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.

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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.

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Image credits: 05compicserver.org, J. Hendron

Looking for light this side of the equinox: excuses and enneagrams

We’re still seven weeks away from the vernal equinox, when the hours of daylight will equal the hours of darkness, heralding my favorite season of the year. I love the summer, when days are long, and light lasts well into the evening.

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SAD: a lack of light

I think I need sunlight now more than ever. Lately, when friends have asked me if I’m still posting to my blog, I realize that my “holiday break” has continued well past New Year’s. My only excuse for my silence has been “the January malaise,” to which one friend replied, “Oh, you must be seasonal.” And I think she’s right. It may not be severe enough to be clinical, but I recognize in myself symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of winter depression that overtakes mainly women due to lack of sunlight.

I have one of those SAD lights, but I don’t sit in front of it regularly, and I don’t start using it early in the fall, before I start feeling bad — so I don’t receive the benefits I’m supposed to get from it. Too bad I’m not like the dogs I saw on the ABC News, whose owners were kind enough to buy them daylight spectrum lights. Those depressed doggies apparently perked up after lying in front of the SAD lightboxes. You can check out the story and video here.

The Enneagram: en-light-ening?

I started to make a list of things I had done during the month of January, during which I did no writing or blogging, but after taking the Enneagram test online, I realized I probably need to fight my compulsion to ennumerate my accomplishments — that I should focus more on “being” and less on “doing.” This is because my top score on the quiz was that of the Enneagram 3, or The Achiever, who has a tendency to tie her sense of self-worth to her accomplishments. My second top score was even less encouraging: it was the 8, or the The Challenger, who is confident and assertive, but also prone to confrontation and intimidation. Not exactly what I needed to pull me out of a slump.

 

Enneagram Symbol

Courtesy of The Ennegram Institute

 

So in the spirit of not evaluating myself by how many checks I’ve put on the to-do list, I won’t go through the “incredible” (not really) things I did during my time away from the blog. I do have some plans coming up that may involve changing or adding to Second Serve, however, and those are exciting. Hopefully, with more sunlight in the days ahead, I’ll be able to get going on them.

Until then, I’ll be the lady searching for sun. But don’t get in my way, as apparently one of my possible Enneagram types won’t hesitate to elbow past you!

 

Image credits: iFreeze, Enneagram Institute

Nike+ FuelBand: real stats or just marketing?

The Nike+ FuelBand is a high-priced, high-tech toy you wear on your wrist to collect data about energy, or “fuel,” that you burn throughout the day. It’s about output, pure and simple — not what you’re eating or how you’re expending energy. While FuelBand data may be imperfect, the concept fits perfectly with the company’s “Just Do It” mantra.

You wear the FuelBand on your wrist.  It has a unisex, sporty look that works with casual attire — although I’ll admit, it’s not the best fashion combination with the bracelets I always wear on my other wrist.  The FuelBand’s clasp is a USB plug, which is how you charge its battery, and also how you sync it to your computer.  If you have an iPhone, you can  sync wirelessly so you are always within reach of your FuelBand data.

One hundred white and twenty red, yellow and green LEDs communicate your progress throughout the day. You press a button on the band to toggle through its settings: Fuel, Calories, Steps, Time. Time is time of day, so the FuelBand replaces your need for a watch. Steps — that’s obvious. Calories are an approximate measure of calories burned through physical activity.

NikeFuel is a proprietary calculation based on Nike’s “sport-tested accelerometer,” whose algorithms translate your movement into “fuel points.” You set your own goal — 2000 for an “average day,” 3000+ for days with greater levels of activity.

In my first three weeks of wearing the band, I’ve found the NikeFuel calculations associated with different activities to be rather misleading. Here’s a sample from my own experience (“fps” = “fuel points”):

  • Ride stationary bike (at target heart rate) 30 min: 145 fps
  • Walk from bedroom to kitchen, feed dog, make coffee, eat fried egg and homemade doughnut: 242 fps
  • Fold 3 baskets laundry 45 min: 400 fps
  • Make and serve dinner 1 hr: 750 fps
  • Walk dog 1 hr: 800 fp
  • Play doubles tennis 2 hrs: 1800 fps
  • Play singles tennis 1.75 hr: 2800 fps
  • Hike 1 hr 45 min at brisk pace: 3000 fps
  • Sex: my husband wanted to collect data here, but sorry, this is a G-rated blog . . .

The band awards more points for moving forward through space than it does for things like riding a stationary bike. If I were to live according to my FuelBand’s data, though, I would spend more time folding laundry, making dinner and eating doughnuts than I do at present.

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Migraines, and a menu of voices

It’s all in my head, right? I mean, the fact that two days ago I suffered a terrible migraine had nothing to do with the fact I’d just attained my “personal worst” record for any USTA adult league season I’ve ever played in. It was just a weird coincidence, wasn’t it? I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure.

I’m a migraineur, a person who gets migraines. Fortunately, most of mine go away with medication, and this one seemed ordinary enough at the outset. While I’m stumped as to what causes my headaches, I like to think they’re brought on by food, hormonal or environmental factors. I’d rather not consider that inability to deal with everyday stress or disappointment might also trigger migraines for me.

But what happened this time? Well, I awoke with a “regular migraine” that worsened as I thought about the previous night’s tennis match (an 0-5 loss for our team) and my own disappointing season. I was surprised my win/loss record ended up so low (1/6), because I felt as though I’d been playing better this year. Granted, I’d played mostly singles, whereas previously I’d focused on doubles — so that was a change. Plus, nearly all my opponents were 15-20 years younger. But so what? For me, it was personal best experience — not a personal worst.

Statistics, however, told a different story. Namely, that compared to opponents who were also rated USTA 3.0, I’m hadn’t measured up. Moreover, if I thought I’d played well, I’d also lost my grip on reality and couldn’t recognize my own lack of progress.

The voices argued inside my head. My VoJ (Voice of Judgment) was clamoring: “Anne, you suck at tennis. Why do you bother with this sport?  It’s no wonder people don’t want to play with you — before long, they won’t even want to say hello to you.”

The Voice of Reason persisted: “You’re always reminding yourself that tennis is a journey — it’s your journey, at your pace. Not someone else’s. Where are all you women going with tennis, anyway?  Isn’t it about learning and having a good time?”

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Warts and all

 

Lately I’ve been obsessed by a subject we don’t like to discuss in polite circles.  And yet it’s a common problem: the lowly plantar wart.  Even the name “wart” is disgusting – no one wants to admit they have ever had one themselves.  Well maybe their kids did, but they didn’t.  The virus that causes warts is HPV, and even though it’s different from herpes or HIV, talking about it is almost as taboo as mentioning a sexually transmitted disease.

Yet I have a plantar wart on the ball of my foot.  It has been with me in some form or another for the past eighteen years.  As best I can tell, I picked up the virus from a pool deck or locker room while I was pregnant with our youngest child during the summer of 1995.  The only relief I could get from the heat and excess weight I was hoisting that summer was to swim – well, to move up and down the pool with a kickboard.

 

 

As much as I love my son and the time I spent being pregnant with him, I don’t care for this reminder of my pregnancy.  But my body seems to delight in the wart virus.  I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve destroyed the outer manifestations of its presence.   Liquid nitrogen — freezing the wart.  Salicylic acid — killing it slowly with OTC remedies.  Lasers — involving brief pain but multiple treatments.  Mini-surgery — carving it out of my foot.  And as a last resort, injections of bleomycin — an anti-cancer drug that kills all cells in its path.

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