By September 26, 2011

The South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet, known to adherents as the “food-lovers’ diet,” is a method of weight loss and health maintenance developed by cardiologist Arthur Agatston. His book The South Beach Diet was published in 2003, detailing a lifestyle focused on eating nutrient-dense foods that are both healthy and flavorful, without worrying about counting calories or restricting portion sizes. It focuses on eating to feel satisfied and combining a healthy diet with exercise to improve your metabolism and speed weight loss. Because of this comprehensive focus and the accommodating design of the diet, it is touted by laymen and doctors alike as one of the best ways to lose weight.

The South Beach Diet is broken down into three phases. The first phase is two weeks long and is designed to eliminate unhealthy cravings for sugars and starches, which will kick start weight loss. It is an important phase for those who have more than ten pounds to lose, are pre-diabetic, or have already developed diabetes, as its purpose is to stabilize blood sugar levels. When blood sugar has fallen into a healthy range on a regular basis, diabetes is considered “controlled” and dieters experience fewer cravings for unhealthy foods.

Phase two is meant to increase weight loss over a period of time. For those who have ten pounds or less to lose, or who just want to begin a healthier lifestyle, phase two is the place to start. Here, dieters add healthy, whole grain carbs to their meals and focus on losing weight gradually. The idea is that gradual weight loss, combined with gradual lifestyle changes, will be more permanent than crash dieting.

Phase three is the final phase of the diet, which begins once you have achieved a healthy weight. It is focused on maintaining your weight and your healthy lifestyle, although indulgences are allowed. The idea is to learn to make smart choices when it comes to your eating habits, so the diet becomes a lifestyle rather than just a diet.

The diet is a particularly healthy option for those who have developed heart disease or diabetes, or are at risk for either condition. It was originally designed as a treatment plan for cardiology patients and has shown a positive effect on lowering levels of bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol. The emphasis on exercising with dieting will also help improve heart health in dieters, and can aid in stress relief and boosting energy levels.

Meal plans in the South Beach Diet vary greatly. The focus is placed on low fat sources of protein such as fish and skinless chicken, whole grain carbs, low fat dairy products, and lots of vegetables. In phase one, dieters are not allowed any sugars at all, even those from fruits. After phase one, however, fruits are allowed, as well as dark chocolate. Wine and light beer are both allowed in moderation, along with diet sodas, coffee and tea, and monounsaturated oils like canola and olive oil. Regular snacking is encouraged, as well.

The advantages of the South Beach Diet are that it’s accommodating, restricts saturated fats, and is fairly balanced. The disadvantage, however, is the restriction of carbs, which can be a difficult transition for many. The emphasis on natural foods and cutting out processed meals may also place a financial burden on some dieters, as well. In general, however, the South Beach Diet is ranked among the best ways to lose weight, particularly because it targets bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyles and is based on scientific research and good nutrition.