South Beach Diet Facts You Need to Know

South Beach Diet Plan - Facts

South Beach Diet Super Charged

Are you considering The South Beach Diet for health or weight loss? The diet program first became popular in 2003 when preventative cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatson published The South Beach Diet book in 2003. Since that time the program has been modified to reflect current research and health trends. But myths and misunderstandings about the diet persist.

Before you invest in the South Beach Diet, be sure to get the most current facts and guidelines. You can visit the South Beach Diet website or read any of Dr. Agatston's more recent books including South Beach Diet Supercharged (2008) or South Beach Diet Gluten Solution (2014). But there are seven facts, in particular, that you should know before you choose this diet plan.

The South Beach Diet Is Not a Quick Fix

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You might think that a diet named after a famous bikini beach in Florida would be the perfect plan for quick weight loss. But the South Beach Diet is not a quick weight loss plan. Instead, the lifestyle program is a structured 3-step plan for long-term health improvement.

"The South Beach eating plan is not about quick weight loss, but rather encourages a positive change in lifestyle, says South Beach Diet nutritionist Marie Almon, MS, RD. "The principles encourage losing weight slowly and steadily as you learn to make the right food choices over time,"

During Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet, dieters often lose weight quickly. During this two-week stage, dieters avoid all grain products, starches, sugars (including fruits and fruit juices), and alcohol. But despite the rapid weight loss, dieters are not encouraged to stay in Phase 1. Alman explains that it's important to move to Phase 2 where weight loss slows to a more gradual pace. If dieters stay in Phase 1 she says, "they are not getting the full complement of healthy nutrients that comes from reintroducing more high-fiber phytonutrient-rich vegetables, as well as fruits and whole grains."

Phase 1 Is Not For Everyone

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As you might imagine, the most difficult phase of the South Beach Diet is Phase 1. During this phase, the list of foods to avoid is extensive and dieters may feel sluggish or experience headaches. Critics of the South Beach Diet often say that this phase is too restrictive and complicated for many dieters to follow. But not everyone has to do Phase 1. In fact, this phase is only designed to be used by certain individuals.

"Where you begin the program depends on how much weight you have to lose," explains Almon. "Phase 1, which typically lasts just two weeks, is designed for people who have more than 10 pounds to lose and/or have cravings for sugary and starchy carbohydrates."

Some dieters start the South Beach Diet in Phase 2. "If you have less than 10 pounds to lose and don’t have cravings, you can start the program on Phase 2 and lose 1-2 pounds a week until you reach a healthy weight. Studies show that it is slow and steady weight loss that results in keeping the weight off over time."

South Beach Is a Mediterranean Style Diet

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The South Beach Diet is often referred to as a low-glycemic diet in the media. But that's not necessarily the most accurate description. According to Almon, the weight loss program more closely resembles the Mediterranean Diet.

"While the South Beach Diet has often been termed low-glycemic because it recommends eating well-timed foods and snacks with a low-glycemic index and combinations of food that have a low-glycemic load in order to help prevent the swings in blood sugar that can cause hunger and cravings, it is actually closer to a Mediterranean style of eating, with its focus on lean sources of protein (including plenty of omega-3 rich seafood), nutrient- and fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, and healthy fats, including extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, and nuts."

She goes on to explain that, like a low-glycemic diet, the program is designed to help control the the hunger and cravings that typically happen when individuals over consume simple sugars and refined starches.

Not All Low-Glycemic Foods Are Approved

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So if the South Beach Diet helps you to control blood sugar swings just like a low-glycemic diet, what makes it different than other low-glycemic diets? Almon explains that on the South Beach eating plan, low-glycemic foods are selected because they are heart-healthy choices." That means you can't eat just any low-glycemic food when you're following the South Beach Diet. Instead, you eat from a list of approved foods.

While the South Beach Diet food lists may be hard for some dieters to follow, they may help you select better low-glycemic foods.  In fact, some low-GI foods are heavily processed and may not work well on a weight loss diet. During a recent interview with nutrition expert Susan Kleiner, she explained that using the glycemic index may not always be the best method to find healthy diet foods. She pointed out that some foods may contain cheap fats or fillers to get the low GI symbol, and those foods are not always healthy choices. 

You Can Eat Bread and Cereal on the South Beach Diet

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One of the most common misconceptions of the South Beach Diet is that bread, grains, and cereals are permanently banned. But South Beach dieters can eat these foods in moderation.

One Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet, dieters avoid all grain products (including whole grains)  in order to "get rid of the cravings caused by exaggerated swings in blood sugar in order to gain control of your appetite," according to Almon. But healthy whole grains are gradually added back into your eating plan in Phase 2 and Phase 3.

Of course, that doesn't mean that South Beach dieters should fill their plates with bread and cereal at the beginning of Phase 2.  In fact, Almon says that this is a common mistake that can cause weight loss to stall. "When a person suddenly floods their system with carbohydrates, even good ones, it can sometimes trigger the same cravings that got them into trouble in the first place." For that reason, she recommends that dieters add healthy carbs gradually.

There is a South Beach Diet Exercise Plan

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The original South Beach Diet did not include an exercise component. But when Dr. Agatston published The South Beach Diet Super Charged the program changed. The South Beach Diet now includes a step-by-step exercise program complete with interval training and strength development.

If you're afraid of exercise, don't worry. The interval training program that is included in the newest version of the South Beach Diet starts at a slow pace and gradually increases in intensity. Dr. Agatston explains that the exercise component is designed to help speed up metabolism so weight loss happens faster and to help limit weight loss plateaus that often plague consistent dieters.

South Beach Diet Foods Are Not Required

South Beach Snack Bars

If you've done your homework, investigated different diets and decided that The South Beach Diet is right for you, there's no need to invest a lot of money to start the program. In fact, most of the resources to start and maintain the program are free and available online.

Of course, if you want to spend money, there are plenty of products to purchase. Some dieters who have busy schedules may benefit from the South Beach Diet Delivery service and dieters who want support from a registered dietitian or additional weight loss tools can sign up for South Beach Diet Online and Mobile program. The company also sells a variety of diet bars that you'll find in many retail stores.

But these products and services are not required to make the South Beach Diet work. In fact, most of what you need to know is in The South Beach Diet Supercharged which you'll likely find at your local library. You can also download a copy of the allowable foods lists here or on the South Beach Diet website.