December was the month I ate all my favorite foods: thin crust pizza from Farinella, chinese food from Shun Lee, hot chocolate from No Chewing Allowed and smoked salmon from Barney Greengrass. Throw in some Panettone and sushi – not just the raw fish, but the inside out rolls with the spicy mayo and crunchy middle and you have my month of holiday hedonism. I wore nothing by yoga pants and Eileen Fisher so no one was the wiser, including me.
Except now, it’s Monday and I have to put my real pants back on. Which means it’s time for a….
…a hard diet detox reset.
Full disclosure; I’ve been on a dietary rollercoaster for the past few years, so even though I’ve tried all the detoxes I’m reviewing – and they do work – I’m still heavier than I was 3 years ago. But that’s not the fault of the detox diets – it’s a supply and demand issue, and my head hasn’t been in the game the way it should (click here for some mental motivation).
Regardless, there’s real science that suggests after periods of eating too much, all the sugar, fat and carbs throw insulin, leptin and ghrelin hormones off kilter, causing a raging “feed me” tornado inside your body.
So some form of detoxing does work to reset your blood sugar and hormones and gives you the motivational boost of losing a few pounds fast.
Behold five short “detox/reset diets” I’ve done in the past with mixed results. You’ll see they’re all versions of the low carb theme (except the juice cleanse) with dairy, beans, nuts and fruit being the variables. Most embrace healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil and olive oil. Almost all shun dairy and processed food. And sugar, well we know that is the devil.
But, they also all claim to kill your cravings, heal your digestion, reduce inflammation, balance your immune system and win at life.
Alrighty now, let’s give detox roulette a spin, ranked in order of my favorites:
1. METAGENICS ULTRA CLEAR 10 DAY DETOX (also available in 28 day).
I learned about this from my nutritionist and have to admit I had my doubts. I hate supplements and shakes, but this one was plant based, had few preservatives and my internal doctor didn’t scoff at the ingredients. It wasn’t cheap though; a jug of the powdered shake which lasts only about a week is $67 and the supplements, Adva Clear is $25 although that carries you thru about 2 weeks.
The shake, wasn’t bad – tasted a little like cereal milk. You drink it 3-4 times a day and with real food except for breakfast where you drink only the shake. They encourage cooking your own food as much as possible with a heavy emphasis on fresh vegetables and refreshingly enough, it wasn’t as protein heavy as most detoxes.
What I liked is that they have three different phases that helps you adjust to the more restrictive middle phase. And you can have fruit, rice and beans at the beginning and end phases.
In the end I only lost 2lbs, but what I loved was the energy I had which is why I’ll be back. I also looked incredible and my pee smelled like a fresh meadow.
2. DR. HYMAN 10 DAY DETOX (Blood Sugar Solution)
This is by far the cleanest and leanest of the detoxes, resulting in a weight loss of 4lbs after the 10 days. The recipes are delicious and satisfying in particular the miso salmon, cod in velvety tomato sauce and bison with mushrooms and cauliflower rice.
However, it is a long 10 days without any fruit, legume, potato or rice. I found myself dragging a little by the end and was just drained enough to use it as an excuse not to exercise.
Still, I may do it again before Spring to kick start myself once again into
chasing my tail weight loss. You can learn more about this in the video here.
Dr. Hyman also has a less restrictive 6 week program (some fruit and carbs allowed back in, but still no dairy or gluten) which I may take on after my 10 day detox with Metagenics.
3. WHOLE 30
People love this Paleo inspired program the way they love Crossfit. And oh my God do they love telling you about it. On Facebook, on Instragram. And I can see why. The biggest challenge with Whole 30 isn’t that you feel deprived, it is the giant pain in the ass of avoiding all substances that don’t have sugar or additives for 30 days. This is hard stuff, so go ahead and be smug, you’ve earned it.
This is largely a great lifestyle program that the entire country could benefit from as it’s heavily based on real, whole, organic food and forces you to cook regularly. And they stress that they don’t want you getting on the scale or counting calories. This is about behavior change.
But here’s the thing. I gained a half a pound. After 30 days of eating like a virtuous gluten-dairy-legume-sugar-additive free monk, I gained weight.
My lesson learned here was that I do need to count calories, that portion control is key to my success.
SBP1 is the 14 day jump start to a larger program that’s designed to eliminate cravings and balance your blood sugar. This means no booze, sugar, wheat, grains, beans or starchy vegetables…fruit.
But, if you like dairy you’ve hit pay dirt. You can eat lean cheeses, enjoy a cappuccino and they’ve got a great recipe for easy ricotta cheesecake. Most importantly, it’s effective; my belly shrinks immediately and my cravings are gone, even if I only do it for 5 days.
On the downside, I’ve only been able to stick it out for the full 14 days once, finding myself fantasizing about blueberries. Also, the meal prep can be a little labor intensive if you follow the recipes, but it’s largely easy to improvise.
Tim is a bit of a nutter, but that’s what I like about him and his encyclopedic quest for physical excellence on all levels. He promises you can lose 20lbs in 30 days without exercise, as well as sleep better and potentially have a 15-minute orgasm. None of which I experienced.
Here’s the deal; no fruit, no white anything (bread, potatoes, rice), no whole grains, sugar, or dairy (except cottage cheese). But you do get beans and plenty of them. He also suggests repeating the same meals to cement a habit, which is a proven weight loss tactic.
On the upside, the beans provide a lot of energy, takes the edge off that crazy low carb feeling and you can eat your heart out at Chipotle. He also insists you have a cheat day once a week to fuel your fat loss, although there are some intricate rules to follow. My favorite part of Slow Carb though, is that you’re allowed to drink wine, particularly dry reds like pinot noir.
On the downside, because beans are a mainstay of the diet that means you’re eating them 24/7, even at breakfast. I am still haunted by the Chipotle guy asking me “pinto or black, pinto or black, pinto or black”. By week two, I could only utter “no”.
Regardless, in my opinion this was a solid, healthy plan that gave me enough energy to not wuss out of the gym and left me 3lbs lighter, even though I couldn’t sustain it for more than two weeks.
For me, it also wasn’t as effective as South Beach or David Kirsch, but I attribute that to the wine and cheat day sending me off course. Aside from me though, Tim has a cult following that claims eating Slow Carb has transformed their lives.
6. DAVID KIRSCH 5 DAY ULTIMATE DETOX KIT For the uninitiated, Kirsch is a celebrity personal trainer with a passion for nutrition. While he’s not a doctor, his zeal and results with celebs like Heidi Klum give him enough street cred to pass muster in my book. In fact, I regularly rotate Protein Plus, Super Charged Greens and Thermo Bubbles into my daily life.
All that said, I’ve done his full 5 Day Detox a few times and find it extremely effective. But it will be the longest five days of your life.
The way it works is that for about $95, you get the Ultimate 5 Day Detox Kit. In it you have your A.M. Daily Detox shot (an antioxidant grape drink designed to help remove toxins), Super Charged Greens Blend (a nutrient dense green juice in a powder) and Protein Plus (protein shake).
First thing you do in the morning is take your AM Daily Detox shot, followed by the Protein Plus shake mixed with the Super Charged Greens Blend. Lunch is a plain salad with only lemon juice and 4oz of chicken or fish. Dinner can be either the small lunch salad again or another Protein Plus shake.
Rinse and repeat for 5 days. Obviously no booze, sugar, white anything, dairy, fruit, beans or nuts.
Kirsch suggests drinking Thermo Bubbles (sold separately) to stave off hunger, and it does help to take the edge off. Naughty tip: mix this with vodka for a great skinny girl cosmo.
The bottom line is this works (even if I do it for only three days), but it is the detox equivalent of a bikini wax – fast and painful. However, what I didn’t like is that this program left me feeling depleted in contrast to South Beach and Slow Carb, with little energy for the gym. I suspect this is because it is incredibly low carb and low-calorie.
I guzzle their Essential Green drink by the truck load and think there’s nothing better than fresh, low sugar juices as a supplement. However, I have a hard time seeing it as a replacement for solid food, even if it’s for a short time. Despite being a skeptic, I tried their 3 Day Cleanse in a swim suit panic this past summer. The program itself is pretty simple; 6 juices in many flavors for three days.
The good; it was ridiculously simple, the juices taste great (although not everyone likes them), I lost a pound and I’m sure my liver was doing a handstand.
The not so good is that I was lethargic and listless, so much that my daily walk to work was a chore. It made David Kirsch’s 5 Day Detox seem like a cruise buffet. I think this is due to the low fiber and protein in the diet, which my body craves considering since my blood sugar tends to dip (Cooler Cleanse is lower than the USDA recommendation for women on both counts). Plus, I missed chewing. It was also the most expensive option at $170 for the three days.
Bottom line here is that the Cooler Cleanse juices are amazing as a supplement, but I don’t think I’ll go full liquid again unless my jaw is wired shut. Bonus tip: drink the Essential Red the day before a big event and your skin will have a rosy glow.
Extra Bonus tip: you can add vodka to just about any of the juices for a virtuous cocktail. And, the Coconut Water and Almond Nut milk are excellent for hangovers.
8. PERRICONE MD 10 DAY METABOLIC MAKEOVER The premise of Dr. Nicholas Perricone, author of “Forever Young” among others, is that inflammation from too much sugar, fat and processed foods causes wrinkles, sag and fat. His solution: lots of wild salmon, watercress, coconut oil, broccoli, egg whites, green tea, spring water…and his pricey supplements.
He claims that after 10 days not only will you be thinner and metabolically balanced, you’ll have glowing skin, a firmer jaw line, more defined cheekbones and clearer, less wrinkly eyes.
Hey Dr. P, you had me at firm jaw line.
Perricone has his detractors though who criticize the small size of his clinical studies and lack of transparency to some of the data. I suspect this could be because he’s trying to tie scientific outcomes to benefit his product line. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but in the scientific community it can raise eyebrows quickly, fair or not. Still, his theories aren’t far out; in fact inflammation has been buzzed about in oncology for a while, and as a cancer survivor, I take that seriously. Plus, the foods he recommends top most anti-cancer super-food lists.
Here’s how the program works; for 10 days you take his packet of supplements with every meal (that’s 15 pills a day folks). For breakfast and lunch, you drink a shake you make from raw egg whites, pureed berries and coconut oil. For dinner, you get 6oz of wild salmon, a small amount of lentils, steamed broccoli and lots of watercress drizzled with lemon and olive oil.
His supplements cost $75 and includes 30 individual packets of an evening primrose oil softgel, a CLA softgel, an L-carnitine capsule, an Omega 3 softgel and a what looks like a multi-vitamin tablet. I’m semi-convinced these add value given I’ve heard these ingredients mentioned in some form or another among nutritionists, anti-aging specialists, Dr. Oz, Dr. Roizen and Dr. Weill.
You can see my full review here.
On the upside, its extremely nutritious and I never felt hungry although chugging that egg white smoothie was disgusting. I needed the Stevia and had to had chia seeds to give me a sense of bulk. Making this smoothie took a few days of practice. The salmon, watercress and lentils were right up my alley, but after a few days I never wanted to see salmon again.
The downside were the supplements. They made me feel a little buzzy and wasn’t sure what value they were adding to my weight loss. Given supplement claims aren’t regulated by the FDA, I stopped taking them after feeling somewhat shaky.
I didn’t lose much weight, but felt cleaner, lighter and smug like I was kicking off the new year on the right foot. Still, it wasn’t long before I fell back into my old habits of over eating on the weekends, and compensating on the weekdays, which didn’t lead to much long term success.
So this year, what will my detox diet consist of?
I actually like the Metagenics and Dr Hyman Detoxes. 10 days is just long enough to establish a habit and see a result, but not too long to go crazy.
But honestly, it’s the “after” I have a problem with. I tend to boomerang and reward myself a little too liberally, so to get in gear I’ll try Dr. Hyman’s 6 week, less restrictive program, dial up the exercise and track everything in My Fitness Pal.
New year, new me, right? How are you trying to rebound from the holiday excess?