The South Beach Diet has been one of the best-selling diet books of the last 5 or so years.
What is it about the diet that makes it so compelling to so many?
I purchased the latest edition of the South Beach Diet and read it anew. The most recent edition has updates to the foods, and a number of other fixes.
The South Beach Diet is written by cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston. In essence, it’s a reduced carbohydrate diet, that emphasizes the value of whole carbohydrates and the glycemic index.
South Beach On-line
The South Beach Diet has it’s own on-line program with all the tools you would expect (meal/menu planners, forums, weight trackers). The advantage of signing up to the on-line program is that you get:
- Access to about 800 recipes
- Access to a complete vegetarian version of the diet.
- You can ask questions to Dr. Agatston
- Workout routines
- Nutrition support
Quite frankly the extra recipes provide a lot more variation to the diet.
South Beach Diet Basics
Some people have misinterpreted the diet has being another “low-carb” diet or another version of Atkins. I believe this is incorrect.
The South Beach Diet has also been derided as just another fad diet. Only time will reveal whether this is true. It may appear to some as being a fad diet, but I think the South Beach has more value than that.
Apart from all our opinions, probably no other book has educated as many people in responsible nutrition. It emphasizes the values of healthy fats, and the blood sugar / insulin response of many of the processed carbohydrate foods that we eat.
The book itself is half filled with recipes and 14 day meal plans for each of the phases. The text is interspersed with testimonies and stories from various people who have used the South Beach Diet.
Phase 1 – Induction
Phase 1 is most definitely a low-carb phase where most carbohydrates (and all starchy carbs) are completely eliminated. Agatston emphasizes that this phase should never go beyond 2-3 weeks. This phase causes the most weight loss (Agatston claims 8-13 pounds).
To be honest, out of all aspects of the South Beach Diet, phase 1 is the only thing that I question. Agatston claims this phase is required in order to “break sugar addiction”. I really wonder whether this is necessary.
Many people find this phase quite hard, and I wonder whether it is a nod to instant gratification. Dropping carbs out of your diet often results in rapid weight loss for a short period, some will be fat, some may be muscle, and a lot will be loss of water.
Phase 2 – Weight Loss
The second phase of the South Beach Diet is excellent. It reintroduces whole carbohydrates along with good fats and lean proteins.
It teaches you how to make good food choices, and how to satisfy your hunger.
Phase 3 – Maintenance
I’m really not quite sure of the need of this phase. The foods appear no different than Phase 2. I’m obviously missing something.
What about Vegetarians?
The South Beach Diet book has very little about vegetarian options, however, the online version of the diet has a complete vegetarian version with meal plans and recipes.
Exercise and Fitness
Agatston devotes a few pages to this, recommending at least 20 minutes per day of cardio activity. He also recommends weight training – particularly for women – not only for it’s metabolism-boosting assistance, but also for building strong bones. But make no mistake – this is a diet book, and the emphasis on exercise is small.
The online version has a pretty extensive exercise component, with routines and advice from personal trainers.
The South Beach Diet is not about calorie-counting – it emphasizes appropriate levels of fiber and fats in order to feel properly satiated. The opposite effect is eating empty calories (such as sugars) that do not satisfy our hunger but will ultimately convert to fat.
Many people argue that to lose weight you must count calories. I believe that calories most definitely count, but not everyone need count them. I for one could not spend the rest of my life monitoring food intake – however calorie counting may be necessary for a short time. It’s a personal thing.
Good for Rebalancing Nutrition
The South Beach Diet has it’s detractors, and no one diet is appropriate for everyone by any means. However the South Beach Diet has brought about a rebalancing in nutrition. We’ve come to realize the not all fats are bad, and not all carbs are good.
I think the South Beach Diet is worthwhile, but I question Phase 1, and don’t necessarily see the need for it.
Does the South Beach Diet Work?
It’s proof is in the fact that has lasted the distance, and has helped many people to eat better and lose the weight. You could do a lot worse.
See the official South Beach program here. They now offer a meal delivery service.