The South Beach Diet was developed by a cardiologist and proposes low carbohydrate and low fat consumption. Like all diets, weight loss will occur initially. Most people lose 8-13 pounds in the first two weeks. Unfortunately, the weight will return if the diet is halted. As I have said, many times, the best diet is the diet that you will be able to maintain for the long run. The South Beach diet has many rules and is quite restrictive in its food list making long term adherence to the diet unlikely.
The diet is divided into phases. Phase I lasts for fourteen days. You are asked to avoid certain foods like bread, fruit, flavored yogurts and pasta in this phase. You are also asked to avoid processed foods which is something that I agree with completely. Vegetable consumption consisting mostly of onions, and tomatoes is recommended. For the record, I have consistently advised increasing vegetable consumption on many occasions in order to have a healthy diet. This is by no means a complete list of the foods for Phase I.
There is also a Phase 2 and a Phase 3 which each have their own specific food requirements as well. According to federal government dietary guidelines, this diet is deficient in potassium in all phases which is a concern for some experts.
Dr. Agatston, the originator of the South Beach Diet, admits that people starting his diet are prone to fatigue and muscle aches (possibly due to the low potassium) initially. He recommends drinking plenty of fluids, and avoiding high glycemic carbohydrates. The glycemic index is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate food will convert to sugar and then fat. The higher the glycemic index number, the better the chance that the carbohydrate will convert to fat. As a helpful hint, you can find out the glycemic index of any food on the internet. Some foods have the glycemic index listed on the container or wrapper.
Constipation is also an extremely common side effect. For this, Dr. Agatston recommends using Metamucil.
Some patients will experience, what has been termed, the South Beach Diet flu. According to the South Beach Diet gurus, this “flu” is due to the body withdrawing from sugar. The symptoms for this flu include strange behavior (feeling grouchy), fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. For most people on this diet, the flu symptoms resolve after a few days. For a smaller number of people, the symptoms may last for weeks. In some rare cases, the diet has to be discontinued because of the symptoms.
Exercise is not necessary if you are on this diet. I don’t agree with this recommendation as exercise will improve your health and improve your feeling of well being.
There do not appear to be any serious side effects from this diet. The issue of heart health has concerned some dietary experts due to the food recommendations of the diet along with the lack of exercise. The real question for the prospective dieter will be whether the diet can be maintained long term.
Weight loss and maintenance ultimately revolves around a change in lifestyle. Eating wisely and exercising are the real keys to long term results.