Womens Health

The South Beach Diet and Quick Weight Loss

When The Dukes of Hazard was released in 2005, former reality TV co-star of MTV’s Newleyweds (along with now ex-husband Nick Lachey) Jessica Simpson made no secret about how hard she worked to make her body ready for the scantily-clad scenes in which she appears. Besides working out six days a week, Simpson revealed she also strictly adhered to the now famous "South Beach Diet". Since then, the diet and its founder Dr. Arthur Agatston, have become household names to millions of weight loss junkies worldwide.

But how does this so-called "low carb diet" stack up to its claims of guaranteed fast weight loss and life-long health? We’re here to tell you.

What is the South Beach Diet?

Although the South Beach Diet has been touted as falling under the "low-carb diets" category, it should by no means be compared to the Atkins Diet, which not only promotes a significant reduction in carbohydrates, but also encourages high fat (even saturated fat) consumption. The South Beach Diet on the other hand, does not market itself under the moniker of either low-carb or low-fat diet, as it promotes eating the "good" versions of both in moderation.

Originally designed to treat patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases, the story goes that Dr. Agatston discovered that while following his diet plant to improve their overall heart health, his patients were also loosing weight. The rest, as they say, is history.

The diet works in three phases: in the first phase, carbohydrate and sugar intake are reduced dramatically; this is followed by two phases in which certain kinds of these foods are gradually reintroduced. And while the diet does advertise fast weight loss, it is not intended to be a quick fix. Indeed, the final phase is actually a plan for an entirely new lifestyle, so that people will not only maintain their new healthy weight, but will also be able to prevent health complications (such as heart disease) later on.

What’s on the Menu?

The diet is composed of three phases, each of which carries different dietary restrictions and allowances:

  • Phase 1 (2 weeks)
    This is by far the most restrictive phase. In order to cleanse your body of all bad carbohydrates, almost all carbs are eliminated from the diet. There is a total ban on common starchy carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals and potatoes. Fruit is also banned due to its high sugar content, as well as all alcoholic beverages. Foods that are encouraged are lean meats, fish, cheese and nuts as well as lots of low glycemic-index vegetables. Phase one is also the peak for rapid weight loss, with most dieters reporting loosing anywhere between 8 and 12 pounds.
  • Phase 2
    During this phase some of the banned carbohydrates – in particular ones that fall low on the glycemic index – are reintroduced. However, dieters should be aware that they may now notice they have an allergy to certain types of carbohydrates. Some previously banned foods that are now allowed include: carrots, tomatoes, onions and fruit; all of which should be consumed in moderation. This phase lasts until the desired weight is reached. Weight loss is usually lost at a rate of around 1-2 pounds per week.
  • Phase 3
    This phase is supposed to be permanent. Nearly all foods are reintroduced; however, the key is to limit portions of foods that are high in fat and those that fall high on the glycemic index. A few basic guidelines still apply.

The Verdict

Advantages of the South Beach Diet include:

  • It allows most foods after the initial phase
  • Unlike the Atkins Diet, it doe not encourage saturated fat consumption
  • It does not promote fasting
  • There is no need for calorie or fat counting
  • It has been recognized as effective in reducing your risk for heart disease

Disadvantages, on the other hand, include:

  • For carb-lovers, the first phase can be extremely demanding and may lead to abandonment of the diet altogether
  • Because the initial weight loss is mostly due to water weight, a slip up in the diet will likely result in quick weight gain
  • With all of the meal planning, following the diet can work out to be very expensive – not to mention time-consuming

As for the expert opinion, health professionals say the South Beach diet is on the whole a balanced diet that promotes healthy weight loss. However, they also warn that diets need to be modified for every individual. Be sure to consult your physician before beginning any new diet routine.

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