The Costco Diet

I read The South Beach Diet years ago, on the recommendation of a friend. It's a simple diet. You eat foods with a low glycemic index. This means that you avoid things that digest quickly, like bread, potatoes, pasta, sugar, etc. It's easy to take up for a couple of weeks and you'll lose about seven pounds -- more if you're fairly overweight.

There are problems with South Beach.

I've come back to the South Beach diet a number of times in my life and I always follows the same pattern. I start off with two weeks of following the diet religiously and lose about eight pounds. Then I bring back the things I want which aren't too bad for me, slowly eating with more and more abandon, and in about a year and a half, I realize I need to lose about ten pounds. I repeat the process.

In the past few years, I've been shopping at Costco, which is a great place to pick up five pound boxes of candy, big bags of breaded meat products, buckets of frozen bon-bons (these are very good and will definitely add an inch to your waistline), etc. My wife likes to get ice cream as she leaves and I invariably eat some of it. This contributes to my bi-annual realization that I've gotten fat.

But this year, I realized that while Costco can get you fat, it can also supply you with everything you need for your two week restart period. Furthermore, you can eat all you want and it'll probably be cheaper than if you ate what you normally eat.

If you follow this pattern for fourteen days, you'll lose some weight. It's not exactly what the South Beach diet recommends, but it's pretty close, and I think it's fairly reasonable. Here's what you do:

    Buy a rotisserie chicken. It's three pounds and about $5. It will last you several days. Eat it like a caveman (or cave woman). Whenever it's gone, go back and get another one. Hopefully, you won't get tired of the chicken until the last few days of the diet.

    Also buy the large carton of organic eggs. Eggs are about 100 calories each and contain a lot of protein. Buy Costco's best olive oil and cook the eggs using that instead of butter or other oils. Eat a couple of eggs a day, if you're out of chicken or bored of it or you want a cooked snack. Do not buy the non-organic eggs. If Costco is out of organics, don't buy any eggs there. Organic eggs are more nutritious, don't have antibiotics in them and mean a slightly nicer world for the chickens. (Note that the rotisserie chicken you've bought is not organic. Take a minute to send complaining email to Costco about this. Look for the "Contact Us" link on the "Customer Service" page on Costco's website.)

    Buy a big bag of frozen veggies. Costco has a number of option there. Don't get anything with breading or a sauce or salt or sugar. Avoid carrots. You can microwave most veggies for 30 seconds or so, and eat a bowlful at a time. They're filling. Pick any veggie you like other than carrots or potatoes.

    Costco has boxes of salad greens which you can eat plain. Also try the baby spinach. When you eat this stuff, do not put a dressing on it, no matter how healthy the bottle claims it to be. It's lying. Eat the salad plain. If you don't like it, don't worry, you have other options. The salad greens can be a little bitter -- you might find it an acquired taste.

    Buy a bag of snap peas. Eat them as a dessert or snack on them instead of potato chips.

    You can have steak if you want it. Costco sells them, so that's convenient. Pork is fine too, but you can't put barbecue sauce or "A1" on it. Some rosemary's fine for the pork. Salt is fine for either. Don't buy the ground beef or ground pork. Salmon steaks are a great idea too and can be found in Costco's freezer section. Cooking magazines and overpaid chefs claim you can improve on salmon by adding sauces on top. This is your chance to come to the sudden realization that a quick smear of olive oil and some salt, plus a few minutes in the broiler on high, is the best thing you can possibly do with salmon steaks.

    Try a bottle of plain kefir. You might like it. You also might not. Most Americans like really bland yogurt. Do not be seduced by yogurt with fruit in it, no matter what it says on the outside. It's all fattening, including the sugar-free stuff. Fake sweeteners make you consume more food. During this two week period you shouldn't be eating any sweeteners of any kind, real or fake.

    You can buy almonds to snack on, but I'm not sure it's a good idea: The bags of almonds at Costco are large, so you might be tempted to eat a lot of them. You can only have a few almonds a day. Almonds have more protein and less fat than most other nuts, but they're still fairly fattening.

    Check out the cheese. Expensive cheese that you would otherwise balk at is a good idea for this two week period. Costco has a pretty yummy wedges of goat cheese. Eat it in small servings. You can try your hand at making saganaki. Yes, that requires frying in butter. That's OK in moderation. The more work you do preparing your food, the better you'll enjoy it. Go light on the alcohol, if you're flaming the cheese. Alcohol is essentially sugar. It's not sweet, but it's calories nonetheless.

    Drink only water or tea or coffee for these two weeks. No pop, not even diet. Nothing sweet should pass your lips. If you like creamer in your coffee, take real milk, not non-dairy creamers.

Don't buy fruit. Don't buy prepared foods, no matter what's written on the box. Don't eat any candy. Don't eat ice cream. You'll lose weight. Really.

One last thing. You'll lose more weight and feel much better if you make a special effort to stay active during these two weeks. When you eat lunch, walk ten minute to the park and eat it there. If you work in a high-rise, walk down the stairs a couple of times a week. Do ten reps lifting something reasonably heavy to build up your upper body every other day. Don't go crazy -- don't hurt your back or pull any muscles, just put a little ore load on your muscles than you normally would. Try to stay a little sore all fourteen days. When your legs are sore, exercise your arms. When your arms are sore, go for a walk.

(Note that going down twenty flights of stairs may make you VERY sore the first time you do it and can be dangerous if you're particularly out of shape. Be sensible about it. Don't go down the stairs alone: you want someone to be around to go get help if you slip down the stairs or sprain an ankle, etc.)

This page is in no way endorsed by Costco. It's also not endorsed by the South Beach diet.

Paul Pomerleau is not a nutritionist nor a health expert. However, he is the author of Networking for English Majors, which teaches people with liberal arts and social science degrees how to get jobs in computer networking. You don't need a computer science degree to get a well-paying job in computing.