Top nutritionist Ashley Koff, RD helps clear up the confusion around the latest diet fad - and offers a real-world eating plan that will tame your appetite, naturally. By Holly Corbett, REDBOOK.
Resets Vs. Cleanses
Cleanses used to be the go-to diet that celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Miranda Kerr to Beyonce have credited for slimming down for movie roles or dropping baby weight. No more. The new hot-button word in the diet world is "reset." You may have heard the buzz about the hCG reset, which uses injections or oral drops of the pregnancy hormone (along with a restrictive, 500-calories a day diet) to supposedly spark your brain to crank up your body's fat- and calorie-burning abilities. Whereas cleanses tend to be geared towards detoxification and resets towards increasing your metabolism, there's no clear definition for either, and both may ultimately have similar goals in terms of weight loss and cleaning up your diet.
"These terms are both simply marketing terms," says Ashley Koff, RD, a dietitian based in Los Angeles and co-author of Mom Energy: A Simple Plan to Live Fully Charged. "Yes, there are nutrients that can help speed up a metabolism or help engage the body's detoxification paths. But, you don't need a cleanse or a reset to optimize your metabolism," says Koff. "Sadly, we just can't follow a three- or five-day program and emerge with a whole new metabolism. While adding quality nutrients, subtracting the junk, working out, reducing stress, and getting more sleep can and will help you get to your best metabolism, it won't work magic."
In particular, the hCG reset may end up doing the damage it's trying to fix. Some companies may market extreme types of resets such as the hCG diet as a scientific way to reset your metabolism. But in the end, they work the same way as any other calorie-restriction plan. Initially, you may lose a ton of weight, but you will most likely gain it all back and then some. "You may think that injecting hormones is resetting your system, but it's actually changing your hormone levels and may even create future problems with your metabolism," says Koff. "People who start out doing some of these things often end up needing to come to me later on because their body has been so burned out. In the end, it all comes back to the fact that quality nutrition plays the safest role in resetting your body."
Still, trying your own version of a "reset" can have big payoffs. "If you feel unhappy with the quality of your diet or as if your eating routine is out of whack, thinking of a change as a 'reset' can help," says Koff. Having rules may make it easier to turn down, say, wine or dessert at dinner, and therefore break unhealthy habits. "Resets can help remind you that food's main purpose is to nourish your body, and give you the chance to take a pause from your regular routine."Related: Meet the 2013 Hot Husbands Finalists
Design Your Own Reset
There are a number of companies using the term reset, and both the words reset and cleanse are merely marketing terms "You don't really need to run out and drop a lot of money on some new program - especially since many of them are filled with highly-processed foods that aren't any healthier for you in the long run," says Koff. Instead, follow these five steps to do your own reset, help kickoff healthier eating habits, and get your appetite under control.
1. Know your goal.
The first step is asking yourself why you want to do a reset in the first place. It may be to lose weight, to have more energy, to get back on track after a weekend of too much alcohol and junk food, or to try to kick a bad habit, such as overdosing on caffeine. If you drink a bottle of wine daily and live off energy bars, a reset may mean switching to drinking green tea and eating leafy greens. For already-healthy eaters, it might involve consuming only nutrient-dense, vegetarian foods for a few days.
2. Pay attention to portions.
For a successful reset, quantity is key. "You really want to be aware of what portion sizes look like because many of us greatly underestimate how much we eat," says Koff. Keeping track of your portions not only helps retrain your brain (and stomach!) to know that you don't need as much food as you may have grown accustomed to eating, but also helps you distinguish between hunger and emotional eating. Typically, a serving of protein is about the size of your palm (no fingers), a serving of carbs is the size of your fist, and a dose of healthy fats about the size of a die. Check out Koff's complete list of food portion sizes to get more specifics. Keep track of what you eat for a few days on MyFitnessPal, a free app, or use an old-fashioned journal to get a clear picture of your food intake.
3. Be a qualitarian.
Koff believes that one flaw of many commercial reset diets is that they merely replace processed foods with more processed foods. For example, a "reset" cookie bar will not wean your taste buds off of cravings for sweets. Or, if you're trying to eat only plant-based foods and end up having more processed, meat-free foods, than you're not really resetting unhealthy eating habits. "Focus on being a qualitarian by eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and added and artificial sugars for a few days," says Koff. "Ditch anything from a chemistry lab or that has ingredients you don't know and go for whole, unprocessed foods instead."
4. Find the right balance.
Rather than counting calories, make sure that everything you eat has at least one or two servings of whole carbs, proteins, and healthy fats. "For example, if you snack on 200 calories of carbs, it will spike your blood sugar and trigger your appetite. Conversely, if you eliminate carbohydrates in favor of foods containing only protein and fat, you won't get sufficient energy. It's important to balance our food choices in order to get all the nutrients that we need." Try scrambling eggs in olive oil and eating them on a slice of whole-grain toast for a healthy carb-protein-fat breakfast combo.
5. Eat often.
If you're watching your portion sizes, you may feel hungry more often in the beginning since you're reducing your food quantity. You can ward off hunger pains and binge eating while keeping your metabolism humming by noshing roughly every three hours. "If you're eating the right balance of nutrients, you should have enough energy for about three hours," says Koff. "A big plus is that resets can actually help control your appetite in the long run by helping you to feel less hungry overall."
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