Dietary Cleansing: Dumb or Dumber

Dietary Cleansing: Dumb or Dumber
Consumers can expect to pay handsomely for some of these cleansing beverages sold in health food stores.

I wasn’t going to write about this, but after several dietitians endorsed the idea of a dietary cleanse, I felt the need to express my opinion. What is a  dietary cleanse? Simply put, it is a borderline fasting regimen that includes  liquids only  and severely restricts calories.  It is followed  anywhere from 3 to 30 days.  As a registered dietitian, I make evidence based recommendations. There is clearly NO scientific evidence that dietary cleanses do any of the things they promise, including ridding the body of toxins, promoting weight loss, increasing mental clarity or improving sex drive. This post is my rebuttal to those supporting and/or taking a soft approach to the dietary cleanse.

What I don’t like about it:

• It is not scientifically based.

Anyone who has studied the human body knows it  rids itself of toxins via the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. These organs do this daily, not just on a whim! The idea that we need to buy a book or expensive juice drinks to do this seems more like a marketing ploy than anything more substantial.

• The idea of promoting it because it motivates dieters with  an early rapid weight loss is  bogus.  Let’s be honest-you are simply losing water weight!

It is important to distinguish between weight and body composition and look beyond a number on the scale. Effective weight loss is loss of excess body fat. A cleanse results in mostly a loss of water and is a false sense of weight loss. Water weight loss is temporary! The goal of  weight loss should be permanent.

• The body’s response to a severe lack of food is hormonally controlled and there are unintended consequences.  These are:

  •  You will likely not feel like exercising because liver and muscle glycogen (the bodies preferred energy sources) are reduced and can be completely depleted within 12 to 18 hours after beginning a fast or extremely low calorie diet. Low glycogen stores  can negatively effect  your ability to exercise.
  • You will begin to breakdown muscle to be used as source of glucose. Yes, I know you think you have plenty of fat and your body should use it, not muscle. Your muscles can use fat stores for energy, but your central nervous system  cannot. Therefore, muscle is used for energy. Yikes!!! A good weight loss plan should preserve muscle, not break it down.
  • Your metabolic rate plummets.  Furthermore your the body maintains this lower metabolic rate for up to 2 weeks after the low calorie diet ends. For this reason the low calorie diet and cleanse can result in eventual weight gain. To make matters worse, some individuals  tend to regain weight as fat, not muscle, resulting in an overall increase in body fat.

It is my opinion that there is plenty of illogical thinking going on. If dietary cleanses are the rage, does that just underscore the fact that we have lost perspective on the subject of weight loss?  Are we listening to the marketers at the exclustion of the health experts? You can continue to expect me to encourage weight loss and maintenance through long term sensible dietary changes and moderate daily exercise.

Have you ever tried a dietary cleanse? Where do you stand on this topic?

Diane Boyd, MBA, RD, LDN

Sugar: How Sweet It Was

Sugar: How Sweet It Was

It’s old news that America has a weight problem. The rising incidence of childhood obesity and its related health concerns has catapulted this issue into the national spot-light. How have we gotten here? Health experts point to an excess of dietary sugar as one of the reasons. If you’re like most Americans, you consume 22 teaspoons of sugar daily or 355 calories. Teens consume 34 teaspoons or 544 calories. How can we curb America’s sweet tooth? It won’t be easy as evidenced by the mixed reaction to NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s recent ban on sodas and other sugary beverages  greater than 16 ounces. Today’s post is about the recommendations for added sugar, how to  meet them and a creative way to share this information with kids!

Just how much sugar is too much? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than  6 teaspoons daily or 100 calories for women  and  no more than 9 teaspoons daily or 150 calories for men.

How can we cut  as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar from our daily intake? Behavior change; yep, it’s time to learn how to swap healthy food and beverages  for our current not so healthy ones. Here are the modifications I’ m recommending:

• Swap diet soda, or better yet sparking water for soda. Save 8 teaspoons of sugar ( 128 calories) for every  12 ounces.

• Swap black coffee for latte. One large latte has about 5 teaspoons of sugar or 90 calories.

• Swap unsweetened coffee/tea for sweet coffee/tea or  limit the amount of sugar you add to every cup. For every teaspoon you eliminate, you save 16 calories. Experiment with alternative flavors. Before brewing coffee, add 1 tsp of  cinnamon to coffee grounds. Fresh mint can infuse flavor by directly adding to your glass of iced tea.

• Swap breakfast cereals with 5 grams or less per serving for sugary cereals. Avoid cereals with sugar listed at the top of the ingredient list or have multiple types of sugar. Some breakfast cereals can have as much as 4 tsp of sugar (64 calories) of sugar per serving.

• Swap unprocessed foods for processed. Many processed foods have unnecessary amounts of sugar added. For example: a cup of spaghetti sauce can have as much as 6 tsp of sugar ( 96 calories). Make your own and control the amount of added sugar.

• Swap reduced sugar varieties for regular jam, jelly and syrup. For every tablespoon swapped, you eliminate about  1 teaspoon sugar.

• Swap fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in water (or juice) for canned fruit packed in syrup. Savings up to 6 teaspoons or 96 calories for 1 cup of fruit swapped.

• Swap fresh fruit for pie, cake, cookies and other sweet desserts. Yes, fruit does contain naturally occurring sugar but it also contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that contribute to a healthy diet. Cakes, pies and cookies are high in added sugar and contribute little more than extra calories.

• Swap nuts, whole grain crackers, fruit, veggies, low fat/ low calorie yogurt for high sugar snacks like candy, cookies, cakes.

So you get it, but how are you going to broach the subject to your kids that some of their favorite foods are sugar landminds?  Is there an app for that? As a matter of fact there is and it’s called Smash Your Food! This app is an interactive nutritional game the whole family can enjoy! Guess how much sugar,  salt and  oil are in some of your favorite junk foods. Then  virtually smash the food to find out answers! You can view this app at Food N’ Me. For those of you (like myself) wanting it for your iPhone, you’ll have to wait until later this summer. It is currently available for the ipad for $2.99 and  there is a free version available on itunes (contains only 5 foods).

Sugar does not need to be avoided completely, but should be included in your diet in moderate amounts. Try to prioritize which sugar containing foods you desire most and work them into your daily meal plan without exceeding recommended levels. If you need help with this, consult with a registered dietitian. Find one in your area at

Do your kids know that the  American diet is not “healthy normal”?  In what ways do you educate what “healthy normal”  is? 

Diane Boyd, MBA, RD, LDN

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