The South Beach Diet was created in the mid 1990s by Dr. Arthur Agatston, a cardiologist practicing in South Florida and a director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center to be exact.
Dr. Agatston created this diet plan as he did not believe in the high carbohydrates – low fat diets that were recommended by the American Heart Association at that point in time.
Also, this diet program was created to help his heart patients lose weight while reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
At A Glance
High carbohydrates/low fat diets are not very satisfying and can cause weight gain instead of weight loss.
On the other hand, low fat and all-you-can-eat protein diets are dangerous & difficult to maintain. Not a very appealing combination.
That’s where the South Beach Diet comes in.
This diet is based on the fact that if you choose the right carbohydrates and fat sources in the right combinations, you will be able to reduce your appetite, lose weight and prevent heart diseases and diabetes. However, this diet plan emphasizes more on protein than on carbohydrates.
The theory is that cutting back on your carbohydrate intake and eating a higher amount of protein enables your body to have less insulin responses to carbohydrates, a reason why you put on weight.
The South Beach Diet is broken down into three different phases. You kick start the diet in Phase 1 and stick with it for two weeks. Most carbohydrates are banned in Phase 1.
In Phase 2, you’ll continue to lose weight until you’ve hit your target weight. Some foods that you’ve avoided in Phase 1 will be slowly reintroduced… but only in small amounts.
In Phase 3, you’ll maintain your new weight and hopefully, make the South Beach Diet a way of life.
If you’re following the plan and weight loss stops for you – go back to Phase 1. Similarly, if you’ve fallen off the “South Beach” wagon and gone off the diet, you’ll have to go back to Phase 1.
Here’s How It Works
You start with Phase 1 and you’ll stay on it for two weeks. This is a rather restrictive phase that you’ll be put through but you’ll probably experience very fast weight loss during this period. If you follow the program very strictly, you may lose 8 to 13 pounds in this two week period.
You’ll not be able to have most carbohydrates in this Phase and if you do have any at all, you’ll only be looking at those low in the glycemic index (GI).
The glycemic index is simply a ranking system for food based on their ability to raise blood sugar in your body. For example, sodas, sugar and white bread (refined carbohydrates) are foods with a high GI as they spike your blood sugar very quickly.
These foods are to be avoided. You’ll want foods with low GI because they’re digested and absorbed at a slower rate and therefore sugar is released more gradually into the bloodstream.
According to Dr. Agatston, the faster the sugars and starches are absorbed by your body, the fatter you’ll get.
The main aim of getting you to go through Phase 1 is to get rid of all the cravings that you may have for all the “bad carbs”, which is why they’ve eliminated them completely.
Also, Phase 1 is meant to get rid of any blood sugar swings from carbohydrate binges. Supposedly, once the two week phase is over, you’ll have stopped tearing your hair out and those cravings will have disappeared…
You’ll be able to eat three balanced meals a day as well as snacks. Eating snacks is a must on this program as that should leave you feeling full and satisfied all day long.
In Phase 2, you’ll slowly allow “right carbs”, like whole grains and fruits, to be introduced back into your eating plan. Don’t worry though, this won’t reverse all the effort you’ve put in Phase 1.
As the South Beach Diet has been designed so that you can follow it for life, it’s important to learn how the right carbohydrates can be brought back into your way of life.
What you need to do however, is to go slow. Start by adding one of these carbs back into one of your daily meals for a week.
How did that go?
If everything’s ok, add another carb and see what happens again. Continue doing this until you’re able to eat two or three servings of the right carbohydrates a day. If you feel the weight coming back, don’t panic… just go back to Phase 1 for a few days until things are under control again.
Unlike Phase 1, there is no time limit for Phase 2. You should stick with Phase 2 until you’ve reached your target weight loss goal.
In this Phase, you should be able to lose about one to two pounds a week.
Once you’ve reached your target weight in Phase 2, Phase 3 is where you’ll continue to make the right food choices from all that you’ve learnt from Phase 1 and 2.
This is the part where you’ll make healthy eating part of your lifestyle and maintain the weight that you’ve lost.
And What Can I Eat?
As mentioned above, that depends on which Phase you’re at.
In Phase 1, you’ll eat mainly protein like chicken, beef, turkey, fish, shellfish, eggs, low fat cheese, nuts, beans, salads and plenty of vegetables.
Foods with high GI like bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods, candy, cake, cookies, sugar, soft drinks and alcohol are to be avoided.
It may be a little inflexible for vegetarians but if you’re a really strict vegetarian, you can have meat substitutes or tofu instead.
Even though beer and alcohol are avoided at first, you’ll be able to have red wine after Phase 1.
If you think the South Beach Diet is similar to other well known diets, you’re right.
One way that it’s similar to the Atkins Diet is that there’s an initial period where you’re supposed to limit your carbohydrate consumption.
However, the South Beach Diet allows foods that are low in unhealthy fats (the “good fats”) as compared to the Atkins Diet where you’re able to eat foods that are high in saturated fats (the “bad fats”) like bacon, cheeses and butter.
Dr. Agatston clearly explains in the book the differences between the “good fats” and the “bad fats”.
Also, during Phases 2 and 3, the South Beach Dieter is allowed more carbohydrate foods, for example, vegetables, than what the Atkins Diet recommends.
There’s no calorie counting in this weight loss program and Dr. Agatston uses sample menus to show you what you need to eat.
One study has shown that in a group of 40 people, those who followed the South Beach Diet lost an average of 13.6 pounds as compared to the 7.5 average pounds lost by those following the “Step II” American Heart Association Diet.
In addition, it was also proven that South Beach Dieters show a huge reduction in bad cholesterol and improvements in their good cholesterol levels when they’re on this diet.
As the South Beach Diet started off as a book-based weight loss program, dieters may find themselves lacking in support and motivation. Not anymore. The South Beach Diet has now gone online with more than 500,000 subscribers!
As a member, you can expect 24 hour online support where registered dieticians will answer your questions and a huge community where everyone motivates each other to succeed.
How About Exercise?
Exercise is not a requirement and is barely mentioned in the South Beach Diet.
What’s The Cost Like?
The South Beach Diet may be costly for some because of the foods that you have to eat on this program.
However, if you’re talking about the cost of joining their online diet program, the South Beach Diet™ Online costs just $5 a week. You’re billed every three months (quarterly) and you must make a commitment of at least four weeks.
For that $5 a week, you’ll get:
- Tools to track your weight, phase, and diet goals
- A personal meal planner and nutrition tool
- Delicious and healthy recipes, including hundreds for vegetarians
- Support from a community of thousands like you
- An automated shopping-list generator
- The exclusive Beach Buddies program
You’ll be charged $65 on your credit card when you first join and you’ll be billed again at the start of every quarter. If you feel that this diet is not for you after joining, no worries… just cancel at any time and you’ll get back the unused portion of your subscription.
The only portion that is non refundable is the charge for the minimum four week commitment as mentioned above (worth $20).
You may be able to lose quite a bit of weight in the first two weeks of this program but that weight loss may be from water and not actual fat loss. As most guidelines say that healthy weight loss should be about one to two pounds a week, some experts are worried that South Beach Dieters lose too much too quickly.
There is however, no data to show whether the weight you’ll lose on this diet will stay off. As this is a relatively new diet, there’s not enough long term evidence or clinical trials to support the claims of long term weight loss.
But in general, this diet teaches you to choose the right foods. If you think you can eat what’s allowed in moderation and don’t mind eating meats and salads, this diet may just work well for you.