Diet books and fad diets are nothing new. It seems every few months
there's a new weight loss program being touted by the so-called experts as
the "new miracle diet". We, as consumers, are bombarded by before and
after pictures and testimonials from people who have successfully lost
weight with some fabulous new program.
Two years ago, another new
diet book hit the shelves. It was called "The South Beach Diet", written
by Dr. Arthur Agatston. Since its release in 2003, The South Beach Diet
has been listed on the New York Times' bestseller list for an impressive
103 weeks. Dr. Agatston has released companion books, started a fee-based
website, and is working with Kraft Foods to create a line of pre-packaged
South Beach menu items. How is this diet any different from the others,
and more importantly, does it work?
The main idea behind South
Beach is to eat three meals a day along with snacks and even dessert,
while avoiding highly processed foods. Dr. Agatston says that South Beach
is not low carb or low fat, but rather good carb and good fat. The diet is
broken down into three phases: phase one is very restrictive and lasts
about two weeks, phase two is much more open with food choices and lasts
until you reach your goal weight, and phase three is called 'maintenance',
which should guide your food choices for the rest of your life.
During phase one, you can eat until you are full (not stuffed
full, just no longer hungry) from a list of approved foods. The list
consists of mainly vegetables and lean meat, including seafood, as well as
low fat or fat-free dairy products and legumes. You can have sugar-free
Jell-o or popsicles as treats; up to 75 calories worth per day. Nuts and
natural peanut butter are also on the list, but with limits. You're
basically giving up bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, and sugar in all of its
forms. The South Beach Diet book claims that you can lose 8-13 pounds in
just two weeks on phase one, and that you will lose belly fat first.
Phase two widens your menu quite a bit. You can now eat whole
grain bread and pasta, brown rice, select fruits, and (my personal favourite) sugar-free Jell-o pudding. Still no sugar though, except for
the occasional bite of dark chocolate. Good carbs in the form of whole
grains and legumes, and good fats in the form of unsaturated,
non-hydrogenated things like I Can't Believe it's Not Butter spray and
olive oil are all approved.
Once you've reached your goal weight,
you're pretty much on your own. Phase three lets you eat within the phase
two guidelines, adding occasional treats and 'white' food, but omitting
the snacks you've come to depend on. There isn't much guidance here, since
by now you should know what your body is able to handle. Dr. Agatston
recommends that you return to phase two if you find yourself gaining
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? The book even
claims that you don't need to exercise to lose weight with this plan
(although it does recommend that you add physical activity as part of your
weight loss effort). While the eating plan is certainly healthy, there are
some drawbacks to this diet - or at least with the way it is presented.
Phase one is very restrictive. Sure, you're only on it for two
weeks, and the potential weight loss is very encouraging. Many people,
however, do not lose the 'guaranteed' 8-13 pounds in phase one and get
discouraged. Not only that, but suddenly dropping all sugar and refined carbs from your diet can cause dizziness, light-headedness, an inability
to focus or concentrate, and constipation (believe it or not). This rapid
weight loss phase is designed to control your cravings, but sometimes the
side effects just aren't worth it. If you think you can manage your
cravings, head straight for phase two.
South Beach also recommends
that you use sugar substitutes, specifically Splenda. Some people have
trouble digesting aspartame, while others prefer to avoid one unhealthy
substance and substitute it with a chemically processed alternative.
Explore your options in this case – there are other ways to sweeten foods
without sugar or chemicals.
While you're on phase two, your weight
loss should slow down to one or two pounds a week, according to the book.
This is reasonable, and slow weight loss is definitely healthier than
dropping pounds rapidly. It is a balanced diet and has great effects on
your health, with the added benefit of losing unwanted pounds. What is
confusing as far as the book is concerned though is that there are
ingredients in the recipes that aren't found on the recommended "Foods to
Enjoy" list. Also, Dr. Agatston asks that you add grains and fruit back to
your diet slowly; only one serving a day to start, and gradually increase
your servings until you find your weight loss slowing down. If you follow
the daily menu plans in the book though, there are several fruit and grain
servings for each day.
For anyone who needs a structured plan
based on numbers, The South Beach Diet is not the way to go. But if you
like the freedom of not having to count anything and using common sense to
lose weight, then South Beach is more of a strategic eating plan than a
rigid diet and would work very well for you. Keep in mind that all diets
revolve around the same principal: take in fewer calories than you burn
off. Burn more calories than you consume, and the weight will come off.
Eating well and enjoying healthy food is integral to this process, and
that's where The South Beach Diet shines.
Jacob Mabille writes for Health Guides &
Articles where you can find more health tips and related articles.
Great Books about Diet