Since I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been shocked at how many people have written to me for diet advice. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, because I tried unsuccessfully for years to lose weight before I discovered the South Beach Diet in July of 2004, determined to get thin again after I hit my all time high weight that summer. Some of those people who write to me are fellow food bloggers, and for a while I’ve been promising to write a post like this with my own tips for getting started on eating the low-glycemic way.

I’m not a diet expert, just someone passionate about cooking who’s found a way of eating that lets me enjoy food and still maintain my weight. I also want to make it clear that South Beach is not a one-time fix. If I overindulge (like I have done this holiday season!) I’ll gain a few pounds and I do have to go back to phase one now and again for a diet tune-up. But in general I’ve found this way of eating to be easier to stick to than other diets I’ve tried, and when I’m eating the low glycemic way I feel great, have tons of energy, and don’t crave a lot of sugary or starchy foods.

I’ve written previously about how this diet changed my life and explained why I love the South Beach Diet. Last year at New Year’s time I shared Ten Reasons I Love the South Beach Diet. If you don’t know much about the low-glycemic South Beach Diet way of eating, you might like reading those posts to see if it sounds like something that would work for you. But if you’ve checked out a few diets and decided South Beach is worth giving a try, click the link to continue reading for some tips on getting started, based on the things that worked for me.

1. Start By Reading the Book

Boring as it may sound, I highly recommend you start by getting a copy of The South Beach Diet book and reading it from cover to cover. The book has been around so long you might be able to find it in a used book store, or you can follow the link above and get a used copy at When you read the book you’ll learn why the diet works, and how choosing the right foods will help you to be less hungry and eliminate cravings for the wrong kind of carbs. Every once in a while I read certain parts again, just to remind myself!  (I also recommend the newer book, The South Beach Diet Supercharged, which has a much more extensive list of food that are allowed.)

2. Learn About the Glycemic Index

South Beach is based on the glycemic index, which is a way of measuring how quickly and how high certain foods raise your blood sugar level. There’s a lot of information online about the glycemic index, but I recently found a discussion of the glycemic index on the site The World’s Healthiest Foods which was one of the most informative things I’ve seen. Learning about the glycemic index will help you choose foods that make you feel good, besides helping you lose weight.

3. Get Rid of Foods You No Longer Want to Eat

When I started the South Beach Diet, I completely cleaned out my cupboards and got rid of foods I knew I was no longer going to eat. Yes, I was committed to success! Removing those foods and replacing them with healthier alternatives really helped me make the mental shift to eating this way. (Give the food away to your local food bank and you’ll be able to handle the guilt about not wasting perfectly good food.) I found that the pantry was the main place where I had to purge, since my fridge and freezer contained mostly healthful vegetables and meats, but if you have ice cream or other sweets in the freezer, you’ll have to toss them too.

4. Stock Up on Low-Glycemic Foods

After I got rid of the things I was no longer going to eat, I replaced them with healthier alternatives for my new way of eating. It would be impossible for me to give a list that would work for everyone, but if you look in my cupboards now you will see things like whole wheat flour, brown rice, Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice, Dreamfield’s Pasta, Agave Nectar, almond meal, and arrowroot starch. For more ideas, I have a page on the blog where I talk about ingredients and I also feature low-glycemic products as Kalyn’s Kitchen Picks.

5. Decide How You Will Track Your Weight
As soon as I started the diet, I bought a digital scale and put it in a prominent spot in my kitchen. On the counter I put a week-at-a-glance calendar. Each morning I weighed myself as soon as I got up and wrote it on that calendar. I know many experts say you shouldn’t weight yourself every day, but it worked for me. I still have that same scale and a calendar in the same spot, although now I sometimes go days without remembering to weigh!

6. Take Measurements When You First Start
This is something I really wish I had done from the start, because after a few months of dieting I realized sometimes I wasn’t losing that much weight, but my clothes were getting looser. I did take measurements a few times that first year, but I wish I had a way of knowing exactly how many inches I lost, especially on my waist, which is where the South Beach Diet really works miracles.

7. Plan How to Fit Exercise Into Your Life
If anyone tells you that you’ll be able to maintain your perfect weight and optimum health without exercising, don’t believe them! The truth is that diet and exercise are meant to go together for good health and weight control. You don’t need to turn into a gym rat, but you will look and feel better if you manage to exercise fairly vigorously 3-4 times a week. I think lots of types of exercise are good; the important thing is finding something you’ll stick with. I’m a fan of walking for exercise, (and always have good intentions of doing yoga and pilates more frequently!)

8. Schedule in Food Prep Time on the Weekend
When I started eating the South Beach Diet way, I used to spend hours on the weekend cooking things and freezing them. That way I always had plenty of options to take for lunch to school or eat when I got home late and didn’t have time to cook. Now I don’t cook ahead quite as much, but I still spend at least an hour every weekend washing lettuce, cutting up veggies, and prepping other foods to cook during the week. That’s my way of making sure I have food ready to keep me on track. (I’ve never been so organized that I actually planned my meals for the week in advance, but that could be a great diet strategy if you’re that kind of person.)

9. Plan Snacks to Take With You When You’re Away From Home
One of the things I started doing early on in my South Beach Diet routine was planning snacks to take with me when I was away from home. On Monday I’d take a bag of snacks to work, and if I was going to be out and about I’d take snacks in the car. Snacks were something that helped prevent me from feeling deprived, and South Beach actually encourages eating a snack between meals for the first two phases of the diet. I wrote a post about My Top Ten Favorite South Beach Diet snacks if you’d like some ideas.

10. Check with Your Doctor if You Have a Lot of Weight to Lose
I actually didn’t tell my doctor when I started the South Beach Diet, but if you need to lose a significant amount of weight, I highly recommend that you do check with your doctor when you start. Just for the record, when I started on South Beach I was on medication for cholesterol and blood pressure both, and now I don’t need medication for either. My own doctor is a South Beach Diet fan, especially after seeing those results and how I’ve been able to maintain the weight loss, with a few tune-ups along the way! Occasionally I’ll get e-mails from other patients of his saying he has recommended my blog to them to help them stick to the diet.

Whew. I think it’s been more than six months since I promised a fellow food blogger I would write this post. I hope it will be helpful to anyone who’s considering the diet. As I mentioned, I’ll be doing phase one myself for the next few weeks, although maybe not phase one for the whole month, like I did last January! You can always find plenty of phase one ideas in the recipe archives on the left, where every recipe indicates which phase of the diet it would be suitable for.

If anyone is reading this who’s also a committed South Beach Dieter, I’d love to hear about your success in the comments.

Share This: