The South Beach Diet lifestyle program has grown to include Web-based materials and a family of healthy and convenient foods, including delicious and nutritionally balanced bars and snacks. Its popular online program,, provides weight loss tools, recipes, exercise routines, customized meal plans, support from registered dietitians, and a vibrant community of South Beach Diet followers.

The creator of the South Beach Diet, Dr. Arthur Agatston, answers some common questions below.

1. I'm doing so well on Phase 1. Why can't I stay on it indefinitely?

There are two types of people on the South Beach Diet: those who cannot wait to start Phase 2 and those who never want to see Phase 1 end.

Why are some people so enamored with Phase 1? The reason is that it's simple and to the point. You don't have to do a lot of thinking about food choices. You're basically eating lean protein, high-fiber legumes, low-fat dairy, good fats (including some nuts), and plenty of vegetables. Those highly processed refined carbs that were your downfall are out of sight and, within a few days, out of mind (at least for most people). You're encouraged to eat until you're full and snack before you get hungry. And every time you step on the scale, you get a big grin on your face because those unwanted pounds and fat are just melting away. So it's not surprising to me that Phase 1 fans often ask, "If I'm doing so well on Phase 1, why do I have to move on to Phase 2?" Phase 1 is not meant to be a long-term eating plan. Its dual goals are to jump-start weight loss for people who have 10 or more pounds to lose (thus providing immediate positive reinforcement) and to control swings in blood sugar and eliminate cravings for sugar and refined starches. Phase 1 can also have a positive effect on sugar in people with pre-diabetes. In just 2 weeks, you should have achieved these two goals and be ready to move on.

Once your sugar and cravings are under control, there's a key reason to go on to Phase 2: we don't want you to miss out on the myriad vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that come from reintroducing whole fruits and whole grains to your diet, not to mention the added fiber. These foods contain thousands of phytochemicals that protect your body against a host of diseases, including heart disease and cancer. If you were to continue indefinitely on Phase 1 and deny yourself these foods, you would not be learning how to make good food choices in the real world. More importantly, you'd be missing out on some of the best medicine nature has to offer.

In addition, if you were to continue with the smaller palette of foods recommended on Phase 1, your diet would get dull over the long haul. And once you're bored, you're much more likely to revert to your old eating habits. For the diet to truly become a lifestyle--one that allows you to sustain weight loss and garner all the related health benefits--there has to be variety and satisfaction in your eating plan. That's another reason why we move you on to Phase 2 so quickly.

Remember, it may take you longer to lose weight by following the three phases of our diet. But the chances of keeping that weight off are far better.

2. Can I still eat as much protein now that I'm eating more carbohydrates on Phase 2?

As you know, on the South Beach Diet, we don't expect you to count grams of protein or weigh your food on any phase. Now that you're gradually adding satisfying high-fiber whole grains and fruits to your diet on Phase 2, you'll naturally be less hungry, and the amount of lean protein you require to feel full will no doubt be less than you were eating on Phase 1. That said, I encourage you to eat some protein--fish or shellfish, lean beef or pork, white meat chicken or turkey, or soy protein, for example--along with these good carbs at most meals.

Protein helps slow down the digestion of carbohydrates, which means that your body will make less insulin, your sugar swings will be reduced, and you won't crave more food in between meals. I also urge you to eat slowly, savor your food, and really enjoy the variety of foods you'll introduce on Phase 2. If you do this, your focus will no longer be on how much protein you can have because you'll never be hungry. Another tip: Once you're satisfied, push your chair away from the table. It's fine to leave some food on your plate at the end of a meal.

3. Can I really eat anything I want on Phase 3?

If you're talking about dessert as an occasional treat, of course. On Phase 3, we don't regulate what you can eat. Yes, you can finally have that small bowl of ice cream or a small piece of chocolate cake or the white bagel that you couldn't have before. But you shouldn't do it too often, and you should continue to watch amounts on desserts. Phase 3 isn't about abandoning the good principles of the diet and suddenly resuming your old eating habits. It's about continuing to make smart, healthy food choices--for life. If you follow the principles of the diet most of the time, we expect you to enjoy anything you want now and then.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Agatston has authored over 100 articles and abstracts for scientific journals. His pioneering work in noninvasive cardiac imaging has resulted in computerized tomography scanning methods and measures that bear his name: the Agatston Score and the Agatston Method, which are used for screening coronary calcium, are recognized worldwide.

The result was the South Beach Diet, which was offered to numerous heart patients in Florida with impressive results. He presented his findings at a national meeting of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. The word spread throughout Miami, prompting the local ABC affiliate to do a monthlong series on the South Beach Diet™, which was repeated for two years.

Dr. Agatston's clinical cardiology practice is still very much devoted to prevention. He lectures extensively on prevention nationally and internationally and reviews for major medical cardiology journals. Dr. Agatston maintains an active, full-time cardiology practice, both clinical and research.