My Thoughts on “Detox”

I recently talked a dietitian, Robin Fouroutan, who will be presenting on “detox diets” at the Westchester Rockland Dietetic Association Clinical Update in December.  I found her by reading her article “Defining Detox” in the Food & Nutrition Magazine by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  I HIGHLY suggest reading the entire article if you have access to the magazine.


Once I read the article, I started thinking about how common the word “detox” is used in our society.  “Detox” is a relatively new concept in the nutrition world.  However chances are you have heard of someone doing a “detox diet” or saying that they are going on a “cleanse” after a weekend of junk food eating.  But do people really know what they are talking about??


Taken from the article, “Detoxification is the biochemical process that transforms non-water-soluble toxins and metabolites into water-soluble compounds that can be excreted in urine, sweat, bile or stool. Because these processes rely on specific nutrients such as flavonoids, minerals, certain amino acids and B-vitamins, there are therapeutic detoxification protocols to support the organ systems through which the body detoxifies.”  I do agree that many people need detoxification in their life- we are stressed out in so many ways.  However, what we think of as “detox” is usually a scam- there are so many supplements, products, and claims out there pretending to support detoxification, when all they are is a WASTE OF MONEY.  Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration therefore what’s on the label is often NOT what’s actually in the bottle.  Scary right??


I think too often people psychologically “psych” themselves up to go on a “detox” after they feel like they have overdone it.  Thoughts of “This is a jumpstart” or “This time I’m going to have willpower” is all a way to repeat the diet, fail, resent, and repeat cycle that so many people are in.  In order to change your lifestyle toward healthier habits, you have to change your relationship with food.  Nothing else will work!!


Bottom line: Bad news is there is not one product out there that is magically going to change your life.  Good news is that you can eat foods everyday to “detox” your system and gain health. You do not need a special product or “cleanse” in order to do so. In fact, that is just a diet in disguise!


Takeaway points: Include a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber foods like whole grains, brown rice, various spices, probiotics, eggs, green tea, and lots of water in your overall intake. These foods have a lot of “detox” properties and are really great for your liver and entire body to do it’s (natural) thing. Also try to breathe deeply, stretch and do yoga, and sweat!  Simple, realistic suggestions that you can do everyday–> no “detox diet” needed.



Tips for Grocery Shopping

Many clients ask me how to grocery shop after they start the process of moving away from “dieting” and into intuitive eating. Since they are now trying to rely on body signals instead of their head, it’s hard to know what to get at the grocery store! A shopping trip can sometimes feel like a big binge or really overwhelming to clients.

Here are my top 7 tips for “starting over at the grocery store”:

1.  Plan a few meals for the week- this is not dieting!! Planning meals just means have a loose plan, that is flexible, for the week. I tell clients that you don’t even need to know what you’re eating on what day! It could range from just 1-2 or even as high as 4-5 meals per week.  Look at your schedule and see what you have going on.  Never plan 7 meals/week- things are sure to get in the way and I bet you’ll go out to eat at least once.

2.  Make a list.  Using the above tentative “meal plan”, create a list with ingredients you need to purchase as well as staples like fruit, milk, cereal, snacks, etc.  If you a budget, use coupons as a way to create meals with expensive items that may be on sale.

3.  Have a white board or list somewhere in the kitchen so family members can put “requests” on the grocery shopping list.  This will save time and energy asking everyone what they want.

4.  Grocery shop with a full stomach, meaning after a meal or snack.  You are much more likely to make impulse purchases when you are hungry! You are also more likely to listen to your body when you are nourished. Even the most mindful people end up spending more money at the grocery store when they are hungry.

5.  Shop the perimeter of the store the most- this is where nutritious food is located and will give you lasting energy for the day. The middle of the store is also fine though.

6. Use the frozen food section if you don’t get the opportunity to shop often.  Getting frozen vegetables or frozen meals can be a quick easy way to add nutrition in a fast, realistic way.  Best of all, they don’t go bad.

7.  Know that it’s okay to get a few impulse purchases!! You may see something that looks really good or something on sale that you just need to buy.  That’s listening to your body in a way that works for you.

Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder

I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders and it’s such an important topic to discuss.

We’ve all heard of anorexia and bulimia, but did you know that binge eating disorder is the most common of them all?  What exactly is an eating disorder anyway?  How do I know if I have one?

Eating disorders include extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues.  It often includes preoccupation with thoughts of food, weight, dieting, and abnormal eating habits.  Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can have life-threatening consequences adults and children.

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are all very different, yet very similar to one another.

Anorexia: Restriction of food intake to a very low body weight, coupled with severe body disturbance

Bulimia: Regular consumption of large amounts of food, followed by an intense “loss of control”, followed by purging.  Purging includes vomiting, laxatives, restriction, and overexercise.

Binge Eating Disorder: Frequent episodes of eating large amounts of food (usually feeling uncontrolled), followed by shame and disgust.

But guess what?  There is a whole other world out there of “Eating Disorders Otherwise Not Specified” where the thoughts and feelings about food are there, but what’s going on doesn’t fit into a “category” and is more “disordered eating” rather than an “eating disorder”.  It’s important to realize this is just as serious as an eating disorder and needs treatment as well.

I think Renfrew’s test (click here) is a great tool to assess whether or not your thoughts and feelings about food are harmful to your well-being in any way.

If my client comes to me with a diagnosis of an eating disorder (or suspicion), I try to guide them to resources (counseling, and behavior changes), as well as a nutrition plan using a non-diet approach.  So many of my clients have mixed messages in their heads about nutrition.  I act like a guide, setting you up with information and support to succeed in reaching your nutrition goals.  Here are 5 tips for success:

1.  Sounds ironic but have a “flexible” meal plan:  You are not going to find this plan on the internet!  Everyone has different needs, different food preferences, different food “fears” and a unique style of eating.  Also, everyone has different jobs, different families, and different daily schedule.  The only way you are going to find a meal plan that works for you is to see a Registered Dietitian.  A Registered Dietitian will take all of these factors and come up with something individual for YOU.  A meal plan is a tool used to teach someone the right amount of food for them as an individual.  Together, we will assess where you are today and where you need to be.

2.  Learn nutrition facts vs. myths:  “Carbs are fattening…”, “I can’t have fruit after dinner…”, “Peanut butter is bad for me…”, “Since I had chocolate after lunch, I can eat whatever I want for the rest of the day…”, “If I don’t exercise 6x/week, exercise is pointless…” <– guess what?  These are all myths!  I find people with any eating disorder behavior are sometimes what I like to call “Chronic Dieters”, where they have run into lots of nutrition “rules” throughout their lifetime.  A Registered Dietitian will help you learn the real nutrition facts vs. myths.

3.  Monitor your feelings with a journal and write down your food choices.  When a person has an eating disorder, sometimes certain feelings like depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, avoidance, and/or happiness (yes even happiness!) will lead to overeating or undereating.  The first way to “figure this out” is to write down your food in a journal, and try to also write down your feelings when you are eating.  Pay attention to any times where your food intake is below or above what you consider “normal”.  This exercise will help you to start to connect the dots!  A team of healthcare professionals will take it from there…

4.  Use my hunger/satiety scale:  My clients are always given my “cheat sheet”- my hunger scale ranging from 1-10 to identify feelings of hunger/neutral/full.  Ideally you want to start eating at a place between 3-4, where your hunger starts to build up… and stop at a 6-7, where your satisfaction kicks in and you no longer need any more food to feel satisfied.  People with eating disorders may not have the same feelings of hunger/satiety (sometimes the “eating disorder voice” will kick in and go against what your body is telling you)- therefore trying to pay attention to your hunger/satiety cues will help YOUR VOICE be louder than ED.  This can also be called mindful eating.

5.  Surround yourself with support:  Getting help for an eating disorder is not easy, and recovery isn’t any easier.  Anyone struggling with any food issue (not just eating disorders!) needs the help of a team of professionals, as well as support from their friends, family, and community (whoever that may be).