By Dr. Daniel Riordan IV, ND
As most of your read in Dr. Nguyen’s recent article, she, Dr. Shegeft, and I took part in a 2-week “detox” protocol followed immediately by a 2-week weight loss program created by one of the supplement companies that we work with here at AIM. If you have not read it, you can read about her experience HERE.
In the article, she talked about how she typically does a detox in the spring. I, however, am new to this and have never done a detox nor have I done a weight loss program.
As a doctor, I wanted to experience the programs so that I better know what my patients experience when they take part in similar programs. Plus, as a novice to this sort of thing, I thought it might be fun to share what I went through, to help our patient community feel more at ease with this process.
First, I want to describe the program to you. As I mentioned, we started with the detox. The program comes in a box with 28 shake packets and 28 supplement packets. The idea is that you are supposed to replace 2 meals a day with a shake and have one “regular” meal. The caveat to the regular meal is that the foods cannot be processed, contain dairy, or have sweeteners (even natural sweeteners). For those of you that do not know, I have a pretty bad sweet tooth and love my carbs, so this was not an aspect of it that I was looking forward to. However, this is not a calorie restrictive plan. If you are hungry, you can eat. The important part though is that your snacks must be healthy. That means all my processed, sweetened, and simple carb rich snacks all had to go and instead be replaced with fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Staring out on the plan was a little rough. I typically do not eat breakfast but on day 1 I had my morning shake with Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Shegeft. I had not purchased almond milk yet to be the base for the shake and instead used water. The shake was gritty, thin, and while the taste was not horrible, it wasn’t good. My biggest meal of the day is typically my dinner, so I had another shake for lunch and came home and had baked Orange Roughy with olive oil and herbs and spinach as my side. I was not prepared and did not have healthy snacks and I was starving that night after dinner when I typically snack the most.
Day 2 I decided to change things up a little and did not have my first shake until lunch. This made a huge difference for me as well as reading that this was not a carb restrictive diet either. They just had to be healthy carbs that were not processed such as sweet potatoes and quinoa. For dinner I had a turkey burger without cheese (no dairy) and what I like to refer to as “quick homemade guacamole” (smashed avocado mixed together with fresh salsa; condiments like ketchup are processed) on top in a lettuce wrap. As my sides I had quinoa and green beans. I felt so much more satiated with the quinoa to help fill me up. I also reserved the second shake for later in the evening when I typically am the most snacky and that also ended up being a huge gamechanger for the rest of the program as it satiated my snacking desire at night.
Day 3 brought about another big change. I finally went to the store and bought my healthy snacks (mandarins, pears, unsalted mixed nuts, apples, pistachios, and baby carrots) and I also bought almond milk. The almond milk dissolved the powder and changed the flavor making the shake so much more palatable as well as thicker which seemed to make it more filling. For dinner that night I had a leftover turkey burger and quinoa (yes, you can still do leftovers which greatly helps with meal planning, I strongly encourage it in fact). In my first 3 days on the program, I lost 6lbs which was surprising to me.
After being on the diet for a few days, it was easier to know what I could eat and what I could not eat and much easier to plan for dinners. It was also fun to make different things than the usual dinners we get accustomed to making all the time.
On day 4 I made stuffed peppers for the first time. I sautéed ground turkey, spinach, peppers, squash, and zucchini in olive oil and fresh salsa. I then put quinoa in the bottom of the pepper and stuffed the rest of the pepper with the turkey and vegetable mix. I was very happy with the result. I also tried something different on day 4 of my shakes. I blended half of a banana into the almond milk and again, it made the shake thicker and frothier which made it more filling and added a nice banana flavor which made it even more palatable. My body also seemed to be adjusting more to being on the program. There were a few nights that I felt like I had my evening shake just to make sure I got both in, not necessarily because I felt like I needed one. I continued my healthy meals and made spaghetti squash for the first time and put the leftover turkey vegetable pepper stuffing over the spaghetti squash. I also baked the squash seeds with olive oil and seasonings, and they were delicious and perfect snack.
The next day I made a homemade turkey chili with carrots, zucchini, spinach, and beans and put the left-over spaghetti squash in the bottom of the bowl and put the chili over it. The next meal was a chicken breast marinated in spices and olive oil and cooked on a George Foreman grill with garlic broccoli and roasted cubed sweet potatoes that were tossed in olive oil and sea salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, ground cumin, and garlic before baking. I was surprised how easy it was to come up with different meal ideas and felt like I was eating more diverse now when my options were more limited than I was previously when I could eat whatever I wanted.
At the end of the 2-week period I ended up losing 9lbs which is not a bad total for only 2 weeks. I want to point out though that I lost 2/3rds of that in the first 3 days which can be common in major changes to our diet.
After the detox, the next kit was a 2-week weight loss program. The rules were similar in that you were not allowed processed foods or dairy, but now you could have natural sweeteners. The program was still 2 shakes and 2 packets a day of supplements, but this time you could choose between vanilla or chocolate. I went with chocolate (note my aforementioned sweet tooth, I was very excited about having chocolate again). The flavor of the shake was better than the detox one, but I never tried it mixed with only water since I had already learned the almond milk made the last shake taste much better. My dinners were similar to the detox kit and I found that using salsa was very convenient to have on hand to add to ground turkey as a great quick way of seasoning or to add on top of chicken, and of course to make my “quick homemade guac”.
The only real difference I made with the shakes during this 2-week period was I froze the banana before blending it in with the almond milk. This again made the shake thicker and gave it a nice smoothie consistency which made it that much more filling. It was also nice to buy a big bunch of bananas at the store, peel, and cut them in half and put them in the freezer so that they did not overripen before I got the chance to use them.
Ironically, I lost less weight on the “weight loss” program. I ended up losing 4lbs in the 2 weeks bringing me to a grand total of 13lbs lost in 4 weeks. I feel like 13lbs is pretty significant in just a 4-week period.
However, I did blood work before and immediately after the 4 weeks and those were the results I was most impressed with. My blood sugar dropped 7 points, total cholesterol by 61 points, LDL (bad) cholesterol by 46 points, and my triglycerides dropped by a whopping 73 points (almost half!). If this is not proof that our diet has a big impact on not only our weight, but our lipid numbers as well, then I don’t know what is. Don’t forget, I did these programs during COVID when the gyms were closed, so I was not exercising during these programs other than a walk in the park a couple of times a week which was similar to my habits before the programs.
While all these numbers are impressive, it does not matter much if the results are not maintainable. I want to point out to everyone that there is no “easy and permanent” solution. If my eating habits return to what they were previously, I am sure I will gain those 13lbs back again and my lab tests will all increase again.
However, I will say coming off the diet I have noticed that I am eating smaller meals and making better snacking decisions. I have more fresh fruit and vegetables around the house which makes it easier to grab as a snack than my previous choices. It has now been about a week since the end of the 4-week program and I have not gained a single pound back. I credit that to having a good system reset which reminded me to eat when I am hungry but stop when I feel satiated and snack on healthy options instead of convenient options.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have my sweet tooth and carb desires. In my week off the diet I have had a burger and fries, pizza, and ice cream. However, I had about ½ of my burger and a 1/3 of my fries before I felt satiated and stopped, 2 pieces of pizza, and only 1 smaller scoop of ice cream whereas before I would have ate the entire burger in one sitting, 3 or 4 pieces of pizza, and a bowl of ice cream.
Finally, I want to give a plug for doing this program with other people at the same time. Dr. Nguyen, Dr. Shegeft, and I held each other accountable and we had a group text that every night we sent a picture of our dinner. That made sticking to the plan so much easier and it also gave each other new ideas on what to make that we otherwise would not have thought of. Your doctor should also be a part of your group. There are lots of different detox and diet options out there and it is always smart to discuss with your doctor which ones are the best and safest for you. Together, we can make an individualized plan and set goals for you to best set you up to succeed not just for the short-term, but for the long haul.
If you are interested in trying a healthy detox like the one I just shared with you, please reach out to us at (425) 949-5961 to set up your initial consultation.