South Beach Diet
Review by Phil Kaplan
Calls come in to my radio
show frequently about the South Beach Diet, and there's
almost always a comparison to Atkins.
"Phil, I'm starting the
South Beach Diet, which I know is not as bad as Atkins
. . . "
It's interesting to me how people
tend to form their perspectives related to dieting based upon
that which is "the least bad." I guess it's somehow
ingrained into our society, that "bad" is to be
expected. Did you ever ask someone the simple question, "how
are you," and have them respond, "not bad."
Does that also mean "not good?"
I believe we should feel good,
strive to feel great, and that if we choose lifestyle adaptations,
those adaptations should clearly be "good" at the
very least. The word "diet," in my vocabulary, equates
with deprivation, and it's hard to mix the idea of "deprivation"
with the concept of pleasure. I've steered people away from
conventional diets and led them toward better nutritional
The South Beach Diet is a new trend,
and probably a logical step in the evolution of diets. The
pendulum swung from "avoid fats," to "avoid
carbs," and the opposing diet gurus took opposing sides.
Many attempting to follow the diet trends find carb deprivation
difficult, and many find weight regain rapid after a bout
of "cutting carbs." The South Beach Diet is more
liberal in its direction. It doesn't say "carbs are bad,"
nor does it say "fat is bad." It tends to land somewhere
in the middle, and in that I believe it's a step toward helping
people better understand "supportive eating." With
that said, I am not an advocate of the diet for a few primary
Firstly, the South Beach Diet suggests
that people will lose between 8 and 13 pounds in the first
Phase which lasts two weeks. The first phase, plain and simple,
is carb deprivation. Breads, sugars, and fruits are off limits,
but so are complex carbs such as potatoes, brown rice, and
corn. When you avoid carbs for more than a few days, you are
certain to deplete glycogen stores. Glycogen is "stored
fuel" held in both muscles and the liver. The liver acts
as a sort of a pump for blood sugar and stored glycogen is
the reserve. The muscles act as reservoirs for muscle fuel
as glycogen is released to fuel muscle contraction. Typically,
we release glycogen and replace it, as glycogen is actually
glucose being stored for future use, and a glucose molecule
is the molecular component of any carbohydrate food.
When you back way off on carb intake,
you expend stored glycogen and fail to replace it. Glycogen
attracts water. Muscle tissue is primarily water. When you
reduce glycogen storage, you reduce muscular water retention,
thus, deplete the muscles of glycogen and you weigh less.
The initial weight loss on any carb depletion program is going
to be primarily water loss. I'm not suggesting this water
loss in and of itself is dangerous, but if people are using
the scale as a gauge to measure weight loss, the initial loss
on the South Beach Diet is deceptive.
The most common question I receive
related to the South Beach Diet has to do with the "plateau."
"In the first two weeks
I lost 11 pounds, but now, two weeks later, I'm stuck."
Water loss led to the mistaken
conclusion that the reduction in carbs somehow led to a sustainable
rate of fat loss, and in that people find self-defeat when
the weight loss ceases.
Even with my criticisms, I do see
some important virtues in Dr. Agatston's book (The South Beach
Diet) and believe as people find a better understanding of
metabolic nutrition, and as they better understand the relationship
between food and exercise, they can take some of what they
learn from the South Beach Diet and use it to create a more
long term fat loss program. I applaud Dr. Agatston's explanations
of the insulin response and agree that refined and processed
carbs are primary contributors to our nation's obesity issue.
I applaud his distinction between "the good fats"
and the less valuable fats (saturated fats and hydrogenated
fats) and believe if people begin to find their meals made
up of lean proteins, complex carbs, and fibrous vegetables,
their going to ultimately land in the midst of a healthier
The final thing I should mention
is, when I meet people who describe themselves as being "on
the South Beach Diet," many are consciously avoiding
both carbs and fat, eating three low calorie meals per day,
and that becomes yet another twist on calorie deprivation.
The end result is typically muscle loss, metabolic slowdown,
the return of cravings, and a greater fat loss challenge in
the future. If The South Beach Diet is a stepping stone toward
clarity, it has its place. Add in aerobic exercise and resistance
training and you're headed in the right direction. Just don't
judge your progress by your pounds on the scale. You'll wind
up disillusioned and disappointed.
and the Low Carb Controversy ]
[ Supportive Nutrition
[ When Supportive Eating Gets Boring
[ Calorie Deprivation ]
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