Cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatson developed the South Beach diet primarily to help improve the heart health of his patients, with the secondary goal to help patients lose weight. Since his diet was so successful, Dr. Agatston began marketing his diet plan to the masses with the release of his book, The South Beach Diet.
Dr. Agatson proposes that certain types of carbohydrates (referred to as “bad carbs”) give your body increased insulin levels, which trigger overeating. According to Agatson, a diet minimizing the “bad” (carbs and fats), and increasing the “good,” will result in weight loss, lower cholesterol, a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, and eliminate cravings without feeling hungry. Carb’s are rated in the South Beach Diet based on their Glycemic Index.
The South Beach Diet – History
The South Beach Diet was first adopted out of frustration from the low fat, high carbohydrate, diets being prescribed in the 1970’s by the American Heart Association. These diets were not working, and people were just getting fatter and fatter. Primarily these diets did not take into account the body’s inability to process large amounts of preprocessed carbohydrates. They also did not consider the difficulty many dieters faced when trying to follow such rigid low-fat diets.
The South Beach Diet may have also been influenced greatly by the Atkins Diet – which has much of the same principles. Atkins Diet was almost exactly the opposite of the low fat diets of its time, and called for high saturated fats and low carbs. While Atkins Diet worked a whole lot better than the American Heart Association diets for losing weight there was a major problem with the liberal intake of saturated fats. Under the right (or rather, wrong) circumstances, eating a meal that’s high in saturated fat can trigger a heart attack.
The primary failing of many of these popular diets is they are too complicated and too rigid. If the diet is difficult to follow and does not take into account how each person operates then it is a failure. The goal of the South Beach Diet was to be flexible, and also to be effective regardless of the dieters exercise habits.
The goal of The South Beach Diet is to help you develop better eating habits that last the rest of your life. It does this by taking you through a 3-phase system. You first break the cycle of filling your body with bad carbs and fats with a cleansing period – phase 1 of the diet. Then, the diet limits your intake of certain foods until you reach your weight goal – phase 2. Afterward, you’ll develop a healthy diet to last the rest of your life – phase 3.
The South Beach Diet claims the equation behind most obesity is simple: The faster the sugars and starches you eat are processed and absorbed into your bloodstream, the fatter you get. Highly processed carbs, according to the South Beach theory, get digested too quickly – mainly by stripping away fiber. Therefore, the more food is preprocessed, the more fattening it will be.
Once sugars enter our bloodstreams, it is the job of the pancreas to detect this and go to work. It produces the hormone insulin in sufficient quantity to get the sugars out of our blood and into the organs where it is needed, or into storage (fat cells) for future needs.
Fortunately, the pancreas can tell how much insulin is needed to do that job. If the body experiences a fast infusion of sugars, a lot of insulin is required. If the sugars are metabolized more slowly, the insulin is released gradually.
When your pancreas detects a rapid rise in blood sugar, it pumps out a correspondingly high level of insulin to process the sugar. That results in a rapid plunge in the blood sugar level. Afterward, the blood sugar level drops so low that new cravings are created, requiring more quick carbohydrate fixes.
By breaking this cycle, The South Beach Diet promises to make you want to eat less but better foods. You break that cycle by eating “good” carb’s, and by not starving your body of sugar between meals (creating hypoglycemia) by having light snacks.
We can most easily stop ourselves from overeating by two strategies:
- We can eat the foods (and combinations of foods) that cause gradual rather than sharp increases and decreases in blood sugar.
- We can learn to anticipate hypoglycemia and avert it with the timely consumption of snacks. This one is crucial: It takes much less food to prevent hypoglycemia than it does to resolve it.
- Learn which foods cause the most rapid rise in blood sugar.
South Beach Diet – Sometimes confused with Atkins
They may seem similar, but The South Beach Diet is more than just a heart-friendly version of the Atkins diet. All the same, they do have a lot in common.
Both the South Beach and Atkins diets restrict carbohydrates. True, “good carbs” are allowed. But South Beach dieters must say goodbye to potatoes, fruit, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, beets, carrots, and corn for the first two weeks. After that, some of these foods remain strongly discouraged. Atkins is seemingly much simpler, and allows for much more fats.
The difference between the South Beach and Atkins diets boils down to two things:
- Fats. The South Beach Diet bans unhealthy fats, but strongly promotes healthy ones.
- Carbs. The South Beach Diet doesn’t count grams of carbs, but encourages dieters to go for low-sugar carbs, or those with a low glycemic index (they don’t cause the blood sugar levels to rise and fall as quickly).
As Agatston says, this means his diet is not — exactly — a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet.
Three Phases of the South Beach Diet
Phase 1: Start Losing Weight
The South Beach Diet begins with a restrictive two-week induction phase. During the first phase you’ll lose between 8 and 13 pounds in the first 2 weeks. The main goal is to cleanse the body of bad carb’s, and fats – breaking the cycle of ups and downs from a high carbohydrate diet.
In this phase most carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, and breads must be avoided. There are three meals a day and snacks — eating until your hunger is satisfied. Meats, shellfish, chicken, turkey, and fish are all on the menu – along with nuts, cheese (fat-free), eggs, salads, and vegetables. Phase 1 eliminates all fruits.
Phase 2: Reach Your Goal
The second phase reintroduces some of the foods strictly limited in Phase 1 – but only sparingly. In this phase you will lose 1-2 pounds per week, and remain in this phase until you reach your target weight.
Dieters will be able to eat some fruit and a small amount of complex carbs. You will learn to adjust portion size and focus on foods that will satisfy with smaller servings.
Phase 3: A Diet for Life
The third phase is to continue what you’ve learned throughout the rest of your life, eating healthier natural foods. By following basic standards, that are not rigid, you’ll maintain your goal weight with little effort. More importantly is that Dr. Agatston claims you’ll have a much healthier cardiovascular system as well.
During this “phase” most foods that were off limits can be added back to your diet. However, it is recommended that you limit certain bad fats and carb’s. Most important is to limit preprocessed carbs, and stick with more natural foods. The diet also recommends learning how to prepare foods so that you’re not feeling bored with meals and can maintain this healthy lifestyle.
South Beach Diet Online
Recently the South Beach has evolved into a successful online diet plan filled with tools and resources to enable anyone to be successful with this healthy diet.
Dieters interested in the South Beach Diet are first asked to complete a free diet profile in order to tailor the diet to his/Dieters then begin working through the three phases of the South Beach Diet.
The online version of the South Beach Diet has a multitude of tools and resources exclusively available to members. Some of them include:
- Weight Tracker: Track your weight as you shed pounds and head towards your ideal weight.
- Meal Planner: Customized, easy meals that you’ll love – every day of the week.
- Community Message Boards: Join our huge online community of thousands of members sharing support, success, and motivation.
- Personal Online Journal: Record your thoughts, struggles, triumphs – and read other member’s journals.
- Calendar Tool: Plan your diet day-by-day.
- Shopping List Generator: Print out complete shopping lists from your meal planner.
- Answers from Dr. Agatston: Ask your own questions to Dr. Agatston and see what he says to others.
- Registered Dietitians: Online dietitians will give specific answers to all sorts of tough questions.
- Daily Newsletter: Diet news, health tips, and inspiration in your inbox every day.
- Beach Buddies Program: Get matched with another member and diet together: teamwork makes for great successes!
- Food guides: From fast food to fine dining, the South Beach Diet™ has options for everyone.
- Huge Recipe Database: Search hundreds of delicious recipes, all designed to help you start shedding weight.
The South Beach Diet is very popular today with Americans due to its relevance with the way we eat. After the American Heart Association came out with low-fat recommendations in the 70’s, so many low-fat products were produced that made us content we were eating right. Now, American’s seem to have gotten into the habit of filling each craving with a low-fat, high-carb snack. It’s not rocket science but it works. American’s need to get back to natural, less-processed.
One quote from the book that really resonated with me is as follows: “The most successful dieters, we’ve found, are the ones who try every recipe imaginable and take advantage of all the foods and ingredients permitted…Boredom is the enemy here…The most effective strategy for achieving your goals is to make use of creative substitutions”. This applies to all. Be creative. Learn new recipes from the DietSmarter.com Healthy Recipes section. Try new, tasty, and interesting combinations of foods that will help you not feel deprived.
You may not want to diligently follow this diet plan, and go through each of the three diet phases. In that case simply learning how to improve your diet with healthier carbohydrates and fats is still a worthwhile process. The South Beach Diet philosophy has something for everyone to learn from, and it’s worth reading or registering for the program online.
To learn more about The South Beach Diet visit www.SouthBeachDiet.com.