The Ultimate 2016 Cleanse

As featured on Huffington Post Now that we are two weeks into 2016, past the juice cleanse cayenne pepper detox coffee enema phase, it’s time to get real about making some lasting lifestyle changes. Sure, maybe your karma was through the roof and your toxins were at an all time low when you were subsisting solely on tinctures of carrot mango dandelion essence, but can you really commit to living next door to a cold press juice joint for the rest of your life? And let’s be honest, after a week on a liquid-only purge, do you truly feel like you’re “basking in a post-cleanse glow” or are you now binging on crunchy chips and salty cheese and frantically airing out your bathroom?

Right. Now you’re left trying to figure out how to transition back into real life, with all the daily challenges that come with it. And here’s the real buzz kill. All the overpriced low glycemic gluten free organic elixirs that you just tortured yourself with for the past 3-7 days were only temporary – the karma, the toxins, the glow, gone. The second you popped that first nacho in your mouth, it was over. Back to pre-cleanse internal disaster area.

But, rejoice, all is not lost! You have grown! Despite the migraines, cramping, and five packages of toilet paper, you have started on a really important journey to wellbeing. Don’t give up on all the healthy habits you have jumpstarted this past week, even if you never want to down another green smoothie again. Lasting change can truly happen. A three day cleanse isn’t going to heal you forever. But, there are long-term strategies that will.

So, as a guide back to sanity (…and solid food…) here are four ideas for true lifetime cleansing.

Warning – these tips are crazy simple and yet super hard to implement. They take your whole life to get right. But, with dedication and determination, they will work.

  1. Stop dieting: Diets don’t work. Actually, they work for a few months, and then you gain the weight back, no matter what diet you go on. In fact, recent studies show that if you are normal weight and diet anyway, your body has a tendency to regain more fat than had been lost in a “fat overshoot” correction by your metabolism. Instead, start crowding out the crap in your diet with real food, not diet food - fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats and fish. These foods have not only been shown to result in weight loss, but also have incredible health benefits that will truly bring out your lasting inner glow!
  1. Drink Responsibly (or not at all): After the amount of pickling you did to your liver over the holidays, maybe your go-to detox was a dry-January. If so, vow to make the long term change in your drinking habits from weekend booze-hound to either a committed one to two drinks per day or forever-teetotaler. While zero to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce rates of some diseases, hitting it hard only on the weekends has the complete opposite effect. So lay off the Friday-Saturday benders, and instead, start buying and savoring a couple gentle pours of a good red (…or stick to tea).
  1. Move your body: While what you put in your mouth certainly is critical, physical activity has an equally important effect on overall health, no matter what weight you are. And it doesn’t make any difference what you do, as long as you do something! Go to yoga. Do cartwheels. Take the dog for a walk. Hit the gym. Run intervals up mountains. Just do whatever makes you happy and keeps you coming back for more.
  1. Let all that other –ish go: If you truly want to wring yourself out from the inside, stop dwelling on all the negative crap in your life. Instead, sit quietly with yourself a few minutes every day and practice mindfully focusing on the positive moments. This mindfulness meditation has been shown to slow cellular aging by lengthening protective DNA factors called telomeres. That’s a much more impactful and scientific approach to successful aging than a questionable and overpriced online kit for a colon cleanse.

As it turns out, health doesn’t come in 3-day spurts of righteousness. Wellness takes practice and commitment, every single day. It doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill or test tube. True health requires a realization that moderation actually is the shiny and sexy alternative -- that the latest purification regimen is fleeting, a distraction that draws your attention away from the true elements of healthfulness. Wellness comes with the understanding that oatmeal, bananas, and taking the stairs indeed are the path to the promised land, not simply a boring sermon. So, rather than wasting money and precious time on temporary fixes guaranteed to bring about bliss and immortality, take the inimitable long view. Walk to the grocery store for some good old-fashioned apples and oranges, taking note of one or two things that make you smile in the world around you.

As featured on Huffington Post

Living Well on Boston Neighborhood Network

I was honored recently to have been a featured guest on Karen Fabian's outstanding show, Living Well, on The Boston Neighborhood Network. The panel included myself, Elizabeth Lawson a holistic minded Physician Assistant from Cape Cod, and Liam Madden from Jubali Juices! It was an awesome discussion about how to avoid the quick fixes, surround yourself by a team of wellness experts and prevention from the inside out! Check it out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q-gbPjL9MY

We found the Silver Bullet...

We know. We know what is killing us. We know how to prevent 80% of all chronic disease. Diabetes, Heart Disease, Obesity. We know where 84% of all health care dollars are spent. And we know how to stop it. But. We. Don't.

We know the five things that will save people:

  • moving
  • eating well
  • dealing with stress
  • sleeping
  • not smoking

They are the silver bullets. THE SILVER BULLETS. Yet, half of Americans don't exercise, one third of Americans don't eat fruit or vegetables, and 1 out of five Americans smoke. Our doctors aren't educated on exercise or nutrition, the USDA is mocked and ridiculed, the blog-o-sphere is ripe with "experts" and anecdotal recommendations.

Those of us that care, argue the merits of paleo vs vegan vs Mediterranean. We huff and puff over intervals vs long distance vs strength training. We push mindfulness and meditation, on the highways of facebook and twitter and instagram. We post pictures of harder, better, faster, stronger. Meanwhile, cardiovascular disease is costing us $315 billion, cancer $157 billion, diabetes $245 billion, obesity $147 billion and smoking $289 billion. BILLIONS.

We are sick, and getting sicker. Yet, rather than treat the root cause, we spend BILLIONS on treating the symptoms. Metformin, statins, anti-depressants, beta-blockers. Just to fight the inevitable. Bandaids.

Mozaffarian et al, Circulation, 2008

People, there is a better way. And, it's free. And it's going to take some grit and determination. And it is our only hope. But in order to make it happen, we have to stop fighting and come together. Doctors, scientists, personal trainers, nutritionists, health coaches, policy makers. We know how to keep people healthy. And we need to start working together.

In a recent lecture at a class I'm teaching at the Harvard Extension school Dr. David Katz said it best, "We need to stop looking at the differences in all these diets that work, and rather look at what they have in common. Habitual intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains...has the power to decrease 80% of chronic disease. Let us unite and tell the world that WE KNOW ENOUGH to keep people healthy". WE KNOW ENOUGH.

We know that lifestyle changes work BETTER THAN DRUGS for preventing diabetes.


We know that healthy lifestyle behaviors (not smoking, healthy BMI, exercising, and a diet rich in fruits/veggie/whole grains) prevent 80% of chronic disease. EIGHTY PERCENT.

Lifestyle Factors

We know that the key ingredients to a healthful diet include foods that are not processed, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and some high quality meat and fish. Who cares if the cave men ate it or someone in Italy is drowning in olive oil?! If it's not in a package, is mostly plants, and you cooked it at home. EAT IT.


We know that sitting is terrible for you and that we need to move around! Just walk! WALK.


We know everyone's lives are stressful. If we could all give it up, move to a beautiful mountain-side retreat and leave it all behind we would. But we can't. So, we need to learn how to unplug and cope. STRESS RESILIENCE.


Instead, we scare people. We make them think nutrients are killing them and that exercise is too hard or unattainable. We use flashy labels to get people to eat our "healthy take on an organic processed block of crap" or guzzle down our "highly processed all natural life sustaining drinks". We embrace more, more, more, now, now, now. All in a quest to find the silver bullet. Enough already! We already have the silver bullet! And it's not sexy or flashy or in a shiny package.

It is beautifully simple.

We know. We know movement is essential. We know food in its natural form is healthiest. We know sleep and stress management are crucial. We know. So let's do it. Let's unite and spread that simple message.

Because, we know.


Gatorade -- The Gateway Drug

It's cycling season! I love this time of year. Paris-Roubaix, the Giro, the Tour of California, eventually the Tour de France. I don't compete in cycling...I just ride my little bike. But, I am infatuated with the sport. The athleticism, the grit and determination, the endurance. (Who cares that I can't ride with the elite ladies...can you play with Tiger?) But, alas, this year it's different. This year we know there are drugs. No more skirting around the issue, arguing ad naseam over the physical impossibility of the month long feats of fortitude (also known as stage races). They did it. They raced dirty.

Yet (and maybe I'm clouded by my pure love of the sport) even in light of the EPO and testosterone and HGH, I am still amazed by the sheer ability of these athletes. I have trained elite-level athletes just will never doubt the amount of themselves -- both physically and mentally -- they pour into their sport. Drugs or no, the training and sweat and internal turmoil that take place to compete on the international stage is astounding.

But sadly, this year, this cycling season, the drugs always there. Is he really clean now? Does that amazing sprint or breakaway prove that he's not clean? Sigh...

As a nutrition scientist, I have been asking myself: Are the athletes the only ones to blame? At some level I feel like it's our own fault...as if we've set up our heroes to fail.

Green Cyclist

A few weekends ago, I saw a documentary called The Levi Effect. In the film, Levi Leipheimer, of American cycling teams Radioshack, Discovery, and Postal Service (among others), narrates his journey through the lens of a bike saddle. Toward the end of the movie, Levi opens up about his drug use while racing in the early 2000s...how he felt the only way to get and stay on top in cycling was with illicit performance-enhancing drugs. It just became so clear while listening to him, that the latest drudge-fest in cycling is simply the epitome of the pressure we put on ourselves to perform from a very young age. Of the experience, in an interview in the Press Democrat in October of 2012, Leipheimer said:

"At first you go from a 13-year old boy who falls in love with cycling and you have this idea, this vision of what the sport is like. Along the way, little by little, honestly, you get your heart broken, piece by piece. You come to realize what it was really like. You're so far down the road after a while it became easy to cross that line. It was a huge internal struggle, though. Do I not make this decision to dope and continue to see how far I can go? Or do I regret it for the rest of my life because I didn't find out how good I was? At the time, we thought if I don't do it but that other guy's doing it and he wins this race? I know I can be as good as him, so I want to try to find out if I can win that race, too. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don't. I didn't want to live the rest of my life bitter regretting finding out."

And yet this condoning of synthetic enhancement, of needing external supplements to be physically superior, is not only pervasive in cycling -- or football, or baseball, or sprinting. It's in our own homes. In our gym bags. It starts in the lunch boxes of our children. We have become completely obsessed with performance, probably to the detriment of much of our own health and often without the acknowledgement of the physical work required to achieve athletic success.


We spend $4.8 billion (with a b-) on Gatorade products every year...nevermind PowerAde, and Vitamin Water, and fill-in-the-blank miracle powder.  Even the all-natural (insert air-quotes) sports aids are flying off the shelf at record rates. Our society is fixated on the need for product-enhanced "recovery", "speed", and "size". Yet, over 35 percent of Americans are obese. OBESE. Not just overweight. OBESE. Another 33 percent are simply overweight.

(...but this isn't a lament about fatness, rather an admonishment of the prevalence of over-the-counter performance enhancing drugs...)

And, there is no doubt, we start our kids on drugs early. If a child is given a sports drink after pee-wee soccer and told it will help her recover from her game (sadly, during which it seems children are only getting ~20m of vigorous activity anyway), are we surprised that this child will grow up expecting to need flashy nutritional support for any activity? Coconut water after yoga. Smoothie after 45 minutes on the elliptical. Protein shake after a squatting session. Then vitamin pills with 3000% the daily value of B-Vitamins (cause they're important for muscle building, right?), and then performance enhancing powders containing chemicals such as DMAA (cause B-Vitamins aren't enough anymore...), and then, when she's good and primed to make that decision that solidifies her athletic career, then maybe it's not such a pole vault to EPO or HGH. It's simply the next step.

The good news is, even at the highest levels it appears as though the human spirit does not need chemicals to prevail. Levi himself has been able to win clean since dumping all banned substances from his medicine cabinet in 2007. Indeed, Leipheimer has snagged stages in several prestigious bike races as well as a medal at the 2008 Olympics. Further, he's on a crusade to help future athletes in his sport from having to turn to doping to win.

"It's important an environment is created where they don't have to make those decisions like we did."

But this responsibility to change a culture so accustomed to drugs, can't come just from the highest performers in athletics -- those that have already fallen into the hole. It has to start with us. As parents, as trainers, as nutrition and exercise professionals. Because when more than 80% of adults and adolescents are not meeting even the minimal Physical Activity requirements of 150mins per week, the last thing we need is a sugar and caffeine laden sports drink or 400+ kcal protein smoothie (nevermind a jacked up chemically boosted supplement powder).

We really just need some water and a pat on the back for a workout well done...and, maybe a cut-up orange for old times sake.


(*Cycling Photo Credits to the ever creative B.Graham)

Health Flash...DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!

So, it’s pretty much the understatement of the 21st century to say there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.  Thanks to the interwebs, everyone’s a freaking expert.  And I’m talking EXPERT.  They know everything.  EVERYTHING.  And, they’re RIGHT, you’re WRONG (and FYI you’re an idiot for disagreeing with them).  It’s getting real in the Whole Foods Parking lot, if you know what I’m saying...


But, one thing that I’ve learned about science is no matter how much you think (or want) something to be true, if the data does not support your theory, it’s simply not true.  Get over it, adjust and move on. Moreover, if you’re going to make a public declaration about a certain health claim, you better make damn well sure it is water tight - based on original evidence and then backed up by more original evidence. A single study does not a revolution make! Anecdotal theories are great, but then go do your homework!  If you see an interesting claim and are ready to make a big change in your life, your first move should be to check the source. You don’t need a PhD to do the reading.  Because, as I’ve mentioned before, data is data but the interpretation of the data by the mouthpieces is often woefully skewed.  So, go to the original source and read what the scientists write in the discussion of the paper, because more often than not, they acknowledge the limitations of their study and will usually state if more work needs to be done to corroborate their findings. Then, if you want to be really really sure about a certain topic, double check their sources. At the very least, you’ll get a more solid picture of what the research is really saying as a whole, not just what some interesting new finding is.  Because, like political polls, research is best understood in trends, not flashes (I’m looking at you, Herman Cain circa 2011).


The thing is, when it comes to my health, I am NOT willing to blindly trust the next “expert” that comes along with a revolutionary theory.  So let’s take a few flashes from the recent news media and check some sources, shall we?


Meat is bad for you:  I’ve mentioned before that I don’t eat meat.  But, for me, it has more to do with the processing and handling of the crappy factory farmed meat available at grocery stores than the actual health implications.  Based on the data, eating GOOD (read: expensive) meat is fine, and actually an evolutionary necessity if you don’t want to live on a B12 supplement for the rest of your life. BUT...and this is a big BUT...meat eaters do pretty poorly in the health research. There are a few studies here and there that show that meat eaters are just as likely to live as long as vegetarians -- but this seems to only apply to the carnivores that shop at health food stores (true store...and FYI, if they're shopping at Whole Foods, they’re probably pretty health conscious outside their meat eating habits too).  Otherwise, there is a significant trend in the literature that shows that eating meat is pretty tough on our systems.  From an imbalance in the gut microbiome that may lead to atherosclerosis (new research that just popped on the news media scene a few days ago) to a decreased life span to an increase in cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Ok, so, that looks pretty dire...what’s the right thing to do?  Well, based on the data, eating a little meat is ok, as long as you splurge on it (spend the money on a good cut of well grown beef and make it a treat). Balance it out with fresh fruit and veggies (lots of them) and then do other things to take care of yourself like exercise and lay off the smokes.

Meat is Bad for you

Wheat is bad for you:  You've heard this one a LOT lately right?  Wheat, gluten, carbs...they're making you fat and diabetic and ugly and short (I made those last two up).  Well, if you have a gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, yes, wheat is bad.  But, if you don't (estimates state 1:133 have Celiac and ~6% may have gluten sensitivity), then whole grains are actually kind of superstars!  Despite what you may have heard, whole grains are chock full of incredibly important nutrients including dietary fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, selenium, zinc, copper, and magnesium.  The problem is, most people don't actually eat WHOLE grains.  Most people eat crap-in-a-box that food companies want you to think is whole grains.  Seriously, when was the last time you cooked and ate pearled barley, or quinoa, or steel cut oats? THOSE are whole grains...not a FiberOne bar or even a bowl of Cheerios.  Those are refined grains, and are potentially the grains responsible for a large portion of the obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome crises we are facing today.  To find real whole grains go to your grocery's bulk food section and make some time to cook them at home!

 bulk section

Eating Carbs at night is good for you:  I know, this one totally contradicts the previous wheat myth.  Are you really shocked or does is this back and forth look familiar??  Thankfully, this is not a very common misconception, but it popped up on my screen a few weeks ago and I almost hit the roof! A local blogger I follow put on their facebook page that eating Carbs at night is, in fact, good for you...great for recovery and rejuvenation of pooped out muscles! Woot!! Who knew??!! I was pretty surprised to see this too (considering this person is marketing themselves as a local fitness and nutrition “expert”) and went on a search for confirmation that this is in fact, truth. (n.b. As I started out in this post, until you do the reading, you aren’t qualified to argue.)


Turns out, it isn’t true. When I cited two scientific articles suggesting that they may be mistaken (I was very respectful) and that researchers actually discovered that carbs right after your workout are, in fact, the best time to replace stores of glycogen and that carbs at night contribute to increased BMI, I was told that “more recent research” demonstrates the opposite affect.  Immediately, I took a step back, thinking, “Wow, maybe I missed something on my search...I’ll check again.”  I spent a good hour on PubMed searching for articles...no dice.  Then, sure enough, I Googled “carbs at night good for you” and came up with ONE lone study, completed in 2011 (can someone say "flash"?) that showed that obese Israeli cops that ate two extra pieces of bread with dinner lost more weight than those that did not (note, they all lost weight because everyone was on a calorie restricted diet, but that's beside the point, right?).  And...if you dig a bit deeper into the study, you see that the group that ate more carbs actually started out with a higher BMI and more fat mass than the control group...thus, had more to lose!  When I brought this up to the blogger, they stated that they like to use anecdotal data, rather than scientific studies, and then pointed me to an article written in Testosterone Magazine (T-Nation) as their “source”.  Now, I have nothing against the T-Nation, but the article had no research cited and was really a lot of supposition and wanting of things to be true, rather than conclusions based on real evidence.

Young woman fell asleep at the table after hard eating.

Ummm...does anyone else think  this is a huge problem?!  It’s like a giant game of internet telephone! T-nation author reads a few New York Times articles, proceeds to write their own article, that is picked up by a bunch of local blogger experts, that tell hoards of diligent followers that scarfing white spaghetti before bed is going to help them recover from their spin class. Tada!  (Enter obese spinner.)

So, here’s my message to you.  Your body and your health are too important to entrust into the hands of the screamers.  The beauty of the interwebs is that, in addition to constantly receiving information, you can also seek it out.  You have access to pretty much any scientific data out there (...hopefully more soon, thanks to advocates like the late Aaron Swartz).  Use the power that you have available to you. Check. Double check. Triple check. Find the original source and read it. Really read it.  Because it’s only through educating yourself that you can decipher “flash” from “trend” and start wading through the constant barrage of contradiction you read on your twitter feed.