I get so annoyed with this comment, which is usually delivered with a dismissive nose wrinkle.
"The South Beach Diet is not low-carb. Nor is it low-fat. The South Beach Diet teaches you to rely on the right carbs and fats - the good ones." (P. 3, The South Beach Diet.)
Arthur Agatston is a cardiologist. After becoming disillusioned with the 1990's American Heart Association-recommended low-fat diet (the results were not as good as expected, patients relapsed into bad habits, significant health benefits were few) Agatston developed his own diet to combat his patients' cardiac and vascular problems. Weight loss was a side effect, but a good one, he says, since it gets younger people interested in eating healthfully and keeps people of all ages motivated. Oddly enough, not dying of a heart attack is less motivational to many Americans than not fitting into skinny jeans.
Many people talk about The South Beach Diet and The Atkins diet as though they're interchangeable. I tried Atkins briefly a long time ago and did not find that to be the case. At the time I had only a few pounds to lose and I quickly did so, but the diet was not one I was willing to maintain long-term. I couldn't believe I was eating such decadent foods on a DIET. I couldn't drink milk or coffee, alas, but I could lighten my morning tea with heavy cream. I couldn't have a whole wheat pita, but I could make a ham and cheese roll with real mayo - not low fat or Miracle Whip. I couldn't enjoy a piece of fruit, but I could eat buttered steak with a side of sauteed mushrooms and spinach au gratin, heavy on the gratin. Dr. Atkins didn't recommend eating like that, of course. But fat and cholesterol aren't - or weren't then - considered worrisome on the Atkins diet. (IIUC, The Zone diet is similar in its strict restriction of carbohydrates.)
That's different from the South Beach Diet.
The South Beach diet has three phases. Phase one is challenging, optional, and not intended for long-term use. Nor is it - like the Atkins "Induction Phase" - intended to put the body into ketosis. It's intended to change bad habits. That it does, at least for me.
Phase two is sustainable long-term. This is important, since it's how you eat for months or years until you reach your desired weight/BMI/size/cholesterol level.
Phase three is maintenance. Basically, it's healthy eating for the rest of your life. The horror!
A sample Phase 1 menu from the book includes:
- Breakfast: 2 vegetable quiche cups (spinach and low cholesterol egg substitute with a little cheese, baked in a muffin tin) and V8
- Morning snack: 1 part-skim mozzarella cheese stick
- Lunch: Greek salad (feta and olives: yum!)
- Afternoon snack: hummus with raw vegetables
- Dinner: fish kabobs, oven-roasted vegetables, and sliced cucumber with olive oil
- Dessert: mocha ricotta creme (I hate ricotta and skip this one, though Paul loves it)
- Breakfast: fresh strawberries and oatmeal
- Morning snack: apple and peanut butter or skinny cow cheese
- Lunch: Lemon Couscous Chicken, tomato and cucumber slices
- Afternoon Snack: "lite" yogurt
- Dinner: turkey meatloaf, steamed asparagus, tossed salad
- Dessert: chocolate-covered strawberries
The South Beach Diet (re)teaches good habits, like listening to your body's hunger signals rather than snacking indiscriminately, portion control, reacquainting oneself with the outside of the supermarket rather than the aisles, and so forth. Naturally our weekly grocery bills increase accordingly.
It shocks me how little modern science seems to know about the female reproductive system (or, more accurately, how much we seem not to know). Similarly, it surprises me how little "science" goes into official - and even government - recommendations for a healthy diet. Was anyone else surprised to learn that "drink 8 glasses of water a day!" was purely invented advice? Ridiculous! This is the 21st century, after all.
I'm not a vegetarian, though I understand all the wonderful environmental, health, and ethical arguments for making such a diet choice. Barring that (or, rather, not barring meat, etc.) I hardly think that a diet featuring fresh vegetables and fruits alongside low-fat dairy products, lean meats, eggs, and whole grain breads is "unhealthy" or even a "fad." It's just new packaging for healthy advice.
Sure, it's a gimmick. But even if one doesn't stick with The South Beach Diet forever, some of the good habits - or at least the knowledge - might stick longer. I needed to break bad habits, create healthier ones, and wanted a guidebook to walk me through the an overwhelming transition.
This did it for me.