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South Beach Diet for a Chicago nurse

Dateline NBC
/ Source: Dateline NBC

Meet Minnie
Minnie Matthew, a 28-year old pediatric nurse works at a children’s hospital.  The long overnight shifts required of her have taken a toll. “You have the munchies because you’re up all night. And where I work patients’ parents are really good to us, so they bring us a lot of sweets. So you can’t just walk by the break room without seeing something and want to grab it.”

It’s hard enough to diet at the best of times, much less with the added stress of planning a wedding long distance. Matthew lives in Chicago while her fiancé lives in New York.

On weekends, they travel back and forth and iron out dozens of details, from the photographer to the guest list. They have an estimated 1,000 guests—which sounds like a lot but Matthew says is typical for an Indian wedding.

Her wedding gown, custom-made in India, fits her at her present weight, but she’s hoping that by her wedding, she’ll lose enough to get it taken in. “Right now, it fits me perfectly. Any less of this gone might make it slide off,” she says.

Matthew weighs 160 lbs. That doesn’t sound so bad, but she’s only 5 feet tall. She selects the South Beach diet and sets a weight loss goal of 25 lbs.

Month 1
When Matthew gets together with her fiance on the occasional weekend, there’s much to do.

Of the five brides in the “Dateline” challenge, Matthew's wedding comes first, and she started her diet a full month after the rest. That leaves her with just four months to lose those 25 lbs. and get her dress taken in.

“Dateline” arranges for her to meet the creator of the South Beach Diet, Dr. Arthur Agaston.

“The whole test of whether a diet is being successful is losing the cravings,” says Dr. Agaston.

“South Beach” calls for three phases of dieting to cleanse the body of bad fats and carbs, and replace them with good fats, like olive oil, and good carbs—like whole grain bread. During phase one of the diet, which usually lasts two weeks, Matthew has to give up all starches and sugar.

The diet even influences her wedding plans— including her gift registry. She decides not to include a fryer in her registry.

Busy as she is, Matthew squeezes in time to work out with a trainer at the Lakeshore Athletic Club three times a week.

Month 2
Matthew finds phase one of the South Beach diet surprisingly easy, though it does require some extra planning.

“I feel like I’m like a baby eating every couple of hours, which they say you should do,” she says.

Pounds are supposed to drop drastically during phase one of the South Beach plan. For Matthew, she’s already 7 lbs. less than her original 160 lbs.  Hoping to make up for lost time —— and with the okay from the doctor — Matthew decides to extend the first and toughest “low-carb” phase of the diet an extra few weeks. 

Month 5
At this point, Matthew is allowed to introduce certain sugars, like fruit, back into her diet. She's also allowed to eat the staple she missed most — bread. But as she introduces these foods back into her diet, she worries about maintaining her weight loss. She knows that as quickly as she lost the weight, she could gain it all back.

She brings her dress to the tailor, but decides not to have it taken in yet. “I still have at least 4 to 6 weeks."

Dateline NBC

Wedding day
Matthew surprises herself. She is a long way from her starting weight of 160 lbs: She’s lost a total of 29 lbs., surpassing her original goal.

“I feel like this is an out of body experience occurring — that I’m watching all of us get ready for someone else’s wedding.”

And as she hoped, her wedding dress, which was custom-tailored months ago in India, had to be taken in.

Did she keep the weight off?
A year after her wedding, Matthew has struggled. She’s put about two-thirds of her weight back on.