks pretty far down on my complaints.

  • Stevia.  Ok, I really don’t see how anybody can count this as a “sweetener.”  The fact that it has a sweet-like taste is overwhelmed by the fact that it is also overwhelmingly nasty.
  • Splenda. I actually don’t mind Splenda.  It doesn’t fool me, but it’s an adequate substitute in a pinch.  Monika really dislikes it, though, and claims that it has that oddly common “sugar substitute taste.”  I don’t notice the aftertaste too much.
  • Agave. Ok, now, I could see how eating an Agave plant might be interesting, but as a sugar substitute… yuck.  It doesn’t have the aftertaste, but it certainly has it’s own peculiar quality that completely distracts from whatever it is that you’re trying to sweeten.  I mean, when I eat or drink something sweetened with Agave, what I taste is Agave.  Cookies taste like Agave.  Coffee tastes like Agave juice.  If you like eating Agave, then this is probably fine, but in my opinion, it defeats the purpose of the thing.
  • Aspartame. Yeah, this is the reason why there are so many other alternative sugar substitutes.  It tastes like you’re sweetening your food with cancer.  I just can’t get past the industrial taste.
  • Swerve.  And now we come to the pay-out.  This is an amazing product. The only problem with it is that it is outrageously expensive, and you can get it from only one source.

I discovered Swerve in the first week of the diet, while desperately looking for something that we could sweeten the South Beach desert recipes with (they only call for “sugar substitute” in the recipes) that we could stand.  This stuff is, frankly, amazing.  Like most sugar substitutes, the sweet taste hits your tongue at different places than sugar, but there’s no real aftertaste to speak of.  The oddest part of this sweetener is that it has an ethereal quality, almost like a smell of sweet, that lingers.  It is hard to explain; however, even if we weren’t on the South Beach diet, I could easily replace sugar with Swerve in my diet, and thereby reduce my daily glycemic index significantly… except for the price.

As I mentioned before, the only downside to this product is the cost.  A pound is $17.  Seventeen dollars.  A five pound bag of sugar is, like, $2.50.  That makes this Swerve about 35 times as expensive as sugar.  And since one of Swerve’s claims to fame is that it is a 1-to-1 substitute for sugar (1tbsp Swerve = 1tbsp sugar), that’s pretty horrible.  I tell you now, Swerve: those prices aren’t sustainable.  As we near our weight goals, we’re going to re-introduce sugar, not because you’re not good enough, but because you’re so damned expensive.

I won’t do too much of a sell-job on Swerve.  I’m pretty much a convert, though, and highly recommend to anybody wanting to reduce the number of carbs they’re intaking to give it a try.  I’m guessing that cutting sugar out of your diet would make a pretty significant dent in your weight gain, or give a boost to your weight loss, or if you’re hypoglycemic, or diabetic, or any of a number of other reasons.

As long as you can afford it.

Copyright © Sean Elliott Russell

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