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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

South Beach Diet: What it Is, What it Isn't

What’s the perfect diet for you? That’s the question many people ask themselves. Just as we change outfits because they don’t feel right, some of us do the same with diets. We’re searching for that perfect fit. How do you know which one is right for you?

The South Beach diet was created by Dr. Arthur Agatston, a highly respected cardiologist. He wanted to create a meal plan that would be a safe and effective way to lose weight. What’s interesting about this diet is that it works in phases for a set amount of time, and once you hit the last phase you supposedly stay there for life (or until you go off the diet).

Let’s take a closer look at each of the phases. I’ve included a few of the foods that should be avoided and included in this diet. If you want a complete list I would highly recommend that you purchase the book, The South Beach Diet.

Phase One

The focus of Phase One is to remove the cravings you have for sugars and starches. No fruits or grains are allowed during this phase and most dairy products are eliminated as well. Phase One lasts for 14 days, and this stage of the diet is sometimes called the “strict phase” because many dieters find it the most challenging. Phase One drastically limits the foods that you can eat. Even if a food is highly nutritious, it cannot be eaten if it is on the elimination list. Some people lose a pound per day during this time, and others discover that they lose a significant amount of belly fat.

Phase One Foods to Avoid

· Alcohol- Absolutely no alcohol
· Meats – Many types of meat and poultry are not allowed, including beef, prime rib, dark meat from chicken, and turkey, and honey baked ham.
· Milk – No whole milk
· Starches - No bread, cereal, pasta, potatoes, and rice
· Sweets- All sweets must be avoided, including fruits and fruit juices
· Vegetables (some types) - carrots, corn, beets, and green peas (they contain sugar)

Phase One Acceptable Foods

· Beans- Black eyed peas, chickpeas, great northern beans, and pinto beans.
· Cheeses- Low fat cheeses are acceptable.
· Eggs
· Fats and oils- Olive oil or avocado oil is all healthy fats.
· Meats- Some types of meat you can consume include boiled ham, lean ground beef, turkey, and chicken breast, all seafood.
· Nuts- A serving of nuts is acceptable. Remember nuts are a healthy fat.
· Vegetables (some types) - Lettuce, okra, onions, mushrooms, spinach, sprouts, and tomatoes are just a few of the vegetables you can consume during Phase One.

Once you’ve been on Phase One for 14 days you can move on to Phase Two. Dr. Agatston believes that some individuals should begin at Phase Two. Nursing mothers, children, and teenagers should begin at Phase Two. If you don’t have to lose a lot of weight, you can also start at Phase Two.

Phase Two

The big difference between Phase One and Phase Two is that there is no set amount of days to be at this level. Phase Two lasts until you reach your desired weight. During Phase Two you can still eat the foods that you were eating during Phase One. Additional foods will also be added. During this phase fruits low on the glycemic index, whole grain bread, pasta, and potatoes will be introduced.

Phase Two Acceptable Foods

Artificial Sweetener
Chocolate - Semi-sweet chocolate is accepted.
Fruits- Apples, bananas, cantaloupe, and grapes
Pudding (fat free)
Starches- Cereals, whole wheat bagels, whole wheat pasta, and whole grain crackers
Vegetables- carrots, green peas, potatoes, pumpkin, and yams
Wine- You are allowed one or two glasses daily.

Phase Three

Once you’ve made it to the Phase Three there is nothing more to eliminate or add back to your diet. You can eat whatever you want. Those who advocate the South Beach Diet believe once you have reached this state you should have acquired all the skills needed to maintain your weight goal. If you find yourself gaining weight, though, ease up on the carbohydrates.

South Beach Diet Warnings

Now that you know what the South Beach diet is, let’s take a look at what some of the critics have said about the diet.

Carbohydrates are restricted during Phase One, which results in decreased energy levels. When the body doesn't have energy the body will use the energy that is stored in the muscles. One result of this is that it will make you look thinner, but another is that the body will begin to cannibalize muscle tissue. Others, like myself, question whether two weeks is a long enough time to break lifetime addiction to carbohydrates and sugar? Critics point out that artificial sweeteners are incorporated in this diet. They are not believed to be safe, and numerous reports have been written about the dangers of using them. Phase One looks a lot like a protein diet, although Dr. Agatston claims this isn’t the case.

Before starting any diet regimen you should research the pros and cons and consult with your health care provider. There is no miracle diet that will magically melt the pounds. No, you have to change the way you view food, and realize that whole foods need to make up a good portion of your diet. Changing the way you view food can take time; however, the benefits are amazing. When you start making healthier choices, getting plenty of exercise into your lifestyle, and looking at positive ways to handle life issues, you are enhancing your overall health and physical well-being. The payoffs of a healthy lifestyle will be far greater than those of a diet that promises to help your reach a desired weight or to have a skinny body.

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