The South Beach Diet has been around for a number of years and maintains its popularity because of its high level of success. It’s one of our favorite weight loss programs.
The Good News
- It emphasizes good nutrition as a lifestyle change, instead of advocating short-term deprivation and dieting
- Includes good carbohydrates and good fats, so your body receives the nutrition it needs
- Is good for people with lots of weight to lose, and those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic, as well as the general population
- No need to count calories or weigh portions
The Bad News
- The initial phase, although short, can be difficult to follow, especially for people addicted to sugar or other carbs
- It takes time for participants to develop an understanding of the nutritional program, so creating your own meals without recipes might be difficult at first
What is the South Beach Diet?
It’s a 3-phased approach to changing the way you eat for life. Originally developed by a cardiologist named Arthur Agatston, the South Beach program is designed not only to help you lose weight, but to do so without harming your body, especially your heart. In fact, the South Beach diet can improve heart health. It focuses on a diet of whole grains, vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats.
Instead of spending time counting calories, points, or measuring serving sizes, the South Beach diet focuses primarily on which foods to eat and which ones to avoid. The foods included are nutrient-rich foods with a low glycemic index, so your blood sugar doesn’t spike after eating and then rapidly decline (a sugar “crash”) within 30-60 minutes after you finish your meal or snack. The food choices are also selected to satisfy hunger and leave you feeling full, so that although you may not be eating your favorite pastry, at least you’re not going around feeling hungry all day.
The 3-Phase Approach of the South Beach Diet
The South Beach Diet consists of three phases – an short induction phase, a longer-term weight-loss phase, and a maintenance phase. Most participants will start with Phase 1, but if you only need to lose 10 pounds or less and you don’t have a particular problem with belly fat, you can skip directly to Phase 2.
Phase 1 – The 2-Week Induction Phase
The goal of the first phase of the South Beach Diet is to get your blood sugar levels under control. By reducing your blood sugar level and stopping the cycle of sugar-highs and crashes, you’ll reduce your cravings for sweets and other carbohydrates. This phase is the most difficult portion of the diet, and many foods are limited, especially carbohydrates. For the first two weeks you need to completely eliminate sugar, bread, pasta, rice, and even fruit and fruit juice (because they also contain sugars).
Phase 2 – The Long-Term Weight Loss Phase
After you complete Phase 1, you can begin to add good carbohydrates back into your diet. By focusing on the right kind of carbohydrates, primarily whole grains, your body works harder to digest those carbohydrates. This means that the sugar is released slowly and steadily into your bloodstream instead of all at once. Good carbohydrates include whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and sweet potatoes (or other nutrient-rich root vegetables…but not regular potatoes.)
Phase 2 is all about gradual weight loss. The plan focuses on gradual but consistent weight loss because it’s easier to maintain and doesn’t deprive your body of necessary nutrients. In fact, the foods on the South Beach Diet plan are designed to include the most nutrient-rich ingredients available.
Phase 3 – The Maintenance Phase
The South Beach Diet, despite its name, is really a life-long nutritional change, not a diet program that ends once you reach your desired weight. This is where Phase 3 comes in. Once you’ve reached your goal weight, you stay in Phase 3 for the rest of your life. This phase allows more frequent indulgences while still focusing on the principles of good nutrition that you developed during the first two phases of the program.
Who is a Good Candidate for the South Beach Diet?
The best aspect of the South Beach Diet is that it’s safe acceptable for most dieters. Many people associate it with the Atkin’s diet, but in truth, the South Beach Diet is much more heart-friendly, because it’s lower in bad fats and higher in good carbohydrates. The South Beach Diet doesn’t rely on ketosis (which causes weight loss but also has negative health effects).
The following groups of people can benefit from the South Beach Diet:
- People who have a large amount of weight to lose
- Diabetics and pre-diabetics
- Almost anyone who needs to lose weight safely and healthily
What about Exercise?
Unlike many programs, the South Beach Diet focuses on doable exercise as well as nutrition. It recognizes that good eating and an active lifestyle go hand-in-hand. You are encouraged to exercise for 20 minutes a day – not a huge commitment even for busy individuals. The exercise program includes walking and light calisthenics that complement your goals without burning you out. Even people who hate to exercise can often fit in a 20-minute walk each day, especially if you do it with a friend or family member.
Benefits of the South Beach Diet
The primary expectation of a successful diet plan is weight loss, of course. But in addition to helping you lose weight, the South Beach Diet should also cause other healthy benefits, such as:
- Lowering your LDL (“bad cholesterol”) levels
- Lowering your triglyceride levels
- Lowering your blood pressure
- Lowering your blood sugar levels
- Reducing inflammation
- Raising HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- some forms of cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease
The SouthBeachDiet.com Website
The South Beach Diet was originally published in book form, and the original book as well as several companion books are available on Amazon or in your local bookstore. There are also South Beach frozen meals and snacks available in your grocery store. If you want additional help following the plan, learning about nutrition, or planning your meals and shopping lists, you should visit the official South Beach Diet website, www.SouthBeachDiet.com.
The website provides you with a number of tools, including customized meal plans, over 1000 South Beach recipes (including vegetarian options), a personalized shopping list to take to the grocery store, support for the community of participants as well as registered dieticians, and regular input from Dr. Agatston. There is a fee associated with the site, but you can get a free 7-day trial, and then it’s only $5/week after that. Plus you can cancel anytime. Click here to visit the website and start a free trial to see if the program is right for you.
Try the South Beach Diet
If you decide to try the South Beach Diet, pick up a copy of the book from Amazon, or get your first week free and use the tools available at the SouthBeachDiet.com website: