Thursday, May 8, 2014

From the Land of Oz: Hillary's Hyman and Detox Diets

Wouldn't you just love to find a cure for your struggles?
Hyman's suggestion that my diet is the reason for my
MS is beyond insulting.
Let’s give a round of applause ladies and gentleman to Dr. Mark Hyman for finding the answer to all of our weight loss troubles! Dr. Mark Hyman’s Book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body's Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast, is a New York Times bestseller. His book is a guided weight loss and detox program that claims to be the solution in preventing disease, losing weight and reducing insulin levels in just 10 days. His book provides meal plans, recipes, shopping lists, recommended medications, supplements, and more. Written by an MD, there must be truth to his detox diet claims, right?

About that M.D. credential

A Medical Doctor, meaning “teacher of medicine” is an honorable profession that rightfully holds esteem in society. Often times, when you are diagnosed with a condition, such as Type 2 Diabetes, you see a team of clinicians with varying credentials. Understanding what an MD, RD, NP, RN, PA or PhD are and their scope of practice is important to know and understand when it comes to your treatment plan.

In a nutshell, a doctor (MD), assesses the condition, forms a plan and treats the condition. An MD has extensive education in anatomy, biology, physiology, and chemistry and is an expert on injuries, diseases and drug therapy. That being said, a doctor (as well as an NP, RN and PA) has very little education in nutrition and is far from qualified as an expert in nutrition. Unless a doctor is an RD (Registered Dietitian) or has an advanced degree in nutritional science (think PhD), they should not proclaim themselves nutrition experts. Similarly, an RD, an expert in nutrition and dietetics should not prescribe medicine or formulate a plan for surgery as this is outside their scope of practice.

The Tell Tale Signs

So, how do you know if these self-proclaimed “wholistic” MD’s (as Dr. Hyman calls himself) have gone too far? Well, Dr. Mark Hyman produced a perfect example for us to explore.

There are no shortcuts to getting healthy and fit.
The first sign of quackery is the guaranteed “quick fix” that we all secretly want. We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but anytime a doctor (yes, that includes Dr. Oz), or medical professional for that matter, guarantees over 7 lbs of weight loss in 2 weeks without vigorous physical activity, then you may want to assess whether their techniques are safe and can be maintained for the long-term. For reference, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, considers healthy weight loss of ½ -2 lbs. per week with a balanced/portioned diet and regular vigorous physical activity. Even this guidance is quite controversial, as the long term data gives little support that that lost weight is maintainable. Dieting leads to deprivation and long term struggles with rebound over eating and weight gain.

In one of the first pages of Dr. Hyman’s book, he catches eager readers by telling a story of Janet, a 48 year old woman who lost 11 pounds in 10 days by eliminating fish, gluten, dairy, sugar, all grains, beans and legumes, all processed foods, all refined vegetable oils, alcohol and caffeine. Is it not obvious? Of course she lost a ton of weight in a short amount of time, virtually every food group was eliminated! But successful weight management needs to address thoughts and behaviors, so that dietary changes can be maintained. Rigid rules will only lead to failure.  Haven’t we all seen this?

You, on a diet.
The second sign of “wait, this book or treatment plan is a crock” is the all mighty powerful “DETOX”.  According to Dr. Hyman, virtually all foods lead to weight gain and illness, so a 10 day detox is warranted to get rid of decades of food toxins and promote weight loss. Makes sense, right? Well, no. The problem with this, is that our body naturally detoxifies itself. The liver, kidneys and colon filter out toxins and bacteria in the body. Therefore, eliminating essential foods and nutrients for a body cleanse/detox does not make sense at all. The last thing we need is to narrow our selection of foods for no good reason!

What happened to 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away?'

Eliminating whole categories of foods from your diet for weight loss is just absurd. It is not realistic to think you can survive a diet that is limited in variety and nutrients without serious consequences—low energy, increased thoughts and preoccupation, nutritional deficiencies, to name a few. It is also not realistic to think that you will continue to have an abundance of weight loss post “detox” as behavior and dietary changes do not magically occur in 10 days. Further, rebound overeating results from deprivation. This, combined with slowed metabolic rate from your body perceiving starvation will only result in weight regain. 

What Is The Magic Pill?

You're really gonna give these up? Until you lose weight? 
Then what?
We challenge you to realize that there is no cookie-cutter way to treat chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and inflammatory conditions as Dr. Hyman suggests. Standards of practice and research-proven methods exist to guide people toward health. And there is individual variation in our calorie and nutrient needs and healthy weight ranges. Self-help/”wholistic”/detox “treatment plans” are damaging—they don’t take into consideration these individual needs nor consider the impact on a person’s medical status as a whole. They offer false hope that if you just follow (this most un-followable plan) you will cure your ills and be happy. 

We challenge you to do your research, recognize what the credentials mean and be cautious of the quackery rules of advice. And by you, we include very intelligent readers who might've been pulled into believing this misinformation--like Bill and Hillary Clinton, who endorse Hyman's sensational promises.
Avoid triggering and false messages from shows like Dr. Oz and books like Dr. Hyman’s. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

This piece was written primarily by my awesome intern, Lakisha Dubar--with direction and editing by yours truly. Please share your thoughts with us! As always, thanks for reading, and sorry for the long wait--I had to travel to San Francisco for these photos!


  1. I have a Facebook friend (long story, someone I've only met in the flesh once but who is part of the same extended circle of school friends from waaaaay back) who is the long-lost sibling of Dr. Mark Hyman. I never have figured that story out, but suffice to say that she is constantly posting his "words of wisdom" on her page and gushing about how incredible he is. I say nothing.

    I've think you and your intern have hit the nail on the head when it comes to the "extraordinary" Dr. Hyman.

  2. Thanks for this reminder! It seems like there are so many doctors writing books that promise perfect health and healing of everything from cancer to heart disease, and even MS. I'm thinking mostly of those promoting the low fat vegan diets. It is nice to be able to come back to your blog and find good sound advice and be assured that I'm not a failure because I can't stick to some extreme diet that is supposed to be good for us, and that all of their followers appear to stay on without any problem.

  3. Great post. I hadn't heard of Dr Hyman but I know Dr Oz drives me crazy with all his quick fixes to everything, leading people down unnecessary paths. I refuse to watch him or read his stuff. I won't claim to have this eating thing under control but the crazy diets are just goofy.