"The South Beach Diet"

by Julie Tam

"This is good. Do you want a bite?"

For Rick Hensley, the South Beach Diet is a piece of cake.

"It works out well for me because I do like broccoli and cauliflower, and I like salads," said Hensley, who has been on the diet since August.

The diet caught his eye because it claims you can lose 8-13 lbs. in the first two weeks.

"The first two weeks, I lost 11 pounds," said Hensley, who went from 233 to 214 lbs.

The book, by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, explains the difference between good and bad carbohydrates. If you want to eat pasta or bread, for example, it's better to stay with whole wheat.

"South Beach" also tells you to stay away from foods that are high in saturated fats, like sausage, butter, and fried foods. But unsaturated fats are okay, like lean meat, olive oil, and fish. The goal is to lower your bad cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol.

"It makes some distinctions that the Atkins Diet doesn't. But, I think still, my primary concern is that it's such a drastic departure from what most of us would eat," said registered dietician Marci Wright.

"The South Beach Diet" is the nonfiction bestseller at the Barnes & Noble on South Broadway in Tyler. Many people we've talked to say the diet has worked well for them so far. But the question is this:  Is the diet effective in the long run?

"Weight loss, and weight loss that's lasting, takes hard work. It takes permanent changes in your eating habits and regular exercise," said Wright, who recommends 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week.

But most importantly, what about dessert?

"The diet says that you can have almost any dessert that you desire as long as you will confine yourself to three bites," said Hensley.

Doctors advise you to always consult a physician before beginning any diet.