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Dr. Arthur Agatston on Losing Weight
Arthur Agatston, M.D., is a cardiologist and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He is the author of the best-selling book The South Beach Diet, which focuses on a food lifestyle including nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods. Agatston admits that he didn’t set out to create a popular diet plan—the plan came out of the need to get his heart patient’s diets under control. We asked Agatston to share his best tips on losing weight.
How does The South Beach Diet work to help people lose weight?
The first phase of The South Beach Diet is to help people who have swings in their blood sugar and get cravings under control. When people eat a diet high in simple carbohydrates, it tends to make their blood sugar, moods and cravings unstable—more cravings, poorer mood. In phase one, which lasts for two weeks, you won't have any bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods or sugar. There is no beer, alcohol or fruit, either. Fruit is added in gradually in phase two, which will last until you reach a healthy weight. For people who don’t have cravings and swings in blood sugars, they can begin in phase two, which is all about eating nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods.
In phase two, you will lose one to two pounds a week. Phase three is the maintenance phase that you will be on for the rest of your life once you reach a goal weight. You have learned what the best food choices are and you realize you are not eliminating but upgrading to healthier choices.
Is there a new convergence of thought on the best way to lose weight?
The debate on dieting and what works and what doesn’t work is a thing of the past. There is a consensus on how eating nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods are not only helpful for weight loss, but also better for one’s health. You also have to exercise at least 30 minutes every day.
How does one get motivated to lose weight in those first 30 days?
It’s a little different for each person. Sometimes it’s their doctor who says that they must change their lifestyle and lose weight. Sometimes it’s just being tired of not feeling up to doing normal activities, like walking, taking the stairs or fitting in clothes. The bottom line is that a person has to be ready to make lifestyle changes to help his or her long-term health. Having some early positive results in that first 30 days is also helpful.
What sort of physical or emotional feelings do people experience in the first month of losing weight?
The physical changes are mid-section weight loss, as that’s where our diet is most effective in the first two weeks. This initial weight loss helps people to become more motivated and inspired to keep going. The diet also helps to teach people about making the right choices, so they begin to feel empowered when going out to the grocery store, dinners out at restaurants and cooking at home. In all three phases, people learn how to make healthier choices and still feel satisfied and not gain back the weight they’ve worked so hard to lose.
What helps someone succeed through the first month of losing weight?
Having an open mind about changing food habits and selection helps. When people get excited about what good foods they’re going to be eating, they’re surprised at the variety. That’s what makes them feel positive and helps them thrive on our diet. It’s about discovery, eating so many different foods, and still being able to lose weight and embarking on this lifestyle of good eating. It can be so well adapted to all ethnic cuisines too, so it can inspire you. You realize you don’t have to give up eating.
Is it healthy to focus on setting a goal weight, or is it better to use another marker for success?
It’s different for everyone. As a cardiologist, I love to see a patient’s cholesterol numbers improve dramatically. For me that’s a sign of success, but many want to lose another inch or two and then it becomes more of a personal appearance goal, which is great. Overall, setting goals is a good thing, but make them attainable. Not everyone is going to be a size four, so set the goals based on your body type and how you feel.
How can people continue to progress beyond the first month of a weight management program?
Staying on phase two can help people continue to progress to reach their goal weights. People begin to enjoy it, and they see progress so they really stick to it. The whole philosophy of eating on The South Beach Diet is to enjoy great food while getting healthier.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
It’s not so much a belief, but the strength of my wife and two sons help me. I rely on their support and encouragement.
The best thing about change is...
…it’s about progressing toward an achievable goal.
What is the best change you have ever made?
Going from a single man to being married, happily.
For more information on Dr. Arthur Agatston, visit www.southbeachdiet.com.