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South Beach: Weight Loss Winner or Loser?

The South Beach weight loss program redefines the concept of just that. Unlike most traditional programs, it involves no calorie-counting or down-sizing of portions. And, it’s been known to help people lose and keep off weight for the long term. What’s the secret behind this program? Keep reading for the lowdown on this popular weight-loss approach.

The secret to the South Beach Diet’s success may lie in its medical roots, as it was originally developed by Dr. Arthur Agatston as part of a treatment plan for cardiac patients. When these patients lost weight while following the diet, Dr. Agatston published his revolutionary diet plan in his book, The South Beach Diet.

The Phases

The South Beach Diet is composed of three phases. Phase I is the first stage of the diet and also the most challenging. You must cut out all saturated fats and trans fats and practically all carbohydrates, including bread, potatoes, fruit, and milk. The goal is to avoid these foods in order to eliminate what Dr. Agatston calls “insulin resistance syndrome,” in which the hormone insulin has difficulty metabolizing foods that contain high-glycemic carbohydrates.

Instead, you are directed to eat more protein-based foods such as lean beef, poultry, seafood, eggs, as well as many low-glycemic vegetables. You may also consume oils and foods high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and nuts. Despite this broad range of foods, phase-I dieters often fight strong “sweet-tooth” cravings that arise from the sudden sugar deprivation. Yet, they often find they crave sugar less if they manage to resist those cravings.

You can enjoy a weight loss between 8 to 13 pounds in this first phase as your body responds to the near-complete removal of fatty and sugary foods.

After two weeks of Phase I, South Beach dieters proceed to Phase II. During this phase, you reintroduce certain fruits, dairy products, and grains to your diet. The caveat is that the grains must be whole grains rather than white, as whole grains have a lower glycemic index and slow down the insulin response, making the body less prone to sugar-induced energy swings. For example, you are directed to eat sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes, and whole-grain pasta rather than white. These reintroduced foods also share a higher amount of fiber, which helps you feel fuller and eat less.

Phase III begins once you reach your desired weight. This phase is known as the “maintenance phase” because it aims to maintain your weight rather than further weight loss. It allows more reintroduction of healthy carbs and fats, recommending three servings of fruit and three servings of whole grains per day. This phase emphasizes consumption of vegetables more than any other food group. Fats remain limited to unsaturated fats, such as olive oil and salmon. Dieters are also urged to eat six times a day—three main meals with three small snacks.

The South Beach Diet is perhaps one of the most “user-friendly” diets in history. People respond well to its sensible well-balanced nutrition and avoidance of drastic calorie-cutting. By following the South Beach Diet, you can conceivably practice the diet’s guidelines for the rest of your life, raising your nutrition levels while keeping your weight firmly in check.

Is the South Beach Diet for you? Give it a try and see . . . after all, the only thing you have to lose is the weight.

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