Dr. Mark Hyman shares the seven-day program he uses to help thousands improve their health, drop unwanted pounds and transform their eating habits for good.
In a world where quick-fix diet schemes abound, you’d be wise to look at any seven-day weight-loss plan with a healthy dose of skepticism. So let me clarify right from the beginning that while the plan outlined below may very well help you lose a few pounds, it is not designed solely — or even primarily — for weight loss.
My main purpose in developing this program was to help you conduct an experiment with your own body. It’s an experiment that will help you observe how much better you can begin looking and feeling simply by eating a whole-foods diet over the course of a single week.
Follow the program for seven days and you will likely experience reduced inflammation and toxicity, resulting in a noticeable slimming down of your face and body. But the other positive side effects — better sleep, more energy, improved skin, decreased joint pain, enhanced elimination, fewer chronic discomforts — are likely to be even more profound.
It’s rewards like these that I’m hoping will convince you to transfer what you’ve learned to a lifelong eating plan — one that will help you achieve and maintain not just your ideal weight, but also an optimal level of vitality, with relative ease.
One thing I’ve learned in 15 years of treating diseases and health conditions of all kinds is that, very often, the things that make people sick are the same things that make them fat. When underlying health problems like inflammation and toxicity are resolved, excess weight simply drops away.
Another thing I’ve learned from working with thousands of chronically overweight and ill patients is that once people discover how terrific they can feel just by eating properly, they often remain motivated to change their habits for good.
This plan can help you experience in one week the power you have to harm or to heal your body, the power that the wrong foods have to create sickness, and the power that the right foods have to promote weight loss and health. (Those who are on multiple medications should consult their physicians before going on the program.)
As you will see, the weight you lose on this eating plan will be a simple byproduct of the energy and vitality you gain. So, let’s get started.
One week before you start the program, prepare your body for all the goodness to come by shedding habits that interfere with your metabolism. Eliminating items from your diet in a systematic way may keep you from experiencing potential withdrawal symptoms and jump-start the process to weight loss and vital health.
Over the course of the preparation week, you should eliminate these items from your diet entirely. Remember, in some cases they are hidden in places you may not expect. Be as vigilant as you can about reading labels and making sure the foods you eat do not contain the following:
- Caffeine (except from green tea)
- Processed and refined carbohydrates and sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Hydrogenated (trans) fats
- Also avoid processed, packaged, junk or fast foods.
Once you’ve completed your preparatory week, you’re ready to embark on the 7-Day UltraSimple Slimdown plan. Use the recipes on the following pages to prepare the UltraShake and UltraBroth called for in each day’s meal plan, and use the Avoid and Enjoy lists to create balanced meals
Set aside some extra time each day to prepare any foods and beverages you’ll need to take with you to work or other activities. Make UltraShakes shortly before consuming. The recipe for UltraBroth can be made in advance and refrigerated. You should make enough broth to last you the entire week.
Also, if you experience low energy during the first day or two, take the time to rest and nurture yourself. Get extra sleep, take a nap or get a massage, so your body is recovering and healing.
The 7-Day UltraSimple Slimdown
Here are the foods you will include in your recommended meals over the course of the 7-Day UltraSimple program:
- Filtered water (six to eight glasses per day)
- Fish, especially small, nonpredatory species such as sardines, herring, wild salmon, black cod or sable fish,
sole, and cod
- Lean white-meat chicken breasts (preferably organic)
- Fresh or frozen noncitrus fruits, ideally berries only (preferably organic)
- Fresh vegetables (preferably organic)
- Fresh vegetable broth (3 to 4 cups a day)
- Legumes (e.g., kidney beans, black beans, white beans, etc.)
- Brown rice
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds)
- Ground flaxseeds (preferably organic)
- Lemons (preferably organic)
During this program, you will avoid the following foods. The list is simply to remind you of the toxic and inflammatory foods that most of us consume daily. Some of the fruits and vegetables, and even eggs and meat, listed here may not be a problem for some of you, but the only way to find out is to stop all of them for one week and listen to what your body tells you.
- Sugar (including honey, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.)
- Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and maltitol
- Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, etc.
- Natural sweeteners like stevia (although this might be fine in the long run, in the short run it stimulates sweet cravings and will sabotage your efforts)
- Caffeine (sodas, coffee, tea — except for green tea)
- Citrus fruits and juices (except lemon juice)
- Yeast (baker’s and brewer’s, fermented foods like vinegar)
- Dairy products (milk, butter, yogurt, cheese)
- Gluten (see www.celiac.com for a comprehensive list of gluten-containing foods)
- Beef, pork, lamb or any other meat (except organic poultry)
- Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers)
- Refined oils and hydrogenated fats
- Stimulants (these include decongestants, diet pills, ephedra, ma huang and yerba mate)
- All flour products
- Processed foods or food additives (fast food; junk food; any foods that come in a box, package, can, or that are commercially prepared using chemicals, preservatives and other unnatural ingredients to make them shelf-stable)
Your UltraSimple Meal Plan
By steering clear of foods on the Avoid list and combining the foods in the Enjoy list with the UltraBroth and UltraShake recipes that follow, you will nourish your body and keep your metabolism humming over the course of the seven-day program. You should not feel physically hungry, and by taking the recommended UltraBaths, you will both assist your body in expelling toxins and help keep your stress (which causes both inflammation and cravings) at a low level.
Breakfast (7 a.m.–9 a.m.)
- Lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon) and hot water
- 1 cup of decaf or caffeinated green tea steeped in hot water for five minutes. (You may also have the green tea later in the day. Limit your intake to 2 cups a day.)
- UltraShake (recipe below)
If no bowel movement by 10 a.m., take two herbal laxative tablets (you can take two senna or cascara tablets to ensure you have a bowel movement).
Morning Snack (10 a.m.–11 a.m.)
- 1 cup UltraBroth (recipe below)
- Another UltraShake (if you are hungry)
Lunch (12 p.m.–1 p.m.)
- 2 cups or more of steamed or lightly sautéed veggies (you should eat enough to feel gently satisfied)
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 1/2 cup fruit or berries for dessert (either here or at dinner, not both, and only one or two times during the seven-day program)
- UltraShake (optional)
Afternoon Snack (2 p.m.–3 p.m.)
- 1 cup UltraBroth
- UltraShake (if you are hungry)
Dinner (5 p.m.–7 p.m.)
- 4 to 6 ounces of fish or chicken breasts cooked with olive oil and lemon juice or 4 to 6 ounces of tofu or legumes (if using canned, rinse them well)
- 2 cups or more of steamed or lightly sautéed veggies (eat enough to feel gently satisfied)
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 cup UltraBroth
How to Deal With Detox Downsides
You may experience some common symptoms during the first few days of the program: bad breath; achy, flulike feelings; fatigue; headaches; cravings; irritability; constipation. Don’t worry — it’s a good sign that your body is eliminating toxins. Constipation, however, should be addressed aggressively to ensure a successful program. For more on how to deal with constipation, see the Web Extra! at the top right of this page.
The UltraBroth Recipe
Our modern diet is an acid-producing diet — including sugar, excess animal protein and processed foods — that creates a toxic cellular environment that can contribute to many diseases. This broth, filled with many healing nutrients, is a simple way to detoxify and alkalinize your body. (For those who can’t make the broth, you can substitute low-sodium, organic vegetable broth from Pacific Foods or Imagine Foods, but making your own broth from fresh, organic ingredients is preferable.)
For every 3 quarts of water, add:
- 1 large chopped onion
- 2 sliced carrots
- 1 cup of daikon or white radish root and tops, cut into large cubes (ideal, but optional)
- 1 cup of winter squash, cut into large cubes
- 1 cup of root vegetables, cut into large cubes: turnips, parsnips and rutabagas for sweetness
- 2 cups of chopped greens: kale, parsley, beet greens, collard greens, chard, dandelion, cilantro or other greens
- 2 celery stalks, cut into large cubes
- 1/2 cup of seaweed: nori, dulse, wakame, kelp or kombu
- 1/2 cup of cabbage, cut into large cubes
- 4 1/2-inch knob of ginger, sliced
- 2 cloves of whole garlic
- Sea salt to taste
- If available, you can add 1 cup of fresh or dried shiitake or maitake mushrooms.
Add all the ingredients at once and place on a low boil for approximately one hour. Simply continue to simmer to taste.
Cool, strain out the cooked vegetables and discard them. Store resulting broth in a large, tightly sealed glass container in the fridge.
Before consuming, heat gently. Drink at least 3 to 4 cups a day.
Makes approximately 8 cups or 2 quarts.
The UltraShake Recipe
This shake provides essential protein for detoxification, omega-3 fatty acids from flax oil, fiber for healthy digestion, increased elimination from flaxseeds, and antioxidants and phytonutrients from the berries and fruit. This shake is the easiest to make and digest; for two more versions, see my book The UltraSimple Diet. Also, for alternative snack options, enjoy raw veggies and hummus (don’t forget to read the label if it’s store-bought), seeds and nuts, or steamed vegetables or chickpeas spiced up with a little extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.
- 2 scoops of rice protein powder (the average is 2 scoops, but you should follow the directions for the serving sizes of the product you pick)
- 1 tablespoon organic combination flax and borage oil
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
- Ice (made from filtered water), if desired
- 6 to 8 ounces of filtered water to desired consistency
- 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh noncitrus organic fruit, such as cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, pears or bananas
Optional: Add 1 tablespoon of nut butter (almond, macadamia, pecan) or ¼ cup nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans or any combination of these, soaked overnight.
The UltraBath is a key component of the program. It provides many powerful benefits in one easy, 20-minute solution every day. (Take a bath just before bed every night.)
- Add 2 cups of Epsom salts, 1 cup of baking soda and 10 drops of lavender oil to bathwater as hot as you can tolerate.
For extra-powerful detoxification, wrap yourself in towels immediately after the bath, get into bed under the covers and sweat more for 20 minutes, then remove the towels and go to sleep. You can go directly to sleep without rinsing off after the bath.
When the program is over, you can (and should) continue many of the healthy habits you have learned. At this point, you can either transition into a maintenance version of the program (more details can be found in my book), or you can end the program and gradually reintegrate foods back into your diet. The biggest gift of the program is identifying which foods you are sensitive, intolerant or allergic to, and which you can enjoy safely. For step-by-step guidance on what to introduce back into your diet and when, please see chapter 16 of my book. Otherwise, strive to introduce eliminated foods one at a time and for a couple of days at a stretch. For example, include dairy twice a day for a few days before you reintroduce other potential allergens like gluten, eggs or nuts. Otherwise it will be impossible to know which foods are giving you trouble.
Mark Hyman, MD, is the medical director and founder of The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Mass. Dr. Hyman also is editor of the peer-reviewed journal Alternative Therapies and a leading expert in functional medicine. This article was adapted, by permission, from his book The UltraSimple Diet: Kick-Start Your Metabolism and Safely Lose Up to 10 Pounds in 7 Days, published by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., NY. Copyright © 2009 by Mark Hyman, MD. You can download a free sneak preview of the book at www.ultrasimplediet.com.
Constipation and Keeping Your Bowels Clear
Keeping your bowel clean is a critical part of the detoxification process.
Toxins in our digestive tract may make us feel ill if we don’t eliminate them. That is why it is important to address and prevent constipation for the whole UltraSimple program (as well as the rest of your life), and why below I am providing you with a step-by-step program for fixing constipation now and forever.
For some people problems with constipation are exacerbated when they go on the program because of the sudden change in the way they are eating. This may result in an increase in your withdrawal symptoms and make you feel ill. You may even experience achy, flu-like symptoms such as headaches, brain fog and fatigue.
Constipation may also inhibit your attempts at weight loss, because it sabotages your body’s ability to detoxify. Toxins in your gut are reabsorbed when your bowel isn’t clear.
That is why it is critical that you clear out your bowel before the program beings, and keep it clear each of the seven days you are on the program.
In fact, I recommend clearing out your bowel at the start of the program even if you aren’t constipated. This is a good thing to do, because it helps ensure your bowels are functioning properly so you can maximize your power to detoxify.
For the same reason, I recommend everyone take an herbal laxative the day before the program beings. It’s a great way to make sure your bowel is clear and functioning properly.
As long as you’re having one or more bowel movements a day, this is all you will need to do. You will simply take the herbal laxative the day before the program begins (as outlined below), and you can skip the rest of the steps in this section.
However, if you are constipated, the steps that follow are of critical importance (most people can achieve a bowel movement with Step 1 alone). They are designed to help you clear your bowel and keep it that way while you are on the program.
Overcoming constipation is an important part of your journey to long-term health. Even after the program has ended, you can follow these steps anytime you are faced with constipation.
Step 1: Basic Bowel Care
- Eat two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds a day sprinkled on salads, vegetables or in your Ultra Shake. They absorb a lot of water, and provide omega-3 fats and plenty of fiber.
- Take two to four 100-150 mg capsules of magnesium citrate twice a day. Reduce the dose or stop completely if your bowels become too loose.
- Take 1000-2000 mg of buffered ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder or capsules once or twice a day. This also helps with detoxification and inflammation.
These products can be safely used over the long term to keep your bowels regular and healthy in the months and years ahead.
Step 2: Take an Herbal Laxative
As I mentioned above, I recommend you take an herbal laxative the day before you start the program whether you struggle with constipation or not. This is a good thing to do to ensure your bowels are clear.
You should take the laxative at 10am the day before you start the program. I also recommend you take an herbal laxative every day you are on the program if you are struggling with constipation and have not had a bowel movement by 10am. Common herbal laxative preparations are cascara and senna. Take 2 (or 3, if you need it) capsules before bed.
These should NOT be used regularly as they are habit-forming and may make your colon lazy. However, using them for the 7 days you are on the program is perfectly safe. Although, again, if you follow Step 1, you will probably not need it. By the end of the week, your bowel should be functioning properly, so going off the laxatives should not be an issue.
Step 3: Magnesium Citrate Liquid
If you have not had a bowel movement the day after you take the herbal laxative, try taking one bottle of magnesium citrate liquid. You should need it only once if you add Step 4 (see below).
After drinking the liquid you should have a bowel movement within 6 hours.
If you don’t have a bowel movement within 6 hours, move on to Step 4. But do this no more than twice during the program. It should not be used regularly.
Magnesium citrate liquid is available at any drug store. It is often used to help clear out the bowel before colonoscopies or surgery. It can also be used to clear out the bowel before you start the program, or if you become constipated during the program and Steps 1 and 2 are not effective.
Do not use this without first consulting your doctor if you have inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis or have had recent abdominal or bowel surgery or any type of bowel blockage or impaction.
Step 4: Dulcolax or Bisacodyl Suppository or Fleet Enema
If you have still not had a bowel movement 6 hours after taking the magnesium citrate liquid, you should take a Dulcolax or Bisacodyl suppository or Fleet Enema. Both are available in any drug store.
The suppository is inserted into the rectum and usually results in a bowel movement in 2-3 hours. Use the Fleet Enema as directed.
Step 5: If You Still Have Not Had a Bowel Movement
If you still have not had a bowel movement after following Steps 1-4, then you need to see your physician for a full evaluation.