Mark Hyman, M.D., is a man on a mission. His goal: to empower people to take care of their bodies so they remain healthy, rather than simply treating symptoms as they crop up. A family physician by training, Hyman sees patients at The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts. But he reaches a broader audience by making frequent media appearances on TV programs like The Doctor Oz Show), writing for The Huffington Post and advocating for change in healthcare policy. He is also the author of eight New York Times bestsellers. His latest book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body’s Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast, promises to quickly put readers on the path to wellness. We picked his brain to learn how.
What does “detoxing” have to do with losing weight?
Most overweight people are addicted to food. If you want to lose weight, you need to cleanse your body of addictive foods and replace them with healthy ones. Over the last decade we’ve learned that sugar and refined carbs are essentially as addictive as heroin and cocaine. MRIs show that the same areas in the brain light up like a Christmas tree when any of these substances are consumed. In fact, in animal studies, rats prefer sugar over IV cocaine; they’ll continue to drink sugar water despite getting electrical shocks.
Can you be a food addict if you’re not overweight?
Absolutely. About 25 percent of adults are what some call “skinny fat,” meaning they’re thin on the outside but metabolically sick. They have high blood sugar, high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind), and low HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind) and they often have a little extra belly fat despite being slim overall.
Are there other signs you might need to detox from unhealthy foods?
Yes. I call it FLC — feel like crap — syndrome. It’s characterized by symptoms such as sugar cravings, sluggishness, moodiness, frequent headaches, sinus trouble and digestive issues like bloating, gas and constipation.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about obesity?
That it’s all determined by genetics. I think we blame our parents for our current health or weight status, when in fact we inherit more of our habits from our parents than our genes. Your social environment plays the biggest role; studies show you’re more likely to be overweight if your friends are overweight. You’re also more likely to be overweight if you happen to live in an area with many fast food restaurants.
You recommend eliminating numerous foods, including those containing gluten and dairy. Why?
There’s evidence that these are very inflammatory and that they disrupt the good or healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, which can lead to problems such as uncomfortable bloating. Many gluten-containing foods — mainly grains, including whole grains — also spike your blood sugar too quickly, which contributes to cravings.
What’s the worst thing that someone can eat or drink?
I think liquid calories — meaning soda as well as sugar-sweetened iced tea, coffee drinks, etc. — aren’t good because they’re correlated to obesity more than anything else. They’re even worse than sweet foods because they don’t make you feel as full and the sugar gets absorbed very quickly. That causes a rapid spike in insulin, so you get hungry faster and store more fat.
Is diet soda any better?
No. It might even be worse, as it’s been linked to a higher risk of diabetes. Artificial sweeteners activate all the sweet receptors in the brain and trigger hormones that make you store fat and slow your metabolism.
Over the last decade we’ve learned that sugar and refined carbs are essentially as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
So what should we be consuming?
Whole, fresh foods, including many that are plant based like seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables. I also recommend good quality protein such as eggs, organic chicken, grass-fed beef and low-mercury fish such as salmon. And I like olive oil as well as coconut butter. Coconut butter, which is often called coconut oil, actually has properties that help with sports performance and boost brainpower.
Your new book claims to do a lot in a short time. Why 10 days?
I think it takes 10 days to reset and start to heal your body. The plan is desired to rewire the brain chemistry that’s causing food addiction and shutoff the hormones that are making you hungry and store belly fat. We proved that it works by doing a trial on 600 people; they lost a total of 4,000 pounds in 10 days, their blood pressure and blood sugar dropped, and they reported feeling much better overall.
So what happens after day 10?
The first 10 days are designed as a jump-start. After that, I hope people continue with a modified version of the plan based on their goals and needs. The biggest mistake would be to think, “I feel better now, so I can go back to doing what I was doing before.” Consider the 10 days a chance to reconnect with your body and make a decision about how you want to live and how you want to feel. You have a choice.
To start the day strong, Dr. Hyman recommends having one of his Detox Shakes. Here’s one to try today.
Kiwi and Chia Seed Smoothie
1 firm kiwi, peeled and sliced in half
4 tablespoons chia seeds (soak them in water first for at least 30 minutes)
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup ice (optional)
1 cup water
1 cup packed spinach or 1 medium kale leaf, stem removed
1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Serves one.
For more recipes from Dr. Hyman, pick up a copy of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body’s Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast.