Detox diet: is it worth the hassle?

I just finished a 10-day detox diet, and it was interesting experience! Here’s a recap in case you may be thinking about trying it yourself.

Why detox diet?

I’ve been feeling frustrated about my weight — specifically about how midlife seems to have resulted in extra pounds and clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

I tried detoxing for a few days last December, in preparation for a party-filled holiday season. But in thinking about how I wanted to improve my eating habits for the longer term, I selected the detox diet suggested by Mark Hyman in his NYT bestseller, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet.

Dr. Mark Hyman directs the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. He is a medical editor for The Huffington Post and appears regularly on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz and other television programs. He publishes and speaks often on the link between nutrition and health. In this book he focuses on how to even out your blood sugar highs and lows.

detox diet+book

What’s a detox diet?

Although “detox” and “cleanse” are often used interchangeably, the emphasis of most detox diets is to rid your body of toxins and food sensitivities, so that you feel healthier, lose weight and start eating better. A “cleanse” takes it one step further, often aiming not only at clean eating, but also at clearing out the colon and intestines to reboot your system. Cleanses often entail drinking special juices with added supplements, and detox diets more typically have you eat real food – just not all the things you’re accustomed to eating.

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Detox diet basics

Hyman’s 10-Day Detox, like most detox diets, requires you to swear off alcohol, caffeine, sugar, gluten, grains and dairy. For breakfast, you drink a shake made with frozen berries, almond milk, avocado and a bunch of other ingredients – mostly “good fats” like nuts and seeds. Lunch is protein and salad. Dinner is protein and vegetables. He also suggests vitamins and supplements that will make your detox diet more effective.

Dr. Hyman’s objective is to help people live “a life of vitality.” He identifies a key American health problem as “diabesity,” meaning obesity and toxins in our bodies that lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and numerous other conditions. On top of eliminating sugar, gluten, etc. from our diets, he advocates better self-care: “Take-Five Breathing Breaks,” “UltraDetox Baths,” journaling and a good night’s sleep.

His 10-Day Detox Diet is intended to help you withdraw from bad eating habits and discover food sensitivities that affect your health negatively, with the aim of jumpstarting your weight loss and putting you on a path to “a life of vitality.”

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My detox diet experience

1. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be

Although the breakfast shake didn’t taste good (i.e., it wasn’t sweet!), it didn’t taste bad either. The good news was that all those good fats in it kept me feeling full all morning.

Additionally, I was glad I had tapered off caffeine before starting the detox diet. It helped me stay on this challenging regime, since I’d dealt with most of my caffeine withdrawal symptoms, like headache and drowsiness, the week before the detox started. And amazingly, I was able to forego caffeinated coffee for ten days!

2. I didn’t lose much weight, but I felt leaner at the end of 10 days

Weighing myself during the diet proved annoying. The scale would go down 2 pounds, then up 2 pounds, down 4, up 3, etc. When all was said and done, I probably lost 2-3 pounds in ten days. And who knows if I’ll keep that weight off, or if it was merely my body’s response to the restricted diet.

However, I did feel a little more trim around the waist – less bloat, perhaps? I fit into a skirt I hadn’t worn in weeks, so that’s a positive sign!

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Learnings from the detox

1. I saw signs of reduced inflammation in my body

It’s a well-known fact that sugar contributions to inflammation. Maybe I was looking so hard for a benefit from doing this crazy program that I imagined less inflammation. But by the end of ten days, I believed I felt less pain and irritation in a knee that often bothers me.

2. I realized I could go for 10 days without favorite foods

Don’t misunderstand me: I haven’t changed my point of view that Happy People eat and drink things like sugar, wine, coffee and bread (in moderation, of course). At the same time, I gained a real sense of accomplishment when I reached Day 10, completing my detox diet.

3. I liked the diet’s healthy fats

Previously I’d enjoyed an occasional avocado or handful of nuts, but the 10-Day Detox Diet required a conscious effort to allocate more of my daily calories to these compact sources of protein, Omega-3 and antioxidants — that would also help me feel fuller, longer. While I think Hyman’s detox breakfast shake recipe may have too many calories for me, I plan to modify it and continue drinking a breakfast shake at least some of the time.

My bottom line on detox diets

Even though I didn’t see dramatic weight loss, the combination of a small weight reduction and psychological benefits — like learning I can stick to a challenging diet and experiencing how I can change my health by changing what I eat — helped me resolve to continue my adventures in healthy eating.

I don’t believe it’s practical or enjoyable for someone who doesn’t have food allergies to be on a special diet all the time – after all, if your family enjoys pizza night together, why should you refuse to join them? You can participate in the fun without loading up on “bad” calories: just eat a small piece of pizza alongside a big salad with protein. The point is you can take control of what you put in your body and choose not to be a victim of your circumstances.

The 10-Day Detox isn’t a diet I could sustain for very long, but that’s not what it’s intended to be. It showed me the importance of eating right as a way to care for myself and for my body as it ages. I may not have “the nutrition thing” all figured out, but I am starting to fit the puzzle pieces together.

Now, in the interest of moderation, I think I’ll enjoy a glass of chardonnay.

detox diet+chardonnay

 

Image credits: 05compicserver.org, J. Hendron

Indian Wells Tennis: a newbie’s guide

I just got back from three days at the Indian Wells tennis tournament, or as it’s officially called, the BNP Paribas Open. It was my first year to attend, and I’m already planning to go back next year. This post gives my newbie’s guide to the tournament and why I think it makes an excellent getaway for tennis lovers.

 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells

The Indian Wells tournament, owned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, is an ATP Master’s 1000 event as well as a WTA tournament, and nearly all the top pros participate. It’s a great place to see your favorite tennis pros in action while you enjoy typically great weather in the Palm Springs area. A contender for the so-called “Fifth Slam,” Indian Wells offers tennis fans a chance to see their favorite pros in a smaller venue that nonetheless has great “creature comforts.”

Getting There

You can fly into the Palm Springs airport, which is about 20 minutes from Indian Wells, but a lot of people go through Ontario, as the prices are much cheaper. And, since Ontario is served by Southwest, there’s more flexibility if you need to change your flight (for example, to stay one more day and see just a few more matches). The Ontario airport is about 1.5 hours away from Indian Wells. Once in the Palm Springs area, there are plenty of hotels in every price category. Your hotel may even offer a shuttle bus to the tournament venue, which will help you avoid traffic and parking lots that are sometimes far away from the tennis courts.

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden

The IW Tennis Garden is spacious but walk-able. The main stadium lies at one end, and the food court at the other end. They plan to build a second stadium next year. The ground-breaking for Stadium 2 occurred while I was there, in fact. Plans look exciting, and improvements will likely generate even more interest in this tournament — at least that’s what Ellison and others are likely counting on.

Indian Wells Tennis_groundbreaking

Show Courts and Practice Courts

There are eight show courts at Indian Wells, and early in the tournament you can see great matches on all of them. Later on there are fewer matches, so they don’t use all the courts all the time. Until the construction of the new stadium, you have been able to enter the tournament grounds with your Stadium 1 ticket, then wander to any of the other courts on a general admission basis. This policy will still be in effect next year, although since Stadium 2 will have reserved seating, there may not be general admission spots there in the future.   [Read more…]

What does carne asada have to do with team building?

Yesterday I hosted the last team dinner I’ll ever get to host. My son’s water polo team gathered at our home prior to a tournament they’re playing this weekend.

Two other moms helped me, and we served the boys mounds of carne asada, hot tortillas, enchiladas, Spanish rice and salad. As if that weren’t enough food, we also offered chocolate milk (great after a workout, you know), fruit, homemade cookies and brownies.

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For years I’ve hosted end-of-season parties, supervised team sleepovers and served dinner to players and families after Little League games. But last night was the end. The end of orchestrating a large dinner to be ready precisely on time, of serving it efficiently, making it look easy. The end of sharing a gift with my children’s teams  —  not by playing or coaching their sports, but by doing something I’m good at: food and hospitality.

I’ll still find people to cook for, still find ways to build community over shared meals. It just won’t involve my kids as much. And since none of them is playing varsity sports in college, it definitely won’t involve their teams.

Maybe that’s why this final team dinner seemed so significant. Sports have been important to my children, but not because they dreamed of playing professionally, or even playing in college. They took their sports commitments seriously, valuing not only personal improvement, but also their teams’ collective achievement. They learned “life lessons” about things like persistence, fairness and sportsmanship that will stay with them far beyond the court, the field, or the pool.

 

Menlo School boys water polo. Photo by Cynthia Yock.

Photo by Cynthia Yock

 

I’m grateful for the role sports have played in my children’s lives, grateful for remarkable individuals who’ve coached them over the years. Needless to say, I’m less grateful for the handful of negative coaches who made my kids’ lives difficult or soured them on a particular sport or season. But even then, playing for such coaches helped my kids develop the ability to discern when they were wrong, vs. when their coach was being unreasonable. Without a doubt, this is a skill they’ll use in “real life.”

Cooking for my children’s teams, or organizing schedules and communications for them, was a way I could contribute to activities they cared about. My son’s a senior, playing in his final water polo season, so I’m nearly finished with these contributions to my kids’ sports. Yes, I most likely will contribute elsewhere in the future. But all the same, an emptiness lingers.   [Read more…]

All-inclusive resorts: the good, the bad and the ugly

Greetings from Puerto Vallarta! I came here for the long weekend with my college kids and my son’s girlfriend. We’re staying at a property we used to enjoy when it was operated by Hoteles Camino Real, a high-end Mexican chain similar to Westin. But several years back the property changed hands and now is owned by AMResort’s Dreams. We have resisted returning to this location because Dreams resorts are all-inclusive properties — but since this was a short vacation, it seemed like a good chance to check things out.

Anne’s verdict: the location is as fabulous as ever, but the all-inclusive vacation model does not work for me.

The beauty of this location is that it lies about fifteen minutes south of the town of Puerto Vallarta on its own beach. Although Mexican beaches are public property, this one is inaccessible to outsiders to due to rocks on either side, and the road into the hotel is gated, so only hotel guests are allowed to enter. Thus the beach is clean, not crowded, and souvenir vendors are kept to a minimum. The surf is gentle enough to swim in. And yet, the shops and restaurants of PV are only a five-dollar cab ride away.

 

Saturday 26 May 2012

 

We were fortunate that Hurricane Bud brushed by us during the night and brought only heavy rain our first day and a half here. Today was partly cloudy, but much better than I had expected when checking the forecast before departing the Bay Area last week.

 

 

Sunday 27 May 2012

 

 

At the same time, this is my first experience with any type of all-inclusive vacation, where my room rate includes breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus all the drinks and snacks I want. The facilities are lovely, and in general the service is excellent. But they maximize profit margins by offering limited dining options, over-pricing pedestrian wines, and charging for “extra” services such as more than one wifi connection per room. (Sorry, when you’re from Silicon Valley, one Internet connection per room, even when on vacation, is not going to cut it.)

I would imagine the all-inclusive arrangement works well for larger groups, or for people who want to lock in their vacation expenses before leaving home. Also for folks who prefer to spend their vacations consuming alcohol throughout the day, and/or for those who prefer quantity over quality of food. We have witnessed both types of guests here.

Never mind: the breakfast buffet is perfect, we’ve  identified the best restaurant on property for lunch, and after one mediocre dinner on a rainy night when we couldn’t face going out, we committed to sampling the best of what Puerto Vallarta has to offer. Last night we went to an old favorite, the classic Daiquiri Dick’s, owned by a chef who moved down from Los Angeles years ago, and a sumptuous meal (with daiquiris and flaming coffee) cost only fifty dollars each.  Tonight we had what my son the foodie proclaimed our best meal yet at a place favored by locals, La Langosta Feliz, the Happy Lobster.

Here’s to living large — Salud!

 

Of poverty and prescription meds

Neither story was new news, but seeing both of them on yesterday morning’s front pages made me stop and ask, what is wrong with our country, and what is wrong with me?

First the San Jose Mercury warned, “Poverty Rate at 18-Year High,” with an article that largely recounted census data already known, such as 27% of African-Americans and Hispanics have incomes below the poverty line, and the hardest-hit among us are children and young adults.  But it also offered some personal vignettes to make the numbers seem more real.  For example, the author, Matt O’Brien, highlighted a single mother of two children who has moved in with her grandmother after losing her own apartment, but is in fact now moving from place to place since her grandma’s home is in foreclosure.

Stories like this woman’s are repeated all too often among the 46.2 million people who live in poverty in the U.S., officially earning less than $22,113 for a family of four.  It’s hard to wrap my mind around the numbers, but we’re talking about more than 15 percent of our population.

Then I turned to the New York Times on my iPad (yes, I acknowledge the irony), and one of the featured stories was about a clinic in rural Kentucky that has decided to stop issuing new prescriptions for Xanax and its generic equivalent, as well as to wean current patients off the drug because of concern over its abuse.  According to the article by Abby Goodnough, “While Kentucky and other states have focused largely on narcotic painkiller addiction, experts say that benzodiazepines, the class of sedatives that includes Xanax, are also widely misused or abused, often with grim consequences.”

I’ll be honest: my initial reaction was less than charitable. At first I thought, well, it seems like a drastic step to cut off all Xanax prescriptions, but maybe people in rural Kentucky just don’t know what’s best for them.  My judgmental attitude was only heightened by a quote from a disappointed clinic patient whose style of speech indicated a lack of education.  Referring to how her panic attacks had increased after switching off Xanax to its generic counterpart, she said, “But if this ain’t doing it, something’s got to change.”

Then I stopped myself.  You know, this lady was speaking the truth.  Something does need to change.  Why has this clinic and others like it experienced so much drug abuse among its patients in the first place?  Why do people in Appalachia and other rural areas suffer from panic attacks and depression?  I would guess it has a lot to do with the other story I happened to read about burgeoning poverty in America.  It’s hard to feel optimistic about the future when you’ve lost your job, haven’t been able to find another one and don’t know how you’re going to feed your family.  So changing my mind, I began to despair about the state of our economy and society, where people can’t find “honest work,” but somehow are able to get free or reduced-price prescriptions that help them deal with the stress of not being able to pay the bills — that dull the pain when they lose hope.  Not unlike the use of street drugs in poor urban settings, prescription drug abuse of the type seen at this Kentucky clinic goes hand in hand with rural poverty.

My reaction to problems that loom so large they seem unsolvable is, regrettably, one of distancing and distracting myself.  Other than writing checks to support organizations that assist the poor, or greeting a homeless “friend” I encounter regularly, I have little personal interaction with the poverty that exists right in front of me.  As for prescription meds, I wholeheartedly support using them to alleviate pain, anxiety and depression.  But my knowledge of prescription drug abuse is limited to things like the TV show “House,” where although the main character is an irascible Vicodin addict, he is nonetheless brilliant and, in his own way, lovable.  So in short, I know nothing of true poverty or real abuse of prescription drugs.  And I’m fine keeping it that way.  [Read more…]