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When South Beach Diet Phase 2 Isn't Working

By Edited Jul 9, 2016 0 0

Why Is the South Beach Diet Not Working?

When South Beach Diet Phase 2 Isn't Working

Most dieters easily lose weight on Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. With its strong focus on lean meats, an abundance of vegetables, healthy nuts, good fats, and low-fat dairy, the diet keeps carbohydrates to a minimum. That allows your insulin levels to go down and your blood glucose levels to stabilize.

After 14 days, most dieters are anxious to move into Phase 2. That’s especially true if you have your food cravings under control, you’re losing weight at a nice speed, and you’re missing some of your favorite foods. However, when higher carb foods are returned in South Beach Diet Phase 2, weight loss can slow down dramatically. In fact, many dieters suddenly find their weight loss has completely stalled.

At that point, you may begin to wonder why. While Phase 1 isn’t meant to be a long-term diet plan, the low glycemic food choices allowed in Phase 2 can cause trouble for a variety of reasons. If you find the South Beach Diet not working, tweaking your weight-loss plan might be necessary before you can begin to achieve your weight loss goals.

South Beach Diet Not Working May Be Insulin Resistance

The South Beach Diet Book

 In the 2003 version of The South Beach Diet book, Dr. Agatston recommended that fruit and whole grains be two of the first things you return to your diet, but these items are not required to accurately follow The South Beach Diet plan. Many dieters have discovered they cannot handle whole grains and fruit in the first few weeks of their diet without their weight loss stalling. Some have even found themselves gaining weight instead. For these individuals, the problem might be insulin resistance.

Insulin is an essential hormone that’s produced by the beta cells inside the pancreas. It plays a major role in your metabolism. When secreted into the blood stream, it ushers the glucose created from the nutrients you eat into your body’s cells. It also encourages the liver to store the excess glucose in the form of glycogen. Once the body’s cells and glycogen storage in your liver and muscles are full, the remaining glucose is converted into triglycerides and deposited into your fat cells.

When you have insulin resistance, the body doesn’t recognize that insulin has been secreted. As a result, the pancreas keeps making and secreting insulin until the body responds. That can drive your insulin levels quite high, because the only organ in the body that can use glucose without the presence of insulin is the brain. In the meantime, blood glucose remains high and cannot be accessed for energy.

When insulin is high, fat stores cannot be accessed either. That can seriously interfere with your weight loss efforts until your insulin levels return to normal. The longer your insulin levels stay elevated, the less glucose and fat the body is able to utilize for fuel. Most dieters don’t experience insulin resistance problems on Phase 1 because the type of foods allowed drastically lower your insulin levels, making body fat easily accessible.

The problems with insulin resistance begin when you move into South Beach Diet Phase 2 and start adding carbohydrates to your diet. If your insulin resistance is severe, you may have to stick with Phase 1 for several weeks before moving into Phase 2. Losing weight will help you become more sensitive to insulin.

Not Losing Weight Might Be a Glycemic Index Problem

If you aren’t losing weight on Phase 2, take a closer look at the foods you’re eating. Although the South Beach Diet is not a low-carb diet, it does recommend eating carbohydrates that rank lower on the glycemic index. That will keep your blood glucose and insulin levels lower. The Glycemic Index ranks carbohydrate foods according to their tendency to raise blood glucose levels.

Elevated blood sugars can cause serious cravings that play havoc with your weight loss efforts, but the type of carbohydrates you choose once you move into Phase 2, can also cause the diet to stop working. The whole grains and fruit that Dr. Agatston recommends rank lower on the glycemic index than the refined flours and sugars you were probably eating before, but the insulin response from wheat and fruit can still be too large for some dieters to ensure effective weight loss.

Fruits Need to be Low on the Glycemic Index

If you’re struggling to lose weight, you might need to stick with low glycemic foods, such as vegetables, nuts, beans, and low-fat dairy. Fruits aren’t necessarily out of bounds, but they need to be fruits that are low in sugar, such as grapefruit, plums, or cherries. A small whole-wheat tortilla has less potential to raise your blood sugar and insulin level than a slice of bread, about the same spike as you’d get from a reasonable serving of peas or carrots.

Become familiar with The Glycemic Index and use it to make the best choices from the South Beach Diet’s Phase 2 list of recommended additions. Lower glycemic foods will digest slower, and keep you full longer, which will enable you to eat fewer calories effortlessly, and without hunger.

Did You Add Carbohydrates Back Too Quickly?

If you quickly stalled once you moved to South Beach Diet Phase 2, you might need to tweak the plan by making different carbohydrate choices, and adding them back more slowly than recommended. Phase 1 is the plan’s basic foundation for healthy eating, so the focus of your diet – even in Phase 2 – should always be on lean meats and fish, healthy fats, nuts, and eating the recommended minimum of 4-1/2 cups of vegetables daily.

South Beach Diet Meal

Phase 2 foods should be an addition to that foundation, and not the center of your meal. For each person, the list of foods that you will be able to return to your diet will be different, depending upon your metabolic issues and food sensitivities, but the amount of additional foods might be limited. Finding foods, as well as the amount that will allow you to continuing losing weight on the South Beach Diet, will take a little bit of trial-and-error experimentation.

Unlike a low-carb diet where you count the grams of carbohydrate you eat daily, South Beach Diet Phase 2 allows you to monitor and control the number of servings of additional foods you add to your basic Phase 1 plan. Most dieters make the mistake of adding back too many foods too quickly. They see that they can now eat whole grains and fruit, so the tendency is to add back fruit and grains at almost every meal.

That much carbohydrate will raise your insulin levels, and aggravate or resurrect any insulin resistance you might have. It also doesn’t teach you which foods are best for your body. Start with just one single food, and one single food type. Have 3 plums for the week or half a grapefruit three or four times, and see how you do. If after a couple of weeks you’ve lost weight, then you can either increase the frequency, or try something else.

Maybe the Problem is Gluten Sensitivity

Whole Wheat Tortillas Contain Gluten

There are many healthy food choices on the South Beach Diet’s Phase 2 list of acceptable foods that you can experiment with, but if you’re still having problems losing weight, you might have gluten sensitivity. Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye, but the problematic protein is gliadin.

Although many people do not believe that gluten sensitivity exists, in Dr. Agatston’s latest book, The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution, he clearly states, “In my cardiologist practice, I have been amazed at the number of patients who have gluten sensitivity and who have gone undiagnosed for many years.”

While a gluten-free diet won’t help you if you’re not sensitive to gluten, sensitivity can lower your metabolic rate if you’re not able to absorb the nutrients you eat properly. In addition, stress hormones, such as cortisol, can interfere with the way your body handles insulin. But Dr. Agatston doesn’t advocate what he calls “gluten phobia.” What he subscribes to is a mindset he calls being gluten aware.

The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution

When a relative was diagnosed with celiac disease, Dr. Agatston took a closer look at the diet he’d created and compared it to a gluten-free diet. What he came to realize was that "Phase 1, while intentionally grain free, was unintentionally gluten free.” That’s one of the reasons why Phase 1 works for almost everyone, even those who are sensitive to gluten. As a result of his discovery, he set to work designing a plan for those who might be gluten sensitive.

In his latest program, he uses alternative, gluten-free choices for those moving to his South Beach Diet Phase 2.

Gluten-Free Food Suggestions You Can Start Today

If you don’t have Dr. Atgatston’s new book yet, there are several gluten-free choices on his current list of Phase 2 foods. Keep in mind, however, that wheat can be particularly addicting. In fact, a gluten-free diet can initially make you feel worse, not better. Plus, it can take several months to heal from the damage that gluten causes.

Make sure that you seek out medical supervision to rule out the possibility of celiac disease or a wheat allergy. If you’ve already gone through such testing, and have been told that you don’t have allergies or celiac disease, you might want to consider picking up a copy of Dr. Agatston’s new book where he explains everything you need to know about gluten sensitivity.

In the meantime, some of the Phase 2 gluten-free foods are:

  • 97% fat-free, all-beef hotdogs
  • lower carbohydrate fruits, such as berries
  • low-sugar fruits, such as plums or fresh cherries
  • artificially-sweetened, low-fat or non-fat flavored yogurt
  • green peas or carrots
  • sweet potatoes or yams
  • pumpkin or winter squash
  • brown rice
  • fat-free, sugar-free pudding
  • 1-2 glasses of wine
  • brown rice pasta

If you suspect that gluten might be a problem for you, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you stick to just gluten-free foods, you can eat mindlessly. If you add back too many servings of gluten-free grains and fruit, that could still be a problem. The slower you return carbohydrate foods to your diet, the easier it will be to discover individual, problematic foods. However, going gluten free doesn't mean you have to give up bread. There are a wide variety of whole grains that don't contain gluten.

Are You Getting Enough Exercise?

On the South Beach Diet, exercise is not negotiable! In fact, the South Beach Diet Supercharged program requires you to enter into interval activities for at least 20 minutes per day. If you’ve been meaning to start an exercise program, but haven’t done it yet, this CBN Interview with Dr. Agatston, explains how and why interval exercise is the key that will help you break through your plateau.

Being Active is One of the Most Important Keys to Maintaining Your Weight

The Answer is Interval Exercise, Not Starving Yourself

How to Modify South Beach Diet Phase 2

If you’ve stalled after moving to Phase 2, you need to take some time to analyze the recent additions you’ve made to your diet. It might even be easier to just go back to Phase 1 for a few days, and start over – at least until your weight loss resumes. Although the South Beach Diet doesn’t recommend counting calories or carbohydrate grams, not everyone can handle the same amount of food and still lose weight.

Look at Dr. Agatston’s recommendations as suggestions, rather than absolutes. Sometimes, calories and carbohydrates do need to be restricted until your body becomes more sensitive to the insulin it produces, but that doesn’t mean you have to turn to the tedious job of counting or starve yourself. There are many different ways to achieve effective weight loss, and adding back only one serving and food at a time is one that will allow you to easily monitor the results you get.

Some individuals need to keep their overall carbohydrate content low. If you think that might apply to you, a modified version of Phase 1 might work best. Some people have had good success occasionally interchanging the serving of beans allowed on Phase 1 with a low glycemic index food allowed on Phase 2. This works very well when eating more than one serving of complex carbohydrates per day is too much.

Other dieters will find it easier to stay on Phase 2 and limit their calories by watching the amount of dairy, fats, and nuts that they are consuming. It’s also a good idea to double check the amount of protein you’re eating, and make sure you’re getting enough. This method also requires you to step up your activity level.

Some South Beach Dieters Need to Keep Carbohydrates Low

When moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2, beginning with a single piece of fruit three or four times a week, makes a great place to start. If you’re not fond of fruit, then switching to a low-fat, artificially sweetened yogurt to replace the plain yogurt allowed on Phase 1 might be a better option. You could also experiment with a 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potatoes, brown rice, a small whole-wheat tortilla, or a small serving of quinoa two or three times a week, and see how you do.

What you choose to switch to, or include, depends on your metabolism, your food sensitivities, your age, and what foods you miss the most. The most important principle to keep in mind other than exercise is speed, because the South Beach Diet Phase 2 really isn’t a diet. It isn’t something you’re going to go off of, or stop doing, once you reach your goal weight. So take it slow. What you’re doing is gradually creating a way of eating and exercising that you can live with for the rest of your life. 



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  1. "Insulin Resistance." UT Southwestern Medical Center. 30/03/2013 <Web >
  2. "Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes." National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). 30/03/2013 <Web >
  3. "South Beach Diet." Mayo Clinic. 30/03/2013 <Web >
  4. Arthur Agatston, M.D. The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 2003.
  5. Arthur Agatston, M.D. The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution. New York City: Rodale Press, 2013.
  6. "Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load for 100+ Foods." Harvard Health Publications. 30/03/2013 <Web >
  7. "High, Medium and Low GI Foods." The GI Diet Guide. 30/03/2013 <Web >

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