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Combine South Beach and Keto to Shed Pounds Without Feeling Hungry

Your mood will probably improve, too!


Seems like only yesterday the South Beach Diet was all the rage — and for good reason! Women dropped massive amounts of weight on the cardiologist-created plan, and they felt healthier than ever. The problem? It simply didn’t work long-term. Not even for its creator, Arthur Agatston, MD: “I would eventually ‘cheat’ — on my own diet! — when I was stressed or traveling and definitely during the holidays,” he admits. “I got pretty frustrated at my poor self-control, not to mention the return of my belly!”

What led to Dr. Agatston’s diet-revolutionizing “aha” moment? Blueberry pie! “After a late-night binge, I dove into the research and realized that there was a good reason I was cheating,” he tells FIRST. “I wasn’t giving my body enough time to reset my insulin levels.” While the traditional South Beach Diet temporarily lowers levels of the belly fat–packing hormone insulin over the course of two weeks, it doesn’t measurably improve the body’s ability to utilize insulin — so as soon as you reintroduce insulin-spiking foods like fruit and grains, the body starts storing fat again. Dr. Agatston’s research revealed that changing the way the body processes insulin takes longer than the two weeks of low-carb eating his original diet called for. “It’s clear now that it takes at least four weeks for the body to switch out of fat-storing mode and start burning fat for fuel,” he explains. “The original South Beach Phase One simply wasn’t long enough.”

Dr. Agatston’s new plan combines the strongest parts of the original South Beach Diet with the best practices of the keto diet — making both better. The new approach, which wrote about in The New Keto-Friendly South Beach Diet: Rev Your Metabolism and Improve Your Health with the Latest Science of Weight Loss ($25.49, Amazon), emphasizes the good protein, fats, and low-starch carbs from the South Beach plan. It also incorporates a longer initial low-carb phase to help the body relearn how to process insulin and burn stored fat for energy. Extending the low-carb portion of the plan is key, says Ryan Lowery, PhD, co-author of The Ketogenic Bible: The Authoritative Guide to Ketosis ($23.99, Amazon). He explains, “When you eat low amounts of carbohydrates, the body releases less insulin, which allows you to break down body fat to use as energy.”

Dr. Agatston also made sure to keep plenty of healthy carbs and protein in the food formula, sidestepping one of the most common problems women have with the keto diet: low moods and lack of energy caused by restricting too many nutrients. “This enables us to get the fat-burning benefits of the keto diet,” he says. “But it’s easier to start and easier to sustain as a lifestyle.”

The proof is in the results: Dr. Agatston reports that his newly reimagined plan speeds weight loss even more effectively — and most of those dropped pounds come from the belly. “Since starting my new approach in 2018, I’ve maintained a 20-pound weight loss — almost all from my belly — with surprising ease,” says Dr. Agatston. And women FIRST spoke to echoed the doctor’s success, with some women losing as much as 8 pounds every seven days! Vivian Tordeau, 55, lost at least a pound a day. “The weight loss was astronomical,” she raves. “I’ve never felt better in my life, and I think I look at least 10 years younger!”

Just as nice as the lower number on the scale is the slew of health benefits that keto-friendly South Beach dieters rave about, including better sleep, more energy, fewer headaches, and even less joint pain and acid reflux. “Many health issues, such as brain fog, irritable bowel symptoms, and skin conditions like acne and psoriasis go away,” Dr. Agatston says. And best of all, he reports that most women begin to see these benefits after just three days!

Ready to start your transformation? Read on for the plan that will help you look and feel decades younger.

What South Beach + keto will do for you

Combining these two high-power plans into one does more than just slim the belly! Here, a few of the other benefits you’ll enjoy:

  • 99% Reduced diabetes risk
  • 90% Reduced food cravings
  • 72% Reduced heart disease risk
  • 50% Reduced skin breakouts
  • 41% Reduced stroke risk

Note: Consult your physician before starting this program, especially if you take medication for type 2 diabetes or blood pressure, advises Dr. Agatston. The plan is so effective that it can drive your blood pressure or blood sugar too low.

So simple, so effective

The keto-friendly South Beach Diet optimizes the body’s fat-burning systems without overly restricting healthy carbs and protein. “Strict ketogenic diets can be difficult,” says Dr. Agatston. “I have found that my more flexible approach works just as well and is easier to adopt and sustain. And the research is clear that carbohydrate intake in the range I recommend turns the body into a fat-burning machine. You’ll watch your belly melt away along with your cravings, and feel your energy levels soar.” Much like the original South Beach Diet, the new keto-friendly approach is split into two phases.

To get the benefits, just follow these simple guidelines:

Phase One: Power Off Pounds

During the first phase of the keto-friendly South Beach plan, you’ll follow a low-carb food formula for at least 28 days, keeping your daily carb intake at about 50 grams per day, while getting 60 percent of your calories from fat, 25 percent from protein, and 15 percent from carbs. “Giving up grains during the first phase will improve the body’s ability to utilize insulin,” says Dr. Agatston. “It will help to reset your cravings so you rely less on starches and more on healthy proteins, fats and vegetables to fill you up.” Instead of grains, enjoy 1⁄4 cup of potatoes, carrots, or other starchy vegetables daily.

You’ll fill the rest of your plate with plenty of non-starchy vegetables, including broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower and zucchini. Then add 3 oz. of lean protein from beef, poultry, game meats, pork or fish; 3 eggs; or 6 oz. of tofu. Make sure you’re getting enough fat (and add some flavor) by enjoying healthy fats like olive oil and coconut oil as well as full-fat dairy, like whole-milk yogurt, cheeses, and butter. “When it comes to optimizing your intake of healthy fats, make sure you’re getting plenty of omega-3 fats, which help lower inflammation,” Dr. Agatston advises. To get the benefits, aim to regularly enjoy salmon, walnuts, tofu, and omega-3 enriched eggs (like those from Eggland’s Best ($3.42 per dozen, Amazon Fresh), which contain two times more omega-3s than traditional eggs). Thanks to the high protein and healthy fat content in your meals, you’ll feel satiated all day.

For your fastest slimdown ever, Dr. Agatston also suggests incorporating intermittent fasting — extending the time between meals for 12 to 14 hours — into Phase One after two weeks. “Most patients find it works to skip just one meal, usually breakfast,” he explains, noting that the less often we eat, the less insulin the body creates, which helps the body use insulin more effectively.

Sample Meal: Omelet

Fold 2 oz. thin-sliced smoked salmon and 1 tsp. crème fraîche into a two-egg omelet. Serve with a side salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

You can move onto the next phase if you answer yes to most of the following questions:

  • You’ve been following Phase One for at least 28 days
  • You feel more energetic during the day and slepe well t night
  • You don’t experience sugar cravings
  • Your belly is flatter

Phase Two: Stay slim for life

In many ways, Phase Two is very similar to Phase One — but more relaxed and sustainable, making the plan easy to stick to for the longterm. To that end, Dr. Agatston recommends getting about 100 grams of mood-boosting carbohydrates per day from low-glycemic whole foods like fruit (1/2 cup daily of berries, apples, melon, peaches, or kiwi), high-fiber grains (1/2 cup daily of oats, quinoa, and wild or brown rice) and beans and legumes (1/2 cup daily of beans, edamame, hummus, lentils, and split peas), along with a daily serving of higher-starch veggies (like half a medium sweet potato or 1⁄4 cup of pumpkin or carrots) in addition to the non-starchy vegetables from Phase One.

One note of caution: While Phase Two allows for more carbohydrates than Phase One, it should still be high in protein. You should be getting 50 percent of your calories from fat, 30 percent from protein, and 20 percent from carbohydrates, so don’t let the added carb-rich foods replace protein on your plate. “After about age 50, we know that metabolism tends to slow down — that’s why you might find you put on weight more easily,” says Dr. Agatston. That makes protein especially important — it helps the body preserve the lean muscle mass that keeps metabolism humming.

After healing the body’s insulin response during Phase One, the body is better able to switch between burning fat and burning carbs, so you can slim while still being able to enjoy special occasions with your friends and family. “Have a piece of cake at a birthday party or a slice of pizza with your kids,” says Dr. Agatston. “Just try to consume these foods infrequently.” If you notice your sugar cravings returning, cut back on your carbohydrate intake, starting with fruit, which is higher in sugar than other healthy carbs and can trigger cravings.

You can stick with Phase Two as long as you’d like. “Or you can go back and forth between the two phases as you work toward your goals,” says Dr. Agatston. “I’m confident that you’ll find this lifestyle easier than you imagine, and you will reap the same benefits that my patients and I have. I expect that you, too, will feel better than ever and won’t want to turn back.”

Sample Meal: Chili

Sauté 1 cup of diced fresh veggies for 4 min. Add 1⁄4 cup chicken broth, 1⁄4 cup diced tomatoes, and 1⁄4 cup canned beans. Bring to a boil; simmer 10 min. Top with avocado.

Feel your best as you lose

Combining the keto diet with the bestselling South Beach Diet prods the body to burn stored fat for fuel while still providing enough carbs and protein to promote health — and these easy strategies ensure you’ll feel great as the fat melts away!

Always hungry? Switch your cooking oil

Most nonstick oil sprays are made with cottonseed or canola oils, which have been shown to impair satiety signals in the brain. Instead, Dr. Agatston suggests filling a food-safe spray bottle with olive or avocado oil, which contain keto-friendly fats that won’t leave you feeling hungry.

Tired? Add this salt

Some 75 percent of women on a low-carb diet struggle with brain fog and fatigue. To banish and prevent these ills, Dr. Agatston adds 1 tsp. of light salt to a glass of drinking water once or twice a day. With about half the sodium of regular salt, and 350 times more potassium, this supermarket pick improves electrolyte balance to keep energy levels stable.

Headaches? Add a snack

Many women report headaches as the body transitions from burning sugar to burning fat for fuel. But a high-fat snack can stave off keto headaches by providing a dose of easily accessible fuel for the brain.

A recipe to try: Mix 1 cup of melted dark chocolate, 1 avocado, 1 Tbs. of melted coconut oil, 1/2 tsp. of salt, and 1 tsp. of vanilla until smooth. Roll into balls. Store in the fridge.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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