Earlier this month, I was invited to serve as a beta tester* for Dr. Mark Hyman's 10-Day Detox Diet program. Using Dr. Hyman's new book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, as a guide, the group followed a specific “real foods” diet, and eliminated modern day “drugs” such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Instead, we were encouraged to replace these toxins/indulgences with lifestyle habits that would help us relax, de-stress, and resolve our cravings and impulses for less healthy lifestyle choices.
If you've been following my work for awhile, you'll know I'm a huge, HUGE fan of Dr. Hyman's work. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and Dr. Hyman's work has been instrumental in helping me get my health back on track. His New York Times bestselling books and online videos have also become a tremendous resource as I counsel clients on how to, as Dr. Hyman says, “take back their health” and discover cooking “real” food as a revolutionary act.
Even though I eat a mostly clean diet, I must admit I was equally excited and terrified about doing the detox. The program is designed to eliminate toxic foods and beverages, as well as those that are likely to trigger spikes in blood sugar or other biochemical disruptions. This meant: no sugar or sweeteners, gluten, grains, dairy, beans or legumes, processed foods, refined vegetable oils, alcohol, caffeine, other stimulants or sedatives, and excessive exposure to media.
Instead of the junk and potentially inflammatory foods, we ate meals and snacks that would help remove toxins from the body, reduce inflammation and auto-immune responses, improve digestive function, lessen cravings, and balance blood sugar.
Why Do a Detox?
The American diet is full of literally thousands of processed “ingredients,” chemicals and additives that didn't even exist 50 years ago, when the FDA last revamped their food regulations. As reported by the Huffington Post, the number of chemicals in the food supply has risen from fewer than 2,000 to an estimated 10,000 over the last 50 years, many of which are never reviewed by the FDA because companies and their advisers have declared them to be safe (FDA: Hey, are these new Cheezy Kurls safe? Manufacturer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't worry about it.”)
The processed food industry then formulates and engineers these ingredients to invent food-like substances that will drive sales and maximize profit. In other words, they knowingly manufacture foods that disrupt the way our bodies respond to these foods, making them literally addictive. Note: for a truly frightening look into this world, check out Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss — or his extended excerpt as published by the New York Times.
If you are overweight, there's a very good chance that you're a food addict… you are not gluttonous, nor weak-willed, nor any other self-incriminating belief you may have about yourself and your relationship to food. Your hormones, taste buds and brain chemistry have been hijacked by the food industry. Not metaphorically, but biologically… the $1 trillion industrial food system is the biggest drug dealer around. — Dr. Mark Hyman, The 10-Day Detox Diet
Doing a detox is less about getting into your skinny jeans — although of course it's wonderful when that happens. A true detox means ridding our bodies of the chemicals and toxins that keep us addicted to certain kinds of foods, make us gain weight, and trigger inflammation in the body.
How successful is the 10-Day Detox Diet? A test group of about 600 participants who completed the 10-Day Detox Diet program before I did saw the following results:
- Weight loss: upwards of 10 pounds
- Average blood sugar drop of 20 points
- Average blood pressure went down by almost 10 points
- On average all symptoms from all diseases went down by 62% in 10 days
Even with that list of motivating results, however, I must admit I approached the detox start date with more than a little anxiety. There were certain indulgences and habits I resisted giving up, even if only for 10 days: Americanos from my favorite coffee shop, a sprinkling of romano cheese on a salad, wine with dinner. Dark chocolate after dinner. Cheat Day, which usually means pizza on the weekend.
My Own 10-Day Detox Diet Experience
I fretted I wouldn't be able to pull it off, especially since the first couple of days of the detox I was on the road, visiting my brother in Miami.
I know. Miami! It's like trying to pull off a detox in Vegas.
But I gave myself a little pep talk, telling myself it would only be for 10 days. After all, what kind of a nutritionist would I be if I couldn't last 10 days? Knowing the challenges that would face me on the road, I packed up extra workout clothes, a travel-friendly NutriBullet for my morning shakes, and an assortment of nuts, seeds and individual nut butter packets. I asked the hotel to put a mini refrigerator in our room, and walked to the nearest market to stock up on frozen berries, hard boiled eggs and salad makings. I brought travel-sized packets of epsom salts and lavender oil for my detox baths. I got on the coaching calls while my family was down at the pool. I was committed.
The beauty of the 10-Day Detox Diet is the fact that it's flexible, in spite of how restrictive it may initially appear. This was especially helpful since I started on the road, away from my regular routine, and the convenience of my own home and kitchen. I love that the detox has simple options for dining out — or for when you're home and simply too tired to do much food prep. These options aren't very exciting — I stuck mostly with salad greens or steamed vegetables with chicken or plain sashimi, and a drizzle of olive oil or some avocado on the side — but these simple meals got me through the first couple of days.
I was even able to find a detox-friendly option while attending a Miami HEAT game at American Airlines Arena, of all places: the Gluten-Free Stand! It took some will power to walk past the GF hot dogs and nachos, but fortunately the salad bar offered appealing ingredients such as a choice of salad greens, perfectly ripe avocados, grilled chicken, olives, and mini broccoli florets.
As well as I did while on the road for those first few days, the full magic of the detox didn't kick in until I arrived home.
And I do mean magic.
The food, which I was able to prepare now that I was in my own kitchen, was delicious as it was nutritious.
I especially enjoyed the Whole-Food (as in unrefined food, not the grocery chain) Protein Shake, made with blueberries, cranberries, hemp and chia seeds, and a half a lemon.
And the Almond and Strawberry Smoothie.
I didn't always need a snack, but when I did, the Tahini Dip with fresh veggie sticks was amazing.
Dinners were savory and satisfying — my favorites included the Baked Cod with Olive and Caper Pesto, Almond-Flax Crusted Chicken, Beef with Bok Choy, and Chicken Breast Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.
The food was so tasty, in fact, that the toughest aspect of the detox didn't have to do with food at all. Weird, huh? The diet part was, relatively speaking, kind of easy.
The detox was initially about food, but the real results ended up not being about food at all. At least not entirely.
Where it became difficult — and this completely surprised me — was time, and the willingness to take some of that time to focus on myself and relax.
“Stress Finds You, but You Have to Find Relaxation” (— Dr. Mark Hyman)
I'm a working mom, busy making a living and raising an energetic 7-year old. Like so many mothers in my position, I'm not accustomed to finding time solely for myself — to, as Dr. Hyman says, participate in active relaxation. Which doesn't mean camping out on Facebook or TV for an hour. Active relaxation means doing yoga, meditation, breathwork, or some other practice that calms your nervous system and gives you greater capacity to deal with stress.
In light of everything that I'm constantly trying to juggle and finesse — work, caring and cooking for my family, laundry, school and sports commitments, social engagements — the prospect of finding 30 minutes to sit in a hot bath (the detox program's “UltraDetox Bath”) every night sounded like an extravagant use of time. Taking time to respond to journal prompts about my mood, thoughts and feelings throughout the detox seemed even more outlandish — and I'm a writer! And getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night? This seemed downright impossible at first.
But all of these practices, as challenging as they were to find time for initially, proved to be the secret sauce in the detox diet.
I started the detox worried about managing my nighttime cravings for wine and chocolate, and found that the cravings disappeared almost instantly. It was the baths that I started craving — and the breathwork, and the “permission” to go to bed early. I completed the detox feeling like some fairy godmother had been taking exquisite care of me throughout those ten days, nurturing me and leaving me feeling utterly restored.
How empowering to experience that sense of well-being, and recognize that the person who was taking such good care of me was… me!
My Top Ten for the 10-Day Detox Diet
- You'll lose weight, in a healthy way. I ended up losing 7 pounds — and an inch both around my waist and thighs — in 10 days, which absolutely floored me. Clearly, my previous food and lifestyle choices had left me with some significant background bloating, or what I affectionately call “the puffies.”
- The food is delicious. If you're transitioning from a hardcore Standard American Diet (fast food, soda, processed foods), I recommend gradually cleaning up your diet before you start the detox — cut back on your sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Otherwise, the transition might be too challenging. However, if you already eat a pretty healthy diet, I think you'll find the book's recipes very appealing, and easy to follow. You'll use lots of yummy ingredients such as avocado, almond butter, blueberries, greens, savory herbs and spices, and coconut butter.
- You won't be hungry. This detox if full of protein, healthy fats, nutrients and fiber, plus you get to snack on nuts or fresh veggies and easily prepared dips.
- You'll have more energy. You know that post-lunch, 3 o'clock slump? Gone. My energy levels were much more even and consistent throughout the day, and I woke without having the hit the snooze a thousand times. Maybe once or twice, and that's major progress for me.
- Random ailments will likely improve. This is the beautiful thing about healing your body. Many of us are living with a variety of troubling ailments ranging from high blood sugar and high blood pressure to less troubling, but certainly annoying issues such as headaches, acne, and joint pain. Healing and nurturing the body enable us to resolve numerous issues at once — as if we're taking one magic pill instead of the numerous prescriptions we're often prescribed. But we're not taking a magic pill — the book teaches us how to use food as medicine, and how to care for ourselves in ways that a pill or medication could never even touch.
- The book covers so much more than food. What we put into our mouths is important, but following a healthy lifestyle involves so many other factors than just nutrition. The 10-Day Detox Diet covers lifestyle habits — exercise, relaxation, self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care — that are critical in setting yourself up for long-term success.
- You'll learn about secret fat-makers. I hear so many people say, “I don't get it — I eat a healthy diet, but I can't lose weight and I feel like crap.” The 10-Day Detox Diet does a great job of explaining how caffeine, your beloved wine-with-dinner, lack of sleep, stress — and yes, even artificial sweeteners — can make us gain and retain weight.
- You'll feel empowered. Gaining and retaining weight can make us feel powerless — we feel victimized by our genetic make-up, environment, demanding jobs, and or some other mystery nemesis that foils our best intentions. Follow this program for 10 days — the food, the journal prompts, the exercise and the baths… all of it — and you'll come out the other side transformed. Seriously — it's life-changing stuff.
- Join the revolution. So much of the challenge in trying to live a healthy lifestyle is wrapped up in our fast-food, multi-tasking, more-is-more lifestyle. The manufacturers of industrial, processed foods knowingly design and market food-like substances that are literally addictive. These companies are just as unethical as the cigarette manufacturers from the 1960s. While these highly profitable foods make sense for the manufacturers, they don't make sense for those who consume them. These foods mess with our biological responses so much that we end up being hungrier than ever, develop chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and find it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy weight. Aren't we, as consumers, a little tired of playing the game? As Dr. Hyman says, getting healthy is a team sport. “Together, we can fix our big fat global problem and make our world safer and healthier for ourselves and our children.” Sign me up.
- It's fun. Doing a detox doesn't sound like much fun — and I'll admit, a lot of it was quite challenging — but Dr. Hyman's book and his keeping-it-real approach made it an easier, more enjoyable journey. I had fun exploring new recipes and ingredients — such as incorporating almond butter into a marinade — and I thoroughly enjoyed abstaining from late-night social media so I could go to bed early in accordance with doctor's “orders.”
If you end up trying the 10-Day Detox Diet, please let me know how it goes. I'll also be leading a group of people who want to try it with me later in March — perfect for getting spring-break ready. Details to come soon!
In the meantime, here are a couple of links you might find helpful:
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* Disclosure: I received complimentary inclusion as a beta tester for the 10-Day Detox Diet program, which included a free book, access to daily coaching calls, supplements, and inclusion in a private Facebook group. I did not receive any monetary compensation for participating, nor am I receiving any post-detox compensation.