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South Beach Diet

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Overview of the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is one of the most popular diets around. It was created by Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist who lives and works in Miami, Florida (hence the name South Beach). The South Beach diet isn't a fad diet or short term weight loss plan. Instead, it focuses on permanent weight loss by encouraging good eating and exercise habits.

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The Theory behind the South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet is based on Agatston's belief in an insulin resistance syndrome. According to Agatston, food that's digested too quickly can cause an insulin breakdown. When this happens, the insulin created by your body fails to properly digest fats and carbohydrates. The result is fast weight gain. The South Beach Diet was created to combat insulin resistance syndrome.

The South Beach Diet focuses on eating the right types of fats and carbohydrates. Or in other words, it advises against eating "bad" fats and "bad" carbohydrates. Now, you're probably wondering what makes a fat or carbohydrate "bad." According to the diet, foods that are high on the glycemic index (think white bread) and those high in trans fats and saturated fats (think fried chicken) are all bad.

Note: The glycemic index measures how quickly certain foods raise your blood sugar level.

The idea behind the South Beach Diet is to avoid "bad" fats and "bad" carbohydrates. Doing so prevents insulin resistance, and allows your body to correctly metabolize the food you eat. The South Beach Diet isn't really a diet. It's not something you can do for a few weeks, lose weight, and then return to your old eating habits. For this plan to work, you must change your eating habits permanently.

The good news is you don't have to worry about counting calories or points. Any food that's not included on the "bad" list is ok to eat. The bad news is that many foods on the "bad" list are what most people love to eat: fried chicken, pizza, pasta, and other goodies that taste great, but are terrible for the body.

How Exactly Does the South Beach Diet Work?

The South Beach Diet is broken down into three phases. The first phase is probably the most difficult because it's very restrictive. Phase one restricts every food listed high on the glycemic index. This includes bread, cereal, grains, anything with flour, and starchy vegetables. If you can do without any of those foods, you'll easily breeze through the two weeks of the first phase.

During the first phase, you can eat meat as long as it's not fried. Skinless chicken, beef, turkey, and fish are fine, as long as it's baked or broiled. As usual, you're encouraged to eat plenty of fresh vegetables. You can also drink all of the water, tea, and coffee that you want. People who've used the diet, and followed phase one closely, reported losing up to 10 pounds during the first two weeks.

The second phase of the diet is much easier. You can eat more foods, in moderation of course. It's recommended that you eat plenty of fruits and whole grains during phase two. This phase lasts the longest, as you're supposed to stick with it until you've lost the desired amount of weight. So if you want to lose 30 pounds, you stay on phase two until the 30 pounds are gone. After you've lost the desired amount of weight, you go into phase three. At this point it becomes more of a way of life than a diet. The eating habits you adapt in phase three are meant to last a lifetime. You're encouraged to eat three small meals a day, with snacks in between each meal.

The Pros and Cons of the South Beach Diet


The South Beach diet is pretty simple to follow. Nothing about it is complicated. You simply choose foods from a provided list.
You can eat a variety of foods. As long as the food you want isn't on the "bad" list, you can eat it (in moderation of course).
It encourages long term healthy eating. Once you get into the third phase, you're encouraged to make your new eating habits permanent. Unlike with a regular diet, you're not supposed to return to your negative eating habits.
Fast weight loss. People who've used the diet report fast weight loss.
Eliminates starvation. The diet encourages eating when you're hungry, and also eating until you're full.


The first phase is restrictive. Some people may hesitate to eliminate so much food all at once. During the first phase, all forms of bread, cereal, grains, flour products, and starchy vegetables are prohibited. This phase only lasts for two weeks, but that may be long enough to scare some people away.
Not enough support. Dieters may be confused by some parts of the diet. The South Beach diet does leave a lot of room for interpretation. For instance, since there's no emphasis on calorie counting or portions, some dieters may actually eat more than usual. Even if you're eating healthy foods, too much still isn't good.
Little or no emphasis on exercise. Exercise should be a major part of any weight loss program.

Before deciding on the South Beach Diet, feel free to do more research. You may decide it's just what you need. There are plenty of books with more information on the diet. You can also find cookbooks dedicated to following the diet.

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