With the rising obesity epidemic in America, it seems that nearly everyone is concerned about losing weight, turning to a wide variety of trendy diet plans. One of the most popular is the South Beach Diet. The diet, like all other trendy or fad diets has its benefits and risks, but overall it seems to be one of the healthier and most easily sustained diet plans widely in use today.
What Is The South Beach Diet?
The South Beach Diet was created in 2003 by Dr. Arthur Agatston, a Miami cardiologist, who served as the director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center. The diet was named after the glamorous area of Miami called South Beach, which is known for its sandy beaches and sunny lifestyle.
This diet is sometimes called a modified low carbohydrate diet. It is not as restrictive as other low-carb diets are, such as theAtkins Diet, which was popularized in the 1970s. The South Beach Diet has received some favorable reviews for being nutritionally sound as well.
While it is similar to other low-carb diets, it is markedly different in its approach to fat and protein. Other low-carb diets might allow eating steak and bacon, while the South Beach Diet focuses more on lean forms of protein. While the most obvious goal of the diet is weight loss, Dr. Agatston created the diet to be healthy for the cardiovascular system as well by helping to keep cholesterol and other fats low.
Unlike other low-carb diets, South Beach doesn't focus on numbers. There are no counting grams of carbohydrates, but instead the diet focuses on portions. This could be a problem for those who have problems with reasonably sized portions.
The South Beach Diet uses the glycemic index, which measures "good" and "bad" carbs. Bad carbs are those that cause blood sugar to spike and drop rapidly, such as refined sugars and starches. Good carbs are those that don't affect the blood sugar as much, such as whole grains and fiber.
Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet is probably the most difficult phase, and it also seems to be the most controversial. This is probably due to the fact that this phase is the most restrictive of the entire diet. It is also the shortest. Lasting only 14 days, nearly all carbs are removed from the person's diet, and those that are consumed come in the form of vegetables and legumes. During this phase, no fruit, fruit juice or alcohol is consumed. This phase is said to jump start weight loss, promising that dieters will shed 8-14 pounds during the two week period and most of that weight will come from around the midsection. Of course, people tend to forget that a lot of this is water weight, which can easily come back, and can also be considered an unhealthy amount of weight to lose in such a short time span. Phase 1 also claims to help eliminate cravings for "bad" carbs, though this claim remains unsubstantiated by medical studies.
In phase 2 of the diet, most people are expected to experience prolonged, healthy weight loss. During this phase of the diet, people can add "good" carbs such as fruits, starchy vegetables and whole grains back into their diet and most experience a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week, which experts agree is healthy pace to lose weight safely. Because this diet uses regular food instead of pre-packaged meals and uses portions instead of counting grams, people often find it easier to follow. This method of measuring makes it easier to go out to restaurants or attend parties without worrying about what they are eating. In the long run, this could make the diet easier to stick with. Dieters will stay in Phase 2 until their weight loss goals are met.
Phase 3 is the final phase of the diet, and this is the phase that people will, ideally, spend the rest of their lives in. This is the maintenance phase of the diet. People in this phase continue to follow the principles learned in the previous two phases, but are allowed small indulgences occasionally. People in phase 3 can eat virtually anything they want to, provided it falls into the diets guidelines, so "bad" carbs are still off limits. This final phase of the diet is designed to leave dieters with healthy overall eating habits that will be sustainable for the rest of their lives, and most experts agree that it does.
The benefits of the South Beach Diet are many, and include:
- Sustained weight loss
- Reduced cholesterol levels
- Overall improved cardiovascular health
- Promotion of an overall healthy lifestyle and eating habits
Another major benefit the South Beach Diet may have over other diet plans is a limited amount of muscle mass that is lost. The loss of muscle mass is often a problem when dieting as the body will digest protein before fat. However, due to the high amount of protein, the loss of muscle isn't really an issue in low-carb, high protein diets.
There are some health risks that need to be considered before taking on the South Beach Diet. Many of these health issues are what make the diet so controversial amongst dieticians.
- Ketosis: Ketosis is a state ofelevated ketones in the blood. This occurs when the body runs out of glucose (sugar), which is used for fuel. Ketones are a by-product of the burning of the body's fat stores and can lead to a person feeling weak, dizzy or nauseous. In very high amounts and over a long enough period of time, ketones can cause damage to various organs in the body.
- Dehydration: Much of the water that people consume daily is found in the foods they eat, particularly fruits and vegetables. With these being restricted in the first phase and a reduced appetite due to ketosis, dehydration is definitely something to watch out for.
- Structure: While some people do fine with the looser structure of the South Beach diet, others may not, or they may require more concrete measurements to ensure that they are not over-eating.
Overall, the South Beach Diet seems to be a viable option for those who are looking to lose weight, but it does come with some health risks and should never be undertaken without speaking to a doctor first. The true test of success for any diet is whether or not people can stick to it over the long term and if their health improves. Ultimately, only those who follow through with the diet under the approval and direction of their doctor will meet their weight loss goals.