Top 7 Most Popular Weight-Loss Programs: South Beach Diet

The South Beach Diet did not originate to become a national weight loss fad. The diet has quaint roots in that it started to help individuals prevent heart disease by subbing out “bad” fats for “good” fats and to live an all-around healthier lifestyle.

Two professionals worked together to create the South Beach Diet: dietician, Marie Almon, and cardiologist, Arthur Agatston. The idea was to create an alternative diet people could use to replace other low-fat diets available in the genre, such as the Pritikin Diet and the Ornish Diet.

But because the South Beach Diet also emphasized replacing “bad” carbs with “good” carbs in conjunction with fats, people noticed that they began to lose weight while on the plan. And like any working formula for weight-loss, the diet exploded across the country and eventually around the world.

Agatston’s research showed that a low-fat diet was not enough to live a healthy lifestyle. While other low-fat, heart-friendly diets preached the wonders of eating healthy, they did not deal with bad carbohydrates – processed grains, sugars and corn syrup, and other foods high on the glycemic index.

The quick bursts of sugar people were receiving on low-fat diets not only left them feeling hungry and subsequently more likely to break from the diet, but their bodies were also becoming immune to insulin, thus resulting in diabetes. The South Beach Diet was designed strictly to be a safer approach, but the weight loss it grants is undeniable.

How the South Beach Diet Works

This is one of the simplest diets out there in terms of premise. In practice, however, it has proven to be quite difficult for some individuals. In essence, dieters do not “eliminate” things from their diets; they simply replace them.

Instead of eating bad carbs, you switch it up to good carbs. Instead of ingesting bad fats, you make sure you’re ingesting good fats. Heart-healthy fats can help to reduce bad cholesterol and help to improve good cholesterol and they can also aid in burning fat. And good carbs take longer to break down, thus helping to keep your body’s energy levels stable throughout the day and they promote healthy blood sugar levels.

The weight-loss comes in sacrificing the bad carbs. It isn’t like the Atkins Diet per se. You will not get rid of carbs. But because the body is ingesting slow-burning carbs, the sugars are not then stored as fat.

Example of replacements:

  • Whole wheat pasta for white flour pasta
  • Olive oil in place of canola oil and butter
  • Leafy greens instead of carrots
  • Chicken and turkey and fish for red meat and fatty pork

You can understand where this is going. Seeing the GI list of foods and reading up on other low-carb diets will help you get a full list of replacement foods.

The South Beach Diet is broken down into three phrases.

Phase 1:

This initial phase lasts for the first two weeks of the diet and it eliminates all sugars, fruits, processed carbohydrates, and even some vegetables like carrots and potatoes. What you’re seeking to do here with the short-lived change is to curb your body’s hunger cycle. The result is that most people lose a significant amount of weight by making the change.

Phase 2:

This is where you continue to stay off of all processed carbs, junk food, sugar/corn syrup, etc. You can introduce carbs back into your diet via whole grains and other vegetables, but only in moderation. The idea is to live a low-carb lifestyle from here on out.

Phase 3:

This is the maintenance that has to last a lifetime. It is up to dieter to make sure he or she stays away from processed carbs and bad fats. This diet is a total lifestyle change. It wasn’t designed to be a quick fix for any problem.

Pros and Cons of the South Beach Diet


  • The diet definitely works due to the low-carb nature
  • Low-fat diets will also keep your heart healthy
  • Once you initially figure out “how” to replace the foods, you are not making such a big lifestyle change to do so
  • There are no books or tapes or gimmicks to buy into with this diet. It’s more of a principle than a program
  • Results happen quickly if you follow the plan


  • Any straying from the diet will put you at risk of regaining the weight
  • Some may find a lack of information if they follow the diet’s “plan” (see other low-carb diets for assistance)
  • There is a risk of sacrificing vitamins and nutrients, so most dieters should supplement

All in all, the South Beach Diet is proven to work on principle alone. Although critics always tend to bemoan anything of the “low-carb” nature, science has proven time and again the cutting back on “bad” carbs will result in weight loss. Keeping up with the loss, however, is up to an individual. No diet can force a person to stay committed.

Read also the others in our Top 7 Most Popular Weight-Loss Program series:




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