The South Beach Diet: Its not a walk on the beach

The Definition of insulin resistance is: a condition in which normal amounts of insulin are inadequate to produce a normal insulin response from fat, muscle and liver cells. This definition, given by Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, suggests that the term insulin resistance is a specific type of medical condition; one that is not necessarily prevalent throughout Americans. As a matter of fact, according to Marcelle Pick, an OB/GYN and women’s health specialist, it is estimated that only about 25% of Americans suffer from insulin resistance. Yet, despite that fairly low percentage, the concept and corrective meal plans designed for insulin resistance of The South Beach Diet, written by Arthur Agatston, M.D., has become all the rage. The #1 New York Times Best seller outlines what it calls a “delicious, doctor-designed, foolproof plan for fast and healthy weight loss.” This statement, however, is extremely debatable. The diet is in fact doctor-designed and seemingly fool proof. However, it is not hormone proof, holiday party proof, weakness proof or restaurant proof. Most importantly, it may not be a plan for fast and healthy weight loss. So lets examine this one step and statement at a time.

The diet was created by a doctor. That is a true statement. What is conveniently ignored by the eager American public is that doctors are people too. They want success and they want to leave a mark in their industry. They want to “make it big,” and will sometimes sacrifice a good and sound code of ethics. Lest we not forget that Dr. Adkin’s, famous for his creation of the Adkins diet was also an M.D. Yet his plan to eliminate carbohydrates from the diet completely is clearly a terrible plan for one’s the health. One nugget of info that might interest you: You need carbohydrates to even metabolize fat. With out a healthy dose of carbs, the liver creates ketones at a rate faster than the tissues can oxidize them with sends the body into ketosis– lowering the bloods pH, and creating an all out disaster which I’ll go into greater detail about later. In addition, the cells in the brain operate [almost] solely on glucose from carbs so depriving your body of carbs all out is just bad logic. And one more thing! Does it really sound like a good idea to jump on a band wagon of diets that say ‘for a period of time you’re not allowed to eat fruit.’ Really?? This eliminates 2 out of the 5 food groups- and one of the three left is supposed to account for the fewest possible calories obtained daily. (http://www.mypyramid.gov/) Therefore, a diet that is designed by a doctor is not necessarily one that can be deemed healthy and/or practical. To examine the statement “fool proof” one must look at the design of the diet and how it leads it’s dieters to weight loss success. The diet is well mapped out in three easy to follow steps, or as the book calls them, phases. Phase one is characterized by the total elimination of carbohydrates. It states that for the first fourteen days the dieter can not have “any bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, or baked goods.” No fruit, even. This sacrifice,however, comes with the promise of about 8-13 shed pounds. Phase two starts after that fourteen day period and lasts an indefinite amount of time. It is characterized by the reintroduction of the more nutrient dense carbohydrates such as grains and fruit. Phase two is maintained until the dieter has reached his/her goal weight. This phase is meant to help the dieter lose about a pound or two a week. The problem is, if weight is gained, the individual is to return to phase one. The book doesn’t give an idea as to how many times this should or can be done before one must admit that he or she is stuck in a yo-yo diet (please see blog #1 for the dangers of yo-yo dieting). However, if and when the goal weight is met, the dieter is then free to move into a more lenient system of his/her choice. Phase three is meant to be a stage that feels more like a new life-style than a phase. Phase three is the dieter’s new forever diet. If at any point from the fourteenth day of the diet to forever, the individual begins to see a regain, he or she is to return to phase one and begin the diet all over again. This however, is not a “fool proof” plan. It is a well outlined idea that can and does work when diligently followed. That concept, unfortunately, does not parallel “fool proof.” Despite it’s brilliantly disguised best intentions, The South Beach Diet, is in fact a fad diet. And even worse than that, it’s crash diet. WORSE than that- the advice to return to phase one if weight gain is seen makes it a yo-yo diet within a yo yo diet.
Carbohydrates should make up 45-65% percent of one’s diet in order for the brain and cells to function properly and efficiently. The deprivation of carbohydrates from the diet can, and typically does, as mentioned earlier, result in Ketosis. Ketosis is when the body has depleted it’s glycogen stores which it would normally convert to glucose for energy. What the body does in this state of glucose deprivation is signal the liver to produce ketones and glucose from fat and protein stores. Furthermore, the body uses protein for many other functions such as cell development, immune system maintenance, tissue building blocks, organ maintenance, building material for muscle, blood, skin, hair, the heart and the brain. Some proteins act as enzymes…, ya know what- I could and might just do a whole new blog on proteins alone because I could go on and on. But I wont because this particular entry is about a diet. So just know that proteins are busy busy busy little somethings in your body. And your body likes to do a little something called ‘sparing the protein’. I don’t know who came up with this term but I’ve heard it a thousand times. It basically means that your body likes to save its protein for other highly prioritized tasks and when you deprive your body of the 45-65% by calorie daily intake of carbs, you’re stealing the precious protein needed to do other busy body things. It is,therefore, evident that this new forced and unnatural system could cause undue stress to both the liver and the muscle tissues of the body. Once this crash diet sends it’s dieter into a stressed state of ketosis, it urges he or she to reintroduce carbohydrates into the body. It outlines the very distinguishing differences between “good” carbs and fats and “bad” carbs and fats. In phase two these item are introduced once again with the idea that the body has shed itself of not only 8-13 pounds, but also, an addiction to bad sugar and carbohydrates (yeah right- try as they may, I will never magically shed my addiction to peanut M&Ms, baked potatoes (which they call ‘bad’) or the occasional choco treat). Once this is all established, a system of food choices using the glycemic index indicates which carbs are better for blood sugar levels than others. This means less cravings and indulgences into the “bad” carbs. Yet for the 75% of that have normal insulin responses, when mentioning the glycemic index, it does not mention each food’s effect on another. For example, adding butter to a potato lowers it’s effect on a person’s blood sugar (not advice- just a fact). Nor does it include the fact that these concepts were developed for people with a special pre-existing condition such as diabetes or hyperglycemia. Not for weight loss. Therefore the results obtained may not be healthy and even worse, it is probable that they are not permanent. As outlined by many health professionals: it is unhealthy to lose more than a pound or two a week. Therefore, to average a loss of 4-7.5 pounds a week can not only shock one’s body but also set the dieter up for failure and disappointment when those results plateau even more quickly than they happened. Additionally, it can not be considered healthy to deprive a person of fruits, vegetables, fiber and grains. That means that in the first fourteen days of The South Beach Diet, the dieter is not taking in, all the while depleting, stores of much needed vitamins and minerals. Variety, a vital part of a well balanced diet, becomes compromised and many nutritional needs are not met. The dieter lacks fiber intake, heart healthy fruits and some vegetables. While promoting a new less insulin resistance life style, these eliminations can not be deemed healthy.

Lastly, if you read my previous blog, you know the dangers of ‘yo yo dieting’. This is of particular interest regarding the South Beach Diet because, as mentioned previously, it is a ‘yo yo diet’ with in a ‘yo yo diet’. Not only is it a fad diet with way too many restrictions which sets the dieter up for failure, it advises that the dieter “revert back to phase one if weight is gained in phase 2 or 3”. WHAT!? Are you serious? Let the crazy ‘yo yo-ing‘ begin.

So if only an estimated 25% of Americans have the condition known as insulin resistance, why are the dieters and weight loss fad fanatics of America jumping on the band wagon of a diet designed for special condition patients? The reason is simple. Since the release of The South Beach Diet book in April 2003, millions of people have tried the diet and shed pounds like crazy. It works. As the diet promises, the dieter will shed between 8-13 pounds in just the first two weeks. However, it’s dramatic changes that are done at warp speed tend to be affiliated with a dieter who wants quick results and has a lack of permanent commitment. People also tend to fool themselves into thinking that they are unlike the others and when the goal weight is reached, they will find permanent success in phase three forever. Well if they have that kind of will power then why not just start with phase three and take on a new lifestyle all together? Clearly the quick fix is desired- so I guess yo-yo away and prove me wrong.
However, I will mention that the results found from a South Beacher parallel a study done over the course of a year where the results were nearly identical to a diet that was simply well balanced and full of nutrients, variety and better food choices, not deprivation, denial, yo yo-ing or the removal of food groups. The only difference at the end of that year long study was that a significantly greater percentage of the fad dieters gained all of their weight back (and then some).

Moral of my tangent: Second verse, same as the first. Steer clear of fad diets!!!!!!!

XOXO– Casie

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