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    Archive for the ‘detox diets’ Category

    The Internet Needs a Gwyneth Paltrow Detox!

    gwyneth-paltrowGwyneth Paltrow is back, folks.

    No, not back from England.  And, no, not back on screens.  She’s back with more detox nonsense.

    In her latest newsletter, the Goopster (as I like to call her) mentions that she is “finishing [an] amazing three-week-long “Clean” detox program.”

    She goes on to say she “feel[s] pure and happy and much lighter” as a result of following said cleanse.

    Alas, the cleanse conveniently happens to be the basis of New York City “detox specialist” — and Goopster friend — Dr. Alejandro Junger’s latest book, which she then goes on to plug.  How… convenient.

    In the newsletter, Dr. Junger, like any good businessman, explains that while the cleanse “can easily [be done] at home with freshly made foods and drinks, a meal replacement shake-supplement version of it is also available in a kit from www.cleanprogram.com.)”

    Second mortgage, anyone?

    Apparently the inspiration for this cleanse program — besides a larger bank account — was Dr. Junger’s personal experience following a 15-day juice fast several years ago, on which he “lost 15 pounds and was told repeateadly [that] he looked ten years younger.”

    Citing his medical experience, he claims to have perfected that cleanse in order to make it healthier and more manageable for those leading busy lives.  How someone with a busy schedule can find the time to get daily colonics beats me, though.

    Anyhow, you can view the cleanse manual here.  Page seven, which details the dietary principles, is quite interesting.

    Let’s see (my comments in bold):

    1. Oranges, strawberries, grapes, and bananas are not allowed.  Any diet program that tries to blame certain fruits for health problems loses major credibility.
    2. Rice milk and oat milk are allowed.  I thought processed foods were a no-no?  In what universe is rice milk not a processed food?
    3. Chicken and turkey are allowed, but not shellfish.  Right, because shrimp is so unhealthy…
    4. Tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant are banned. Oh, you didn’t know?  Tomatoes are TERRIBLE for you.  Yeah, uhhh… the tomato lobby has just been lying to you all this time.  Those bastards!
    5. Brown rice syrup, stevia, and agave nectar get a thumbs up, but all other sweeteners — including honey — get a thumbs down.  Someone please send this doctor to Nutrition 101 so he can learn that all sugars are created equal.

    It’s rather ironic that a wellness website so intent on living harmoniously and in balance encourages avoidant eating patterns.

    Anyhow, if you believe what the Goopster says on the back cover of the book, this cleanse helps “end chronic depression.”  Did your BS detector just go off?  Good!

    Hollywood execs: if you’re out there, I beg you, please cast this woman in a film so she can get off the computer and stop spreading this cleanse nonsense.

    Thanks in advance!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Breakfast

    In Gwyneth Paltrow’s new site she gives nutrition advice.

    She recently said that a person should try to go 12 hours between finishing dinner and beginning breakfast.

    She states that breakfast should be a “break from the fast” (12+ hours) to allow the system to rest and detoxify.

    What do you think of this concept?

    — Sarah (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Gwyneth didn’t have much nutritional credibility with me earlier this year when she blogged about the health miracles of detoxing. Let’s find out if she has redeemed herself with her latest batch of advice.

    No need for a drumroll — the answer is NO, she has not redeemed herself.

    The number of hours that pass between your last bite of food prior to hitting the sack and waking up the next morning are irrelevant.

    There is nothing magical about twelve hours. Eating breakfast nine hours after finishing dinner has no negative effects on health or digestion.

    Let’s assume you had a late snack at 11:30 PM and went to bed an hour later, at 12:30 AM. Eight hours later (at 8:30 AM) you wake up. I find it absolutely ridiculous to expect you to wait three hours to eat breakfast!

    If anything, by the time you have your first morsel of food, you’ll be so famished you’ll overeat.

    I would much rather you focus on what you’re eating for breakfast. Waiting twelve hours to load up on a breakfast low in fiber and nutrients but high in added sugars and calories makes no sense.

    My other concern with this “health halo” surrounding fasting and spending hours without eating is that it is a half step away from glorifying anorexia nervosa.

    Where did celebrities get the idea that an Oscar and a health credential are the same thing?

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    In The News: Starstruck

    In an article titled “Is Gwyneth Paltrow’s Food Advice Perfect for the Recession?” published in this week’s New York Magazine, writer Mark Adams preposterously hails “the Goopster” (my nickname for her, don’t you like it?) as some sort of nutrition visionary.

    “We’ve entered a moment in which it’s perfectly acceptable to talk, if not boast, about the purity of one’s digestive functions, as Diddy did when he recently Twittered minute-by-minute details of his “spiritual” 48-hour juice fast,” Adams states in his opening paragraph.

    I almost threw my copy of the magazine across the room after that sentence.

    If we are going to use “Diddy” — a record label executive with more flops than I care to count and bigger delusions of grandeur than your average reality show contestant — as a thermometer of nutrition trends and sensibility, we’re in trouble.

    Alas, let’s continue.

    Adams explains that that during the Great Depression, a man named Bernarr Macfadden launched a magazine titled Physical Culture, which published recipes along with health and fitness tips.

    Adams equates this to Gwyneth Paltrow’s health and wellness- oriented website, Goop.com, which is big on detoxing and cleansing (click here to read my impression of one of her recent postings).

    “Macfadden’s main idea—one echoed by Gwyneth, Diddy, and anyone who has completed a Blueprint or Master cleanse—was that an empty stomach is the path to detoxification and wellness.”

    This notion that empty stomachs are somehow virtuous sets up a horrendously disturbing slippery slope that leads right into eating disorders.

    “An empty stomach is the path to wellness” might as well be the mantra of someone living with anorexia nervosa.

    Again, why are we looking to Gwyneth Paltrow and Diddy for health advice? Are people that blinded by fame that they consider celebrities to somehow know the answers to everything?

    For that matter, Mr. Macfadden (who, in his defense, had some good ideas in terms of the virtues of whole grains) himself was a self-appointed nutrition expert (thus explaining his belief that 7-day fasts were healthy).

    “Many more people are going to lose their health insurance before anything approaching universal coverage gets passed. Meanwhile, we might all be better off if we literally tightened our belts and followed the stars for a while instead,” Adams feebly concludes.

    No, Mr. Adams. We shouldn’t follow the stars. We should simply use common sense. Cut back on processed junk, eat more fruits and vegetables, add whole grains to our diet, keep tabs on calories, and stop turning to celebrities for nutrition advice.

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    Shame On You/Say What?: Intruder Alert!

    A reader by the name of Rachelle recently left a comment on this blog notifying me about author John Gray’s foray into nutrition.

    If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Mr. Gray is the author of the “let’s make cultural norms seem like biological qualities” pop-psychology book Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus.

    Despite a lack of nutrition credentials, Mr. Gray now considers himself knowledgeable enough to dole out nutrition advice. Oh, joy.

    Perhaps it is the “PhD” after his name that gave him this confidence, although that credential has been severely questioned.

    In any case, Mr. Gray offers nutritional cleanses retreats (red flag, anyone?) and hawks — are you ready for it? — Mars & Venus shakes.

    According to Mr. Gray, these shakes offer the “ideal balance of nutrients” for men and women. Don’t you love vague pseudo-science catch phrases?

    You do? Great, because here’s another one: “the shakes are designed to assist the brain in functioning in a more balanced and harmonious manner.”

    Mr. Gray also claims these shakes get you to your ideal weight. If you need to lose, you will lose. If you need to gain weight, you will gain. I would love to see the randomized double-blind control trials that confirm this (because I’m so sure he conducted them.)

    Despite having the exact same ingredients in different amounts, Mr. Gray claims the Mars shake produces more dopamine in the brain, while the Venus shake produces more serotonin.

    Huh? Both shakes contain a protein powder. Protein-rich foods cause a surge of dopamine. So, how then, does the Venus shake differ?

    If you’re looking to lose weight, Mr. Gray has you covered!

    All you have to do is buy his shake powder (of course!) and have it as your breakfast and dinner.

    For lunch, you can eat a salad “with as many raw vegetables and avocado as you wish” as well as some form of protein, all topped with olive oil and either lemon juice or vinegar.

    Although Mr. Gray claims the “effortless weight loss” (15 pounds a week, he claims!) is due to the magic ingredients in his shake, it’s clear that the “magic” is simple caloric deprivation.

    How can you NOT lose weight if your only solid meal of the day is a salad and your other two meals each consist of one scoop of powder and eight ounces of water?

    Despite all the fantastic claims, the small print at the bottom of his website reads “John Gray’s Mars & Venus LLC does NOT guarantee weight loss.”

    Hmmmm… interesting how he never mentions that in his breathless infomercials where he mentions how “life changing” his shakes have been!

    Now we come to my favorite part — the head-scratching nutrition-related statements:

    * The weight loss cleanse prohibits the intake of any dairy, yet the shakes — which are a significant part of the cleanse — contain whey protein!

    Newsflash, Mr. Gray, whey protein is a dairy protein!

    * Mr. Gray on Omega-3’s: “A couple of tablespoons of flaxseed [have as many Omega-3’s] as a meal of salmon.”

    Firstly, how big is a “meal of salmon”?

    Additionally, can you say “back to Nutrition 101 for you”? The Omega 3’s in flaxseed consist of alpha linolenic acid, whereas salmon offers Docosahexaonoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

    It is not an equal comparison!

    * Mr. Gray hates soy, mainly due to its phytate content, which blocks mineral absorption.

    Had he bothered to research the topic, he would have realized that although phytates interfere with the absorption of some minerals, they also offer a variety of well-documented health benefits.

    Tannins in coffee and tea interfere with iron absorption, but that doesn’t mean coffee and tea are “bad” beverages.

    * Mr. Gray refers to a food that contains a certain amount of cholesterol as one that provides “3% of the daily requirement.”

    Wrong again! There is no daily requirement for cholesterol; it is not an essential nutrient. The 300 milligram figure is considered a “limit,” not a requirement.

    * Mr. Gray claims coconut is the only food that contains lauric acid.

    Not so! Goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and palm kernel oil also contain the fatty acid.

    These examples merely scratch the non-sense surface.

    As I said in an earlier post — enough is enough! The last thing anyone needs is more inaccurate nutrition advice from individuals who don’t possess even the most basic knowledge!

    This Earthling is not amused.

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    In The News: Flushing Out The Facts

    Unfortunately, detox craziness isn’t limited to the United States.

    Over in Australia, these programs are also heavily promoted at the beginning of every year, hoping to empty out the wallets of gullible individuals high on New Year’s resolutions of weight loss and overall health.

    The Sydney Morning Herald briefly touches on them in a short article brilliantly titled “Put Down Detox Kit, Let Body Do Its Thing.”

    In it, one professor of complementary medicine at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology mentions that “there have been no robust clinical trials of any detox programs,” and thinks “detox is more sales pitch than science.”

    My kind of guy!

    Meanwhile, Simone Strasser, “a liver specialist and chairwoman of the Digestive Health Foundation, said the liver, kidneys and colon effectively converted toxic substances into harmless byproducts and flushed chemicals out through urination and sweating.”

    Music to my ears.

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    Celebrity Diet Secrets: A Steaming Pile Of… Goop

    Last September, Gwyneth Paltrow launched a lifestyle and wellness website named Goop, which she describes as a “collection of experiences [of] what makes life good.”

    Well, wouldn’t you know it, in her latest newsletter, “Gwyn” talks about… detox diets!

    “I like to do fasts and detoxes a couple of times during the year, the most hardcore one being the Master Cleanse I did last spring,” she writes.

    Turns out the the A-lister’s detox specialist — who I refuse to name in this post since I do not want to promote him with yet another Google hit — told her the Master Cleanse wasn’t healthy because it doesn’t adequately meet the liver’s nutritional demands.

    Forget the liver, how about the fact that it simply doesn’t provide much of anything in the way of nutrition and that there is absolutely no reason to believe that lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper play any role in detoxing?

    I digress.

    Gwyneth then proceeds to share her own “detox-doctor approved” seven-day elimination diet to “help decrease the amount of work your digestive system has to do.”

    If it’s any consolation, she will “be suffering along with you to kickstart [her] year a bit lighter.”

    Before going into detail, she shares tips from her detox-doctor, including:

    “If your bowel movements get sluggish, you can accelerate things by drinking half a cup of castor oil or using a mild herbal laxative. Bowel elimination is paramount for correct detoxification.”

    Well, yes, bowel elimination is paramount to overall good health, as it is one of the body’s ways of removing waste material.

    That said, the castor oil and herbal laxative suggestions are ridiculous and, in my opinion, are tacked on in an attempt to make this detox plan seem special.

    Whatever happened to simply speeding up digestive transit by consuming a higher quantity of fiber-rich foods?

    Anyhow, you can see Gwyneth’s week-long detox plan here. Disturbingly, the average day barely adds up to 1,000 calories!

    For the record, “there can be no dairy, grains with gluten, meat, shellfish, anything processed (including all soy products), fatty nuts, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), condiments, sugar and obviously no alcohol, caffeine or soda.”

    Which makes me wonder:

    * What are examples of non fatty nuts?
    * What about those four nightshade vegetables makes them detox “enemies”? I would just love to hear her “detox doctor” explain this one.
    * If sugar is banned for this plan, then why is the Master Cleanse — which calls for cups and cups of maple syrup (sugar!) — considered such a pinnacle of health?
    * If dairy is banned, why do some of Gwynth’s recipes call for whey protein powder?
    * If sugar is banned, why do some of Gwyneth’s recipes call for agave nectar?
    * If “anything processed” is banned, why is almond milk used in some recipes?

    Above all, why do celebrities with no health credentials think they are authorities on nutrition?

    Thank you to Kristin MacBride for passing along the newsletter link.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Vinegar

    Does vinegar have any positive or negative affects on the body?

    –Lori (last name withheld)
    Ottawa, ON

    Although vinegar is a great low-calorie (roughly 14 calories per tablespoon) flavoring agent, it doesn’t offer significant amounts of any nutrient.

    Some fasts and detox plans claim that downing a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before each meal helps reduce cravings and speed up fat loss.

    I have absolutely no idea how they came to such a conclusion, though, given that there is nothing in the scientific literature demonstrating that vinegar has specific fat-loss properties.

    There has been some preliminary research on vinegar’s effect on blood sugar levels of diabetics, but nothing that would warrant the suggestion of making vinegar a daily staple.

    There is no reason to avoid it, either — there are no harmful effects from consuming it in moderate amounts (i.e.: a tablespoon in salad dressing).

    That said, going overboard and drinking multiple tablespoons in an attempt to speed up the metabolism is not only futile — it can also cause tooth enamel damage.

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    Shame On You: The Blueprint Cleanse

    After receiving favorable publicity in Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and New York Magazine, the New York City based Blueprint Cleanse is increasing in popularity across the United States.

    As you may imagine, I am not a fan.

    Long story short: the founder of The Blueprint Cleanse had “a savage cold” on January 1, 2000, which she recuperated from a week later after following a seven-day juice cleanse.

    Don’t most colds naturally run their course in a week? I digress.

    As happy as she was to have her health back, she thought that particular cleanse was too extreme.

    Well, lucky us — this inspired her to start a nutritional cleanse company “customized to [each client’s] level of nutritional awareness and dietary history.”

    Mix that idea with a cutesy website, trendy advertising, and promises of “normalized weight” and “physical rejuvenation,” and the latest “wellness” nonsense is born.

    Beginners can opt for a 3 day program, while more advanced folks looking to flush their hard-earned dollars down the toilet — oops, I mean, the toxins out of their system — can opt for 5, 7 or 10 day cleanses.

    For $65 a day, the 6 beverages you need to drink each day are delivered to your home or office in the insulated cooler picture at top (as you may notice by looking at that photo, each juice is labeled in suggested order of consumption.)

    Mind you, these are fruit and vegetable blends (as well as one cashew milk drink) that cost no more than $10 a day to make.

    Despite Blueprint’s claim that this is different from other cleanses, we are dealing with the same flawed logic (except this time the intellectual excrement is covered in a glossy shimmer, kind of like an episode of MTV’s The Hills.)

    A few choice examples:

    Can we please finally put to rest the myth that if you don’t eat a lot, you’ll lack energy? Unless one is undergoing a water fast, which, should only be done with a coach, energy levels will skyrocket!

    I suppose. But how about finally putting to rest these inane notions that we need to subsist on nothing but liquefied fruits and vegetables to cleanse our bodies?

    While “we” are at it, can “we” please learn some basic human physiology and realize that the kidneys and pancreas already get rid of “toxins”?

    Disturbingly, The Blueprint Cleanse folks claim it is absolutely possible to exercise while undergoing any of their fasts (3, 5, or 7 days.)

    The energy that is usually spent on digestion is now yours for the taking, so grab it and go for a jog! Remember- you are feeding your cells, not stuffing your belly.

    Newsflash — solids AND liquids go through the digestive system. Just because you are drinking six juices a day does not mean your body takes a break from digestion.

    According to the creators, this cleanse contains nothing but “food that’s packed with enzymes [and] will allow your body to clean.

    Oh, the enzyme argument. Cute. Too bad it’s baseless.

    A three-day Cleanse helps the body rid itself of old built up matter and cleanses the blood. A five-day Cleanse starts the process of rebuilding and healing the immune system. A ten-day Cleanse will take care of problems before they arise and fight off degenerative diseases.

    I would love to know how they came to this conclusion. Not to mention, how exactly does a cleanse “take care of problems before they arise?”

    Am I supposed to believe that, magically, on the tenth day, I have enough power in my immune system to prevent a scratchy throat? If so, for how long?

    Wondering when you should be cleansing? Here it is from the horse’s mouth:

    A good rule of thumb is whenever you experience any of the following: fatigue/general lack of energy, sleeplessness, anxiety/depression, digestive problems, at the first sign of a cold and of course, before and after holidays or any special events that lead to overindulging.

    Yes, because I am sure someone with depression is just itching to give up a hot plate of food and instead subsist on nothing but cold vegetable and fruit juices for a week.

    Okay, okay, I’m being unfair. The Blueprint Cleanse allows you to cheat by sinking your teeth into…. celery sticks.

    You might as well throw two ice cubes onto your plate and have yourself a party!!

    Back to the suggested times of use — I’m very weary of attempting to correct issues of fatigue and lack of energy by going on a liquid diet that barely grazes the 1,000 calorie mark.

    And then there’s the most extreme cleanse – “the excavation cleanse” – which does away with most fruits and instead “focuses on foods that trigger detox and elimination, such as citrus (spicy lemonade), which act as “cleaners” and green vegetable tonics which act as “healers.

    And, clearly, this cleanse goes in the “complete and utter nonsense” category.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fish Oil Supplements/Metal Toxicity Cleansings

    Yesterday I attended a talk given by an “applied clinical nutritionist” who works at a local pharmacy.

    She really advocated the use of supplements for everyone (probably because the pharmacy she works at generates a lot of revenue through the sale of herbs/supplements and homeopathic remedies).

    She recommended taking fish oil instead of flax because she said that flax requires an extra step to be processed by the body.

    She said that some people’s bodies aren’t able to perform this extra step and you would never know one way or another, so she just prefers to stick with fish oil.

    Since you often recommend flax, what are your thoughts?

    She also talked about “cleansing” (the colon in particular).

    Her recommendation wasn’t about losing weight, but rather to flush out toxins, no matter how healthy your diet.

    She said this is needed to flush out “toxins” that accumulate in our bodies from pesticides in food, air pollution, etc.

    The cleanse involves eating certain kinds of foods (she wasn’t specific) and taking some sort of supplements that help flush your colon, like magnesium (I think).

    All of this sounded sort of unnecessary to me.

    Is there any evidence that this type of cleanse is beneficial for people whose diets are already consist of nutritious, whole foods?

    — Kristin (last name withheld)
    Austin, TX

    Before I begin, let me thank Kristin for following up her question with an e-mail revealing the results of her own investigative research.

    Turns out that acquiring the “applied clinical nutritionist” title is a simple task.

    “It’s a self paced certificate program through the Texas Chiropractic College. To earn the certificate, you must be a health care professional, or the staff or student of a health care professional (I suppose you could be a dental receptionist). You have to attend 7 seminars (100 hrs), take a test and pay $1400. In return, you get a shiny wall plaque,” writes Kristin.

    Sigh. Anyhow, onto Kristin’s question.

    As far as the fish vs. flax issue, I agree with the speaker, to a point.

    It is true that the Omega-3 fats found in flaxseed (ALA) need to be converted by the body to DPA and EHA.

    It is also accurate to say that the majority of people do not convert ALA efficiently.

    A significant factor inhibiting conversion is that Omega 6 fatty acids compete with Omega 3 fatty acids for the same desaturase (conversion) enzymes.

    Keeping in mind that our current food supply contributes an abundance of Omega 6, you can see why ALA –> DHA/EPA conversion isn’t happening as optimally as we would expect.

    That being said, I still recommend ground flax simply because most people don’t consume much of ANY Omega-3’s.

    Simply put, ground flaxseeds are an effortless way to add some Omega 3’s to a variety of foods (not everyone likes fish or wants to eat it.)

    I also hope that the speaker’s recommendation of taking fish oil supplements was mainly targeted at people who do not consume fish (or sea vegetables, which offer the same omega-3 fatty acids).

    I would much rather you get your DHA and EPA from actual food first, and consider supplements a “second best” choice.

    Furthermore, I hope she stressed that non-DHA/EPA sources of Omega-3’s offer a wide array of nutrients.

    Ditching walnuts and flaxseed and instead swallowing a spoonful of fish oil every morning isn’t necessarily a smart swap.

    What I COMPLETELY disagree with her on (and why I doubt she is an RD) is her colon cleanse recommendation. It is unnecessary and not particularly healthy. If people want to “flush out” their colons, all they need to do is consume more insoluble fiber and liquids. Plain and simple.

    Not to mention, I would love to ask this expert how, exactly, toxins accumulate in a body with a regularly functioning liver and kidneys. There is no evidence whatsoever supporting the belief that we need to cleanse ourselves of toxins.

    What I find most illogical is that people who furiously support colon cleanses apparently fail to realize that colon cleansing eliminates all the HEALTHY bacteria in the human gut and can cause electrolyte imbalances!

    If you’ll excuse me, I now need to go center myself.

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    Checking in with Oprah

    I recently told you about Oprah’s 21-day vegan cleanse (which, apart from obviously shunning all animal-derived foods, also bans sugar, gluten, alcohol, and caffeine).

    The talk show queen is blogging on her site and updating everyone on her progress.

    Day 1 was fairly easy to traverse.

    You certainly can’t knock it as an unhealthy eating pattern.

    That day alone includes standouts like oatmeal, blueberries, strawberries, wild rice, a baked potato, and olive oil.

    As wonderfully whole as all those foods are, I have some concerns.

    Despite providing sufficient calories (roughly 1,600), fiber, and protein, the total amounts of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium do not meet requirements.

    Additionally, such a heavy reliance on nuts (they are eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack) really drives up the Omega-6 fatty acid content.

    This is slightly troublesome because, apart from some walnuts at breakfast and olive oil as salad dressing, Omega-3 intake isn’t that high.

    Remember, the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio plays an important role in our health.

    I would personally add flaxseed to breakfast and replace the pinenuts in the dinner salad with nori (or some other sort of seaweed, naturally rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.)

    By the next day, things get interesting — and a little unrealistic. Oprah and her exec producers (also doing this diet with her) get their very own vegan chef!

    And, alas, I’m back to my original gripes with this entire “cleanse.”

    When you start banning multiple food groups and not allowing yourself to have gluten (the most bizarre part of this plan; there is no reason to give up gluten unless you have an intolerance to it) or sugar, you’ll find that unless you are very experienced around a kitchen and alternative ingredients — or hire a personal chef — it is not easy to maintain a dietary lifestyle that is interesting, practical, healthy, and balanced.

    For Oprah and her colleagues to go the personal chef route is a bit of a copout. They should attempt to do this on the average income of an adult in the United States.

    Take this example — on day two, Oprah and her fellow cleansers wake up to strawberry rhubarb wheat-free crepes.

    Do you think that on a random Wednesday morning you’ll find yourself concocting such a recipe in your kitchen at 7 AM? I doubt it.

    A successful eating plan is not only nutritious and tasty, it also has to be convenient. What’s so wrong about some whole or sprouted grain toast with peanut butter?

    Or a bowl of whole grain cereal (slightly sweetened, say a measly 3 grams of sugar per serving) with soymilk and raisins?

    In yesterday’s blog entry
    , Oprah hints at another problem with these overly strict regimens (let me make something very clear: it is one thing to be vegan, but a whole other thing to be a vegan who abstains from sugar, coffee, alcohol, and gluten) — they can render you defenseless outside the four walls of your home.

    Oprah mentions flying to Las Vegas later this week and being slightly nervous about her choices.

    I hope she prepares herself for an eye-opening experience.

    Forget vegan-friendly, Vegas is barely vegetarian-friendly.

    Even something as standard and semi fast food-ish as a veggie burger is hard to come by. The only place where I felt healthy cooking was a priority was the spa at the Venetian Hotel.

    Otherwise, bring your own snacks!

    I found today’s entry to be cause for concern:

    “I hit a wall today. Literally had to stand in my closet and bound the walls, the cabinets, the floor for a few minutes and take some deep breaths.”

    A well-planned, balanced, practical eating plan should not have you feeling like this on day four.

    This is why I very much oppose overnight radical shifts. Not only is there no physiological benefit to banning things left and right from one day to the next, it also conjures up issues of self-flagellation and unnecessary deprivation that often accompany a lot of weight loss plans.

    It particularly upsets me because it sends very erroneous messages: healthy eating is a chore, it involves giving up pleasures, it pushes your body to the limit.

    Nonsense!

    The path to healthy eating and smart choices is not always going to be smooth and easy — it is perfectly common and understandable to have the occassional setback — and extreme approaches such as this “cleanse” certainly don’t help.

    It’s a shame that someone as influential and looked up to as Oprah isn’t using her show as a platform to show that wellness and health can be achieved without personal chefs, swearing off foods, or feeling like the world is caving in on you.

    Anyhow, Oprah has two more weeks to go. I’ll be sure to follow her progress and keep you all in the loop.

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    O No!

    The issue of detoxing with dietary cleanses has been a hot topic on Small Bites over the past few days.

    In what is an interesting coincidence, Oprah Winfrey has begun a 21-day vegan cleanse inspired by Quantum Wellness author Kathy Freston.

    Freston, a self-described spiritual advisor (with no nutrition credentials), suggests this cleanse as a way to begin a “spiritual makeover”.

    Freston’s belief is that spiritual enlightenment includes a diet free of all animal products.

    Alright, full disclosure time: I have not eaten red meat, poultry, or pork since 1998.

    That decision was made after being informed of what I considered to be cruel treatment and welfare of animals who later become food.

    There was also the issue of the environmental toll resulting from raising animals for human consumption.

    So, while I can certainly appreciate the ideas of awareness and enlightenment, I am put off by attaching a 21-day vegan “cleanse” to the concept of a spiritual makeover.

    Going vegan for 3 weeks is not a cure for low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, or loneliness.

    Furthermore, if this is about enlightenment and the use of animals as food, why does this cleanse also ban (UGH, UGH, UGH) sugar, caffeine, gluten, and alcohol?

    Any plan that asks you to ban, forbid, or do away with certain foods or food groups overnight is a recipe for disaster.

    If anything, such abrupt changes will leave you more irritable, moody, and cranky than Kumbayah.

    Think of it this way. If you suddenly decided you wanted to start swimming, would you go for 50 laps your first time around? I don’t think so.

    Anyhow, Oprah started the cleanse this week and will update readers via her blog.

    I will follow this closely and comment on anything that stands out to me.

    Later today, I will take one of Oprah’s sample days and see what we come up with from a caloric and nutrient standpoint.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Fasts/”Detox” Cleanses

    I’m getting into a rather heated argument here at work with my coworker who swears by Stanley Burrough’s Master Cleanse.

    He says it provides mental clarity and gets him “back on track” whilst cleaning out his system.

    Admittedly, I’ve tried it before and went off after the 5th day due to headaches, extreme bitchiness, etc, etc. I also felt like my tooth enamel was being eroded due to all the citric acid.

    I’ve read your blog entry on the topic, and was hoping you could go into more detail regarding liquid cleanses/fasts.

    When are they healthy? When are they not?

    Does cayenne pepper actually bind to the toxins/whatnot in your intestines and do anything beneficial?

    Does the master cleanse actually make your body go into a starvation mode? What are the side effects of this?

    Why is this “cleanse” still such a hot topic?! Why hasn’t it successfully been filed under crap to never try?

    Are there any REAL physiological benefits?? What about juice fasts??

    — Brooke Green
    Brooklyn, NY

    Great questions! Let’s take them one at a time.

    Fasts – of any kind – are not healthy in general.

    This is especially true if they fall below 1,200 calories, are all liquid, restrict you to a handful of foods or only one food group, or simply do not enable you to get enough nutrients.

    There is no logical reason, from a health standpoint, to go on a fast of any kind.

    Even if someone were on a steady diet of Doritos, ice cream, and soda for months and suddenly wanted to “start fresh”, all they would have to do is replace those foods with healthier ones.

    There is no need to stop eating or have only liquids in order to “cleanse” the body.

    When you consider that these fasts are deficient in practically every nutrient, it is ironic that it is often “health conscious” people who go on them.

    Cayenne pepper does not “bind” to toxins or perform any sort of miracle. If anyone tells you otherwise, direct them to the nearest bank so they can deposit a big, fat reality check.

    I suspect your co-worker isn’t experiencing the benefits of a “cleanse,” but rather the power of the placebo effect.

    We already have built-in “detoxing” organs, the kidneys and liver. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t urinate (one significant way in which we excrete, among other things, toxins).

    If you want to keep things moving through the digestive system and take away some stress from those organs, getting sufficient insoluble fiber and hydration are two important steps you can take.

    Many cleanses – including the Master Cleanse – cause your body to go into starvation mode.

    When you are on these “plans”, the majority of weight lost comes from water and muscle (so yes, you lose weight, but it is not permanent; even worse, your metabolism slows down, thereby slowing down your body’s calorie-burning rate.)

    The Master Cleanse always pops up as a “trendy” diet because people are thrilled with the idea of a quick fix. Also, scare tactics work.

    Many cleanse companies tell stories of “years of fecal matter” being stuck to your intestinal walls. Get rid of these, they say, and lose ten pounds in just days!

    Creative, but untrue.

    However, these “facts” often fester in people’s minds, enticing them to fork over money for these silly “fixes.”

    Juice fasts are just as unhealthy and useless. You are talking about no protein, no fat, no calcium, no zinc, etc.

    Remember, the different “food groups” offer specific nutrients. Fruits contain many vitamins, but they lack protein, heart-healthy fats, calcium, iron, etc, etc.

    Additionally, high intakes of fructose — the natural sugar in fruit — are linked with intestinal distress in many people. NOT fun.

    With that said, I fully and wholeheartedly recommend the Andy Bellatti cleanse.

    No pills, no powders, no counting carbs. Simply purge all ridiculous and unhealthy weight-loss tactics out of your mind. It’s a very refreshing experience!

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