For many of us, diets do work at first, but they’re often impossible to stick with for very long. The solution? According to psychotherapist Mike Dow, PsyD, PhD, it’s all about healing our brain. “Growing evidence shows we’ve become addicted to foods that harm our health. So when we go cold turkey on, say, sugar or fast food, it sets off intense cravings that are hard to fight,” reveals the New York Times best-selling author of The Sugar Brain Fix ($17.55, Amazon).
“That’s why my plan works more like a nicotine patch than a traditional diet: When you gently release yourself from food addiction, excess weight comes off automatically, and you also experience a cascade of wellness benefits,” says Dow. Energy soars, mood lifts, memory sharpens, and pain and inflammation disappear. You can even melt a whopping 40 pounds!
Dr. Dow’s Detox Diet
To use Dow’s plan, eat your normal foods during the first two weeks, but be sure to get seven servings of veggies/fruit and one serving of omega-3–rich seafood, walnuts, or flaxseed daily. During week three, begin limiting overstimulating foods (sweeteners, grains, conventional animal products, processed oils) to three servings daily; in week four, cut down to two servings.
Note: “Keto coffee” as breakfast fills you up and helps optimize hormone levels, improving serotonin and dopamine levels faster. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Starting in week three, Dow recommends a “keto-Mediterranean” approach, a style of eating that European researchers have linked to improved levels of serotonin and dopamine. You’ll emphasize veggies, high-quality protein (especially seafood), and healthy fats, yet you won’t deprive yourself.
Each day, you can feel free to enjoy two to three moderate servings of whatever you want — chips, bread, even cookies and cake. “Eliminating foods creates a psychological response that makes you want it more. So it’s self-sabotaging. Shifting to a mostly healthy diet is all it takes to get your brain chemistry in balance.”
And once that happens, you naturally move toward a healthy weight. One study even found folks end up with a BMI about 30 percent lower as dopamine improves! You also get all the benefits that come with healthy eating. Adds Dow, “I see so many people truly transform their lives just by eating to heal their brain!”
The Detox Plan
Women and experts agree: This no-stress, baby-step approach to healthy eating can free us from cravings for good! Building meals around Mediterranean-style fare, like seafood, veggies, fruit, and healthy fat, is so good for our brain, one study found it reduces depression risk by 98.6 percent. Check out a sample day below.
Breakfast — In a vented blender, whip 2 cups hot coffee, 1 Tbs. cream, 1 Tbs. coconut oil, a pinch of cinnamon and stevia to taste until frothy.
Lunch — Enjoy baked salmon, cooked lentils and a large salad with vinaigrette. Opt for fruit or detox pudding (recipe at right) for dessert.
Dinner — Fill low-carb tortillas with healthy taco toppings like seasoned grass-fed beef, veggies, salsa, and guacamole.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.