Diets Deconstructed – South Beach Diet

Now we’re looking at the South Beach diet as part of our Diets Deconstructed – this is one that became super popular in the early 2000s and has maintained a place on diet bookshelves ever since.
The South Beach diet was created by a cardiologist called Arthur Agatston with a dietician called Marie Almon, their aim was to create an alternative to low-fat diets such as the Ornish or Pritikin diets from the 1980s.
Whilst agreeing with the principles of other low-fat diets that had gone before Agatson looked to find a solution that was far more practical as people frequently found it difficult adhering to the plan – well how often is it these things are easy?! His research focused on insulin resistance and GI (or glycemic index) leading him to hypothesize that people on these low-fat diets weren’t eating less but merely compensating fats by eating addition sugar and simplified carbohydrates. With the manic nature of insulin and blood sugars this type of diet meant that people ended up eating even more as they ended up feeling hungry more often. None of which helps if you’re on a diet to try and loose weight!
So how does the South Beach diet actually work? Well it claims to focus on replacing the ‘bad carbs’ and ‘bad fats’ with ‘good carbs’ and ‘good fats’. Whilst it is often (and quite easily) confused with other low carb diets, particularly the famous Atkins diet, there is no requirement to completely cut out carbs from the diet, simply focus on suitable replacement complex carbohydrates.
On the diet you are supposed to eliminate trans-fats and ideally saturated fats (although these can merely be minimised) whilst replacing them with foods rich in unsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids. Basically the diet suggests removing fatty portions of red meats and poultry, eating lean meats, nuts and oily fish.
The diet can be further split into 3 phases that relax as the plan progresses:
  • Phase 1 is the initial 2 weeks of the diet is very strict cutting out ALL sugars, processed carbohydrates, fruits and some vegetables (starchy vegetables with a high GI rating). It is claimed that in this phase the hunger is satiated and the vicious cycle of hunger ebb and flow is broken.
  • Phase 2 can last as long as long as the dieter wishes and is the key stage for weight loss on this plan. It allows the reintroduction of fruits, vegetables and whole grains into the diet.
  • Phase 3 is the ongoing ‘lifestyle change’ that doesn’t meet specific eat or do not eat lists. Instead it asks the dieter to reflect on what they have already learnt from the previous phases to tailor their meals without any further guidance.

A fun and somewhat random fact about the South Beach diet is that even though the diet does not allow for alcohol consumption there is one notable exception – Oktoberfest! As a native of Zurich this is one celebration that need not be affected by dietary restrictions where rules state that any amount of beer or/and larger! Across the years some people have decided to include St. Patrick’s Day as a similar exception to the diet rules.

Whilst this has become one of the more reputable diet trends that floats around however professionals have had conflicting opinions, the majority of the buzz surrounding the removal of certain items from the diet and the unaligned food groups is not what nutritionists call ideal, but it still seems to get results and in a world where the exterior can matter more than the interior this diet still ranks highly.

**As with all diet plans the results vary from person to person, I am no doctor so to find out more about if a plan is suitable for you before you begin be sure to talk to your GP or a nutritionist to see if it is right for you.**


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