the south beach diet

The South Beach diet is a formulation of a Florida-area based cardiologist, Dr. Arthur Agatston, with help from dietitian, Marie Almon, of the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. According to Dr. Agatston, the South Beach diet is neither a low-carb nor a low-fat diet. It is simply designed to teach dieters strategies to help them rely on the good carbs and the good fats and how to live quite happily without needing the bad carbs and the bad fats.

Dr. Arthur Agatston initially developed the diet to prevent heart disease in his obese heart patients who were finding it difficult remaining on the standard low-fat diet recommended by the American Heart Association. After achieving success with the South Beach diet in treating his patients, Dr. Agatston began promoting the diet for weight loss.

The South Beach diet is essentially a short-term rapid weight loss diet combined with a long-term no calorie-counting diet. The diet was developed on a sound principle that has effectively set it apart from other popular diets as it categorically distinguishes between "good" and "bad" carbohydrates based on their glycemic index as well as between "good" and "bad" fats based on their degree of saturation.

The diet was developed on the premise that consuming "bad" carbohydrates results in people becoming insulin resistant – insensitivity of insulin receptors and therefore their inability in effectively regulating blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance often leads to the body storing excess glucose as glycogen in liver and muscle cells and as fat in fat cells (adipose tissues). Also Dr. Agatston believes that over indulging in "bad" fats equally causes increased risk of cardiovascular disease and weight gain.

Although the diet restricts the intake of certain types of both carbohydrates and fats, Dr. Agatston categorically states that the diet is neither a low-carbohydrate nor a low-fat diet. The diet also prides itself in being distinguishable from other diets in that it has virtually no calorie counting – percentage counts of fats, carbohydrates and proteins and even has no rules about portion size. Its main focus according to the program is for dieters to eat good carbohydrates and good fats.

The South Beach diet is made up of three phases:

Phase One

This is the strictest of the three phases and allows the fewest choices of carbohydrate – meaning no bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, fruits, and any sugar- or flour-containing foods throughout its two-week duration.

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While this phase strongly emphasizes strict restriction on the consumption of sugar- and flour-containing carbohydrate foods, it does however allow the consumption of the lowest glycemic index carbohydrate-containing foods (such as low-glycemic index vegetables) to provide satisfaction and help in blood sugar control. Portion size is also not strictly controlled as dieters are allowed a daily calorie intake of between 1,200 and 1,400 spread out over three daily meals and two or three snacks.

There is also allowance for ample portions of protein and good fats through the consumption of such foods as meat, poultry, seafood, cheese (low-fat and fat-free only), eggs, nuts, tofu (low-fat or calorie-reduced), oils (canola and olive oils), spices and artificial sweeteners.

Dr. Agatston claims that dieters will able to lose somewhere between 8 and 13 pounds from mainly belly fat during this phase of the diet alone. Also this phase is to help dieters end their unhealthy carbohydrate cravings as well as significantly be able to resolve any insulin resistance.

According to Dr. Agatston, the weight loss doesn’t occur because of eating less but rather due to consuming fewer amounts of the particular foods that causes the body to store excessive fat. Dieters are however advised not to use Phase 1 of the diet as a long-term diet. Notwithstanding, some dieters may find it difficult to successfully follow through this phase because of experiences of low energy, tiredness, nausea, and dehydration.

Phase Two

The second phase of the South Beach diet is the more liberal version of the diet according to Dr. Agatston. Dieters are generally expected to lose somewhere between one and two pounds each week during this phase.

This phase is where the dieter, in addition to the permitted foods in phase 1, can now gradually start reintroducing in small amounts certain healthy carbohydrates such as most fruits, low-fat milk, beans, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, as well as starchy vegetables.

Nonetheless, foods such as white bread, sugary foods, even watermelon and bananas, along with all saturated fats and trans fats are still forbidden by the diet. This phase essentially allows dieters to somehow indulge in some of their "permitted" favorite foods – even though a little bit less than they used to before.

Dieters are to remain on the second phase of the diet until they reach their goal weight before proceeding to the third phase. How long the phase two last depends mostly on the amount of weight the dieter needs to lose.

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Phase Three

On reaching his or her goal weight, the dieter switches to the even more liberal version of the diet in the third phase. This is basically the "maintenance" phase of the diet where the dieter has to maintain the benefits earned in the preceding two phases of the diet. The list of restricted foods in phase 3 is virtually similar to that of phase 2 as foods made from white flour or that have high levels of refined sugar are still forbidden.

Therefore, phase 3 essentially becomes a lifestyle phase of making the right food choices – which the dieter should have become accustomed to by now after having successfully gone through the preceding phases – than just a weight loss program. Dieters are also encouraged to engage in moderate aerobic exercise and strength training to help increase their metabolism.

Although the South Beach diet is relatively new when compared to the Atkins diets and with virtually no independent scholarly research done on it as at yet, the general public has however enthusiastically embraced the diet. Also, apart from the rapid weight loss at the initial phase of the diet which has been its major point of criticism, most nutritionists are of the opinion that the general principles behind the diet as sound.

The South Beach diet can therefore be said to be a somewhat simple kind of linear low carbohydrate diet that has proven to be effective in weight loss through helping dieters adopt a healthy eating lifestyle. Like everything else in life, there is need for dieters to remain self-motivated in other to keep on using the good eating habits gleaned from the South Beach diet.