The diet was developed by Dr. Arthur Agatson, a cardiologist, and claims to help you lose 8-13 pounds in the first two weeks. It is frequently compared to Atkins diet, although Agatson vehemently says that it is not low carb. Rather, it focuses on taking good carbs, balancing it with good fats, and cutting out bad carbs.
Why the distinction? Agatson believes that fats and carbohydrates aren’t created equal. Some give nutrients and help you lose weight, while others prevent your body from burning what you eat and triggers cravings. It all boils down to the glycemic index, or how quickly your body breaks down nutrients as opposed to Atkins ketosis, or how your body breaks down fats.
Like Atkins, South Beach is broken into phases, with a list of food that are allowed for each. In the first two weeks, bread, fruit, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugar, alcohol and baked goods are banned. You can eat three meals (skipping meals is discouraged, as cravings will only be more intense), where menus center around lean protein, vegetables, nuts and cheese. Little by little, other foods are reintroduced, but highly processed carbohydrates (like those found in baked goods and soft drinks) will never be part of your diet again.
South Beach advocates argue, though, that one of its strengths is its flexibility and variety. While you cut down on carbs, you are allowed chicken, turkey, fish, nuts, milk, cheeses and yogurt. After the first phase, you can even take small amounts of pasta, bread, fruit and cereal.
Because of this variety and flexibility, people find that the South Beach diet is easier to maintain, and they don’t feel deprived of good food. Many restaurants carry South Beach menus, prompting the popular tagline: eat like a star, and look like one too! It may not be just hype. Studies on the effects of South Beach point to an average weight loss of 13.6 pounds, and dramatic reductions in bad cholesterol.