Can You Don a Bikini and Hit the Beach Using the South Beach Diet?

Diet books and fad diets are nothing new. It seems every few months, a new weight loss program is touted by the so-called experts as the "new miracle diet". We, as consumers, are bombarded by before and after photos and testimonials from people who have successfully lost weight with some fabulous new program.

Two years ago, a new diet book hit the shelves. It was called "The South Beach Diet" by Dr. Arthur Agatston. Since his release in 2003, The South Beach Diet is listed on the New York Times' bestseller list for an impressive 103 weeks. Dr. Agatston has 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 different from the others, and more importantly, does it?

The main idea behind South Beach is eating three meals per day, with snacks and even dessert, while highly processed foods. Dr. Agatston says that South Beach is not low carb or low fat, but good carbs and good fats. The Diet is divided 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 them your food choices for the rest of your life.

During the first phase you can eat until you are full (not stuffed full, but 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 sugar-free clot-o or popsicles as treats; to 75 calories worth per day. Nuts and natural peanut butter are also on the list, but with restrictions. You are basically giving bread, rice, pasta, potatoes and sugar in all its forms. The South Beach Diet book claims that you can lose 8.13 pounds in just two weeks on the first phase, 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, fruit selection, and (my personal favorite) sugar-free clot-o pudding. Even though no sugar, except for the occasional bite of dark chocolate. Good carbohydrates in the form of whole grains and legumes, and good fats in the form of unsaturated, non-hydrogenated things as I can not believe it's Not Butter spray and olive oil are all approved.

Once you've reached your target weight, you're pretty much on your own. Phase three you can eat in the phase two guidelines, adding occasional treats and 'white' food, but omitting the snacks you've come upon. There is not much guidance here, because now you know what your body is able to handle. Dr. Agatston recommends that you return to phase two if you find yourself gaining weight again.

Sounds simple enough, right? The book even claims that you do not need to exercise to lose weight with this plan (although it does suggest that the physical activity as part of your weight loss effort). While eating is healthy, there are some drawbacks to this diet - or at least in the way it is presented.

Phase one is very restrictive. Sure, you're only in for two weeks, and potential weight loss is very encouraging. Many people do not lose the 'guaranteed' 8.13 pounds in phase one and get discouraged. Not only that, but suddenly, all sugar and refined carbohydrates from your diet can lead to 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 craving, but sometimes the effects are just not worth it. If you think you can change your craving, head for phase two.

South Beach also recommends that you use sugar substitutes, especially Splenda. Some people have trouble digesting aspartame, while others prefer to avoid one unhealthy substance and replaced with a chemically processed alternative. Explore your options in this case - there are other ways to sweeten foods without sugar or chemicals.

While on stage two, your weight loss should slow down to one or two pounds per week, according to the book. This is reasonable, and slow weight loss is certainly healthier than falling pound fast. It is a balanced diet and has great impact on your health with the added benefit of unwanted pounds to lose. What is confusing in so far as the book is that there are ingredients in the recipes that are not found in the recommended "Foods Enjoy" list. Even Dr. Agatston asks that you add grains and fruit back to your diet slowly, with only one portion per day to start and gradually increase your servings until you slow down your weight loss. To view the daily menus in the book though, there are several fruit and grain servings per 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 not to count and use of common sense to lose weight, then South Beach is more of a strategic eating plan than a rigid diet and would be very good for you. Keep in mind that all diets around the same principal: take less calories than you burn off. Burn more calories than you consume, and the weight will come off. Good eating and enjoying healthy food is an integral part of this process, and that's where The South Beach Diet seems. Photobucket

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