Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the South Beach Diet. Now raise your hand if you’re on the South Beach Diet. I’m sure most of you raised your hand to at least one of those questions. But for those of you who didn’t, it’s the latest weight-loss craze to grab the attention of the public at large (pun intended) like a free super Big Mac topped with a Krispy Kreme — both of which, by the way, you won’t be eating if you’re on the South Beach Diet.

I have long participated in the fad-diet-of-the-month club, but this one has really piqued my interest. Never have I heard so many men talking about their new diet and the number of inches they’ve lost. It’s like a gender-swapping Freaky Friday. Men don’t diet. And if they do, they certainly don’t talk about it. But, to a person, the ones on this diet are happy to crow about the fact that they’ve lost the promised 8 to 13 pounds in the first two weeks. Which only consternates me all the more. Because I’m resisting this diet.

While Dr. Arthur Agatston’s argument is compelling, the whole low fat/high carb, high fat/low carb, rice out/rice in, potatoes good/potatoes bad debate has just left me confused. The minute we take something out of or put something into our mouths, we’re told we shouldn’t do that. Most of us grew up relatively well on the infamous food pyramid, and now we’re told that’s simply inaccurate. What changed?

Perhaps the proliferation of fast food. Did you know that there are more fast-food restaurants than ever? Which means that there are more types of fast-food places than ever. Some of these alternatives masquerade as good for you. And we’re more than willing to believe that they are. For example, Subway has done a very good job of portraying itself as a healthy alternative. So we believe that if we eat at Subway, we’re doing the right thing. And although there are many healthy choices on the menu, if we order the popular Italian B.M.T., we’ve just ingested 24 grams of fat. Even the tuna sandwich (made with light mayo) delivers a 22-fat-gram punch. I recently indulged in a meal from Long John Silver’s. I wasn’t under the illusion that I was eating healthy, but my meal of two chicken planks, fries, and hush puppies, an average-size fast-food meal for most Americans, was loaded with 41 grams of fat! (Okay, maybe I was a little delusional.) Do that a few times a week and the problem is clear.

We, along with most publications, have done lots of stories on healthy eating, and we have another fascinating one in this issue (page 98). In it, you’ll learn about the changes going on in the fast-food industry and what they mean to you and your waistline.

Of course, all of this dieting is just in time for the holiday season. And even before your turkey leftovers are put away, we’ve moved on to the season of gift-giving. If you haven’t begun shopping yet, you’re definitely behind. So get started. Our entire Lifestyle section is devoted to gifts, gifts, and more gifts. No matter who’s on your list or what price you want to pay, you’re sure to find something unique and cool for everyone.

And with that, I’d like to officially kick off the 2003 Holiday Marathon. In between shopping, stuffing yourself, and stressing about the dwindling days, remember to slow down, breathe, and help yourself to that extra slice of pie.


Above Right Photo: You’ll have a holly, jolly Christmas shopping experience this year after perusing our gift-glutted pages.