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The South Beach Diet

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/2/2008 | Fitness
What is the South Beach Diet?
The South Beach diet is the creation of cardiologist Arthur Agatston, MD, director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Prevention Center in Miami Beach, Fla.

The South Beach diet works by restricting carbohydrates, or carbs as they are more commonly known to most people. "Good carbs" are allowed, but by following the South Beach diet you must say farewell to potatoes, fruit, bread, cereal, rice, pasta, beets, carrots and corn for the first two weeks. Even after the initial two weeks, most of the carbs remain strongly discouraged.

The South Beach diet has a severe induction stage, which is then followed by a long-term eating plan.

The South Beach diet really consists of two things:

1. Fats.
The South Beach diet works by banning unhealthy fats but strongly promotes healthy fats.

2. Carbs.
By following the South Beach diet you do not count grams of carbs. It works by considering how much sugar is in a carb. For example, low-sugar carbs - those with a low glycemic index are good (these do not cause blood sugar levels to rise and fall as quickly).

As you can probably ascertain, the South Beach diet is not exactly a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet.

What can you eat?
The one thing you can be sure of is that you will not go hungry while following the South Beach diet. Surprisingly, the diet encourages and absolutely recommends strategic snacking. In fact, if you're not snacking, you're not doing it right!

There is no counting calories involved or even strict portion size. But there is no gorging either. The idea is to eat normal portions - to begin with normal portions may seem to be too small, but it should be borne in mind that they should be just enough to satisfy hunger and no more. Normal portions should not fill you up so that you can eat no more.

As previously mentioned, carbs that are rich in sugar are definitely off the menu. These do not only include potatoes and rice, but certain vegetables such as beets and corn, which contain high sugar content. Obviously, there are no sugar-laden desserts or pastries allowed. Alcohol is absolutely forbidden in the initial two-week induction stage and is limited in the long-term eating plan.

What is on the menu?

There are three stages to the South Beach diet:

1. The initial 14-day induction stage.
During the induction period the following foods are banned:

Bread
Rice
Potatoes
Pasta
Baked goods
Fruit
Beer
Wine
Any other alcohol

The South Beach diet assures that after a couple of days you will not even miss these foodstuffs. With regard to dairy foods, two servings of low fat or non-fat milk, yogurt or buttermilk are allowed during the induction stage.

2. The second stage - reintroducing the carbs.
In this stage you gradually add the carbs back into your diet from some of the banned foods. Not all of the banned foods are allowed, but if you love pasta then have some. Carrots, which used to be on the list of foods to be avoided, can now be reintroduced at the beginning of this second stage. Tomatoes and onions, which again were previously to be avoided, are now allowed in any stage. Fruit is reintroduced at this stage too, just pick and choose from your favorites. However words of caution here - just have a small amount now and then - no more, don't overdo it. This stage lasts until you reach your target weight.

3. The final stage - Your diet for Life.
The final stage is your diet for life where you eat normal foods in normal portions, following a few basic guidelines - keep healthy and slim by eating normal portions and normal foods whereby you are not stuffed after each meal, but where you have just satisfied your hunger.

How does it work?
The South Beach diet is based on the observation that people who are overweight are carb crazy. That is the reason for the induction stage - to help people with carb cravings and this is why carbs are also used minimally throughout the diet and beyond.

According to the South Beach diet theory, highly processed carbs get digested too quickly and this causes insulin levels to rise sharply. This creates a never-ending cycle, once those highly processed carbs get used up, your high insulin level causes cravings for more food - and guess what you tend to eat more of? More highly processed carbs of course!

By following the South Beach diet, it can help you to break this never-ending cycle, it can help to re-educate your way of eating by not only making you want to eat less food, but by eating better healthier food.

Pros
(a) Consists of three stages to see you through

(b) Re-educates your stomach to expect less food

(c) Helps to re-educate your lifestyle to eat better, healthier food.

(d) Sets you up for a healthier lifestyle after reaching your target weight.

Cons
(a) As with all diets, it won't suit everybody

(b) Needs willpower while following the three stages, especially the induction stage.

(c) You need to learn when to stop eating and to know when you are satisfied without being over-full.

Tips for staying with it.
The South Beach diet is a popular diet and most of us realize that most popular diets to work - to begin with because of their novelty - you have never tried it before so you are really enthusiastic at first. We need to keep going with any diet to get real results.

The first pounds you lose in the first week or so are usually just water from our tissues, not the fat that we hope it to be. Your tissues will eventually rehydrate, but that is no reason to get downhearted and discouraged. If you are eating less, if you are eating better foods and getting sufficient exercise, you will become slimmer and fitter. This is another great reason to stick with it.

Remember your reasons for dieting - they may be just to look better. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look better, but the best reason of all is to become healthier, to have a healthy heart, healthy bones and strong lungs. There is nothing wrong with that either and the South Beach diet can help you do that.

Good luck.