You've got to feel for a guy who can't stay on his own diet. "Over the holidays, my wife said I was the only one in the country not on the South Beach diet," confesses Arthur Agatston. So Dr. Agatston is back to Phase One, depriving himself of fruit, wine and whole grains. That is no major failure, according to his plan. It's exactly such permissiveness that made a famous cardiologist into a far more famous nutritionist. We all sensed that the grease in the bunless double cheeseburger was a bit much and that we could use some fiber, but Agatston did the research to make it clear. He wrote a book with a breezy storytelling style and slapped a cheesy title on the cover too. "My waiting room is not exactly filled with South Beach models," he says. He figured out that if he stuck with "modified-carbohydrate diet," as he had called it since 1997, no one would listen. We like to think about hot people when we're denying ourselves.
By getting us to focus on eating nutrient-rich foods instead of yelling about which types of junk will kill us, Agatston has ironically got people to stop being on diets and just start eating healthy. Now he is planning to write a book about heart-disease preventionthe book he really wanted to write in the first place. "The idea was not to fit into a bathing suit in a few weeks but to prevent heart disease," he says. "But people don't care when they die as long as they look good when they do." Finally a doctor has learned how to be patronizing in a useful way.