Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yes, it’s here. Pastels, the opportunity to congratulate Seattle for behaving according to season, tulips that Dougie in the spring breeze, and that near drowning experience after that first panic wave reminds you that you’ve got only a few weeks before bikini season (guys you get the point). Your innocent neurons automatically fire “detox diet’ and “cleanse”. Well, let me warn you that I am not a fan of the “drink maple syrup and eat lemon wedges” diet. Not because nutritionally they are a joke, but if you follow one, you morph into a mix of Tasmanian devil and Garfield, a creature with a short temper, little patience, an appetite with no boundaries, yet profound laziness. Instead, how about something realistic with sustainable results?  These are tips to clean up your eating behaviors and make sure you are on track to tackle your goals.

Track Your Intake:

Do you know how much calories, fat, sugar, fiber, fluids, fill in the blank nutrient you are concerned about, that you are consuming these days? This is where you need to start. Portions and packages are blowing up, so chances are that our “guesstimations” are undershooting significantly. For all of you smart phone owners, try MyNetDiary, MyFitnessPal, or Lose It! All are incredibly simply to set up and use. Scan barcodes of your own foods, enter in your own recipes, or select from the available reference library to input items into your daily log. Track for a minimum of three days (5 if you are willing) to get an idea of what you are consuming on average.

How many calories do you really need?

So you know what you are consuming, now look at how this compares to what you really need. Most tracking apps will tell you how many calories you need to achieve your goal (if you have entered your height, weight, and age). If you want to know how to arrive at that answer (or you don’t have the app), try this equation:
Men: REE kcal/d = 66.5 + 13.8(wt) + 5.0(ht) – 6.8(age)
Women: REE kcal/d = 655.1 + 9.6(wt) + 1.9(ht) – 4.7(age)
Weight: Use kg (take pounds and divide by 2.2 to get kg)
Height: Use cm (take inches and multiply by 2.54 to get cm)
Age: Use whole years (be honest)
REE stands for resting energy expenditure. This is the baseline for your body to maintain normal physiological functions, regardless of physical activity. If you are physically active, then you would multiply your REE by the following: 1.0 if you don’t engage in physical activity and you have a desk job, 1.1-1.2 if you are relatively sedentary (some physical activity), 1.2-1.4 if you are moderately active (making an appearance at the gym 5-6 times weekly and have a job on your feet), and only those who are really physically active and athletes (no your adult softball league once weekly is not cutting it) would multiply by 1.5 to arrive at the estimated energy intake to maintain weight.
Refer to this post (Establishing Healthy Habits) to find the Hamwi equation to determine what a healthy weight is for your height. If you need to lose a few L-Bs, then try subtracting about 250 calories from the estimated energy expenditure (after multiplying for physical activity) to arrive at the total. This is pretty close to what is considered the “mindless margin,” according to researcher Brian Wansink, PhD. This margin of 100-200 calories are calories you won’t realize you’re missing (i.e. You shouldn’t be complaining “I’m starving.”) Alternatively, a couple hundred extra calories consumed during the day might go right under your radar, and over time can lead to noticeable increases in your weight. Examine your daily log you’ve completed previously, and look to where you are overindulging to cut there first (cutting down by ½ cup of rice can be the easy fix).


Hydration is key always, but deserves special attention on the topic of cleansing as most of these crazy plans hone in on fluid intake. In addition to temperature regulation, and roles in vital cellular functions, fluids assist in removing toxins from the body. You need to know what your body requires, and there are several options to figure this one out:

·         The no-brainer:
o        Look at your urine color. If it’s clear, you are hydrating appropriately (if you are taking vitamins this might be difficult to tell). If it’s dark, you need to up your fluid intake.
o        If you are thirsty- This mechanism doesn’t fire at the optimal time to remind us to drink- in fact, it’s likely past the point that you need to hydrate.
·         Listen to the Institute of Medicine:
o        General recommendations for women are ~2.7 liters (91 ounces), men ~3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of water daily from foods and beverages.
·         The mathematical way:
o        The easiest is 35ml/kg.
o        If you want to make this difficult to arrive at the near same answer (this one is likely slightly higher), take 1500ml for the first 20kg of your body weight, then add 20ml/kg if you are less than age 50, or 15ml/kg if you are greater than age 50.
o        Some people recommend 1ml per 1kcal, however if you are on a calorie restriction, this may be leading to under hydration.
·         Replacement Fluids:
o        If you are physically active, replace fluids you have lost via exercise. How do you do it? The Sweat Test. This test takes your pre and post-workout weights, fluid intake and urine output, and duration of activity to determine your sweat rate (in ounces per hour). One pound of weight loss equates to approximately 15floz of fluid needed for replacement. Check this calculator out (

The Cleanse…

There are thousands of books out there, everything from an intensive fasting period to a detailed 21+ day program. Pick one that seems like it would yield the highest degree of success for you, but remember these basic parameters of all detoxes and cleanses:
Don’t go less than 1200 calories a day, doing so stimulates a decrease in your metabolism, which unfortunately won’t immediately correct once the cleanse is completed.
Don’t expect more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week. I f you see this on the scale, it means you are losing lean muscle mass (not a brilliant idea since this tissue is most metabolically active = your best friend in the battle of the bulge) or you are under hydrated. The goal is gradual fat loss, hydration maintenance, and preservation of lean muscle mass if you want your results to last.
Avoid junk (caffeine, alcohol, sodium, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and refined grains). You want to get the biggest bang for your caloric buck, so opt for whole grains, fruits and vegetables rather than processed crap.
Assess your tendency for withdrawal – this can be from caffeine, alcohol, salt, refined grains/sugars, or simply the habit of heading for frozen yogurt on weekends. 
Caffeine: Depending on your intake, you probably don’t want to go cold-turkey. Take a few weeks to wean yourself off (from all sources – coffee, soda, chocolate) and look for alternatives if you choose to keep the habits you’ve established around consumption of these items (ex: Choose herbal tea on your Starbucks run rather than your usual espresso).
Salt: Cut down slowly – eating out or excessive use of the salt shaker at home may have caused your salt taste buds to become desensitized to sodium. It will take a few weeks for your taste buds to adjust to a reduced sodium diet. Flavor foods with spices and fresh herbs, and keep sodium to less than 2300mg daily (that is just one teaspoon daily!) 
Artificial sweeteners and refined sugars: Switch these out for whole fruits with skins on them and berries, which are full of antioxidants and loaded with fluids and fiber to keep you hydrated and satiated.
Refined grains: replace with whole grains. Consuming whole grains may regulate blood sugars, keep your gut happy, and can keep you full longer.
Organic: If the point of your cleanse is to rid the body of toxins, then it makes sense to select foods that offer the least amount of exposure to the junk that can be found in conventionally grown foods. Organic foods are grown without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, sewage sludge, irradiation, and toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Select local, if possible, to maximize nutrients found in these foods.  

What’s the deal with juicing?

My advice here is to follow the guidelines above, as you would for any cleanse. If you can keep calories at an appropriate level, use organic fruits and vegetables, and incorporate sources of protein (good luck with that - most juice cleanses lack protein) and find a way to sneak in fiber, then go for it (as in use juices to supplement a balanced, whole foods diet).
Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables? Not necessarily. In fact, most juicing cleanses will lack fiber and be lower in vitamins and minerals than the whole foods, since fiber and some vitamins and minerals are found in the skins of fruits. If you end up with pulp that goes into the garbage, then this is evidence that you are getting cut short and whole fruits and vegetables would be a better nutritional (and cost) value. However, if you don’t presently consume whole fruits and vegetables and are the ecstatic new owner of a Vitamix, then yes juicing probably is the preferable route for you, as you are probably going to be consuming more of these foods than you would otherwise. Along similar lines, most of us will be more likely to add a variety of fruits and vegetables to create interesting juice recipes. We may not have been willing to achieve this variety if we were, for example, assembling a salad.
Bottom line, juice cleanses lack protein. They may serve as great snacks, but should be part of a healthy, balanced, wholesome diet.
Whether you are looking for a jumpstart to a serious body makeover, or if you have already established a routine you are proud to continue, these tips are aimed at a healthy way to clean up your act before the summer fun begins.