The Hormone Reset Diet Review- Hormones, Weight, and Diet – Are They Linked?
If you’re thinking of doing a hormone-based weight loss diet, you should probably read this review first. I probably could have reviewed any of the diet books dealing with hormones, food, and weight – there are so many and I suspect they’re all the same.
I chose The Hormone Reset Diet by Dr. Sara Gottfried because I wanted to finally sink my teeth into a bestselling hormone-based diet book to see if the hormone-food-diet-weight theories – especially coming from a medical doctor – were really credible.
It literally pained me to do this, but I went out and spent the $23 on The Hormone Reset Diet book and read it through so I could write this review.
There isn’t enough information online about the actual diet and the research it’s based on, so I took one for the team and did the deep dive into it. Aside from making me totally irritated for the few days that I was reading it, I got a real feel for what the diet is all about. So, here you go, you’re welcome.
The Hormone Reset Diet has all the trappings of a doctor-created fad diet:
Take one doctor, educated at a universally recognized and esteemed school. Add a factor that’s mysterious – so in this case hormones, because not a lot of people know anything about them. Then add a schedule that looks like it’s legit – so in this case, it’s every 3 days.
Add a promise that’s time-sensitive – here we have losing 15lb in 21 days, which is short enough to lure the ‘least amount of work for the most benefits’ people in, and enough weight to excite people.
The author proclaims that many overweight people have a ‘broken metabolism’, implying that there’s something to be ‘fixed’ here, and that of course, her plan can fix it! Did you hear that, overweight people? You’re BROKEN!
She claims that ‘if you’re overweight, you’re toxic by definition because endocrine disruptors are stored in your fat cells’. Except no, because everyone, not just overweight people, has fat cells. No one is 0% fat. So we’re all ‘toxic’? Talk about fat shaming.
By the way, the author sells her own brand of nutrition supplements, which are mentioned multiple times in her book. This isn’t exactly a conflict of interest, but it’s a BIG. RED. FLAG, and so are the things she’s peddling. More on that later.
It’s funny how being educated at Harvard, Stanford, or any ivy-league school, seems to legitimize pretty much anything a doctor writes about. But what the general public doesn’t seem to get is that doctors don’t necessarily have any thorough training in nutrition. Sure, they’ve got anatomy and physiology, but as The Hormone Reset Diet shows, doctors can be relatively clueless about diets and medical nutrition therapy.
And just as an aside, as I’ve said in previous posts, being a bestselling author – even a New York Times bestselling author – qualifies you to do NOTHING except maybe sell books. But it sure is profitable for people like the author of The Hormone Reset Diet to mention the fact that she’s indeed in the ‘NYT bestseller club’.
Always remember – so are Danielle Steele, E.L. James (50 Shades of Grey) and Tori Spelling, proving that you don’t have to write an exceptionally intelligent piece of literature to get on the list.
As far as testimonials from her colleagues, Dr. Gottfried has plenty. They line the inside of the book jacket. But most of the testimonials are from alternative medicine practitioners and other people who have no credibility where nutrition and science are concerned.
Gottfried reminds readers again and again in the book about how she’s a Harvard-educated doctor. Okay, we get it, Dr. Sara.
She then lets the fat-shaming hammer fall when she says that she was once carrying 150lb on her 5’5 frame **GAAAASP** and that she was FAT.
Considering that the average American woman is 5’4 and 140-150lb, healthy or not, Dr. Gottfried’s declaration of her own fatness at that height and weight is so incredibly tone-deaf and insulting. Seriously, Dr. Gottfried? Do you even know how many people would love to be 5’5 and 150lb?
Even if that weight was ‘fat’ for her, it’s not okay to shame others for it. But this diet is sort of like that: pretentious and based on nothing.
You’ll see what I mean.
The Hormone Reset Diet.
The Hormone Reset Diet works with 7 different hormones to do some fantastical, magical things like burn your belly fat and decrease your cravings! I feel like hormones are the last bastion of mystery in diets.
Everything else has sort of been done by now, but you can still talk about hormones and befuddle the average person into buying into what you’re saying.
If I asked any of you to name 7 hormones that are coursing through your own bodies, could you do it? Could you name one or two?
Maybe not offhand, but you know insulin, right? You know thyroid hormone, right? Estrogen? Those are hormones.
Dr. Gottfried is absolutely right when she says that hormones are responsible for lots of bodily functions. Hormones really do rule your body, but what about the claims the Dr. Gottfried makes about hormones and weight, and how The Hormone Reset Diet affects them? Let’s take a closer look.
The Hormone Reset Diet is an elimination diet which instructs you to eliminate a certain food group every 3 days. Each food group that you’re eliminating will help ‘resynchronize’ your ‘broken’ metabolism.
Let’s break this down to what you’re eliminating and why Dr. Gottfried says you should get rid of them:
- Meat: Eliminating meat ‘resets’ your estrogen levels and . Having ‘dominant’ estrogen levels causes you to have difficulty losing weight, have tender breasts, and ovarian cysts. Alcohol is also included in the meat group. Conventionally grown beef is ‘dirty’ because it has hormones that reside in our fat and increase our estrogen levels.
- Sugar: Eliminating sugar gets rid of sugar addiction and insulin resistance, which can cause weight gain.
- Fruit: Getting rid of fruit can help with leptin levels because excess fructose, the sugar in fruit, affects our metabolism. Leptin is an appetite hormone, and decreasing it can decrease hunger levels and weight gain.
- Caffeine: Taking the caffeine out of your diet can balance cortisol levels, which helps decrease stress, make your sleep better, and decrease hunger.
- Grains: Eliminating grains positively affects thyroid hormone and insulin resistance, fixing bloating, exhaustion, and hair loss.
- Dairy: Not consuming dairy corrects imbalanced growth hormone, which can cause runny nose, frequent skin reactions, and sinusitis.
- Toxins: I’m not sure what the heck she means by ‘toxins’, but apparently these unbalance your testosterone, which can lead to fatigue, achy joints, and frequent colds.
This diet is beginning to look really familiar. Eliminating grains, dairy, sugar, alcohol, fruit… I sounds like the Whole30, which is startlingly similar except for the overall concept. In fact, there are so many diets that use pseudoscience to justify telling followers to eliminate these five foods. Nothing new here.
I noticed that a lot of Dr. Gottfried’s more outrageous claims are prefaced by the phrase ‘there is research’. Apparently she feels that that’s enough to sway people into believing her without a citation to back it up. If you’re going to tell me there’s research, I want to see those studies.
The book offers plenty of citations – some of which are from the 80s – that back up what Gottfried says about our food supply, but many of the studies are poorly done. And FYI: no studies exist on the efficacy of her hypothesis – that doing this diet does anything to ‘reset’ your diet or affect your hormones at all.
My breakdown by chapter:
The Meatless chapter is called that but all of the references to ‘meat’ mean ‘red meat’, which Dr., Sara claims is ‘toxic’ when conventionally raised. If she feels that strongly about it, why then doesn’t she simply recommend grass-fed beef and let readers keep beef in their diet? Wouldn’t that be a lot simpler?
Right – because then she wouldn’t have that ‘elimination’ and ‘punishment’ side of her diet, which makes it seem so very special and ‘scientific’.
She talks a lot about hormones in meat, how they’re stored in the cow’s fat and subsequently in yours. The thing is, there’s no such thing as hormone-free beef, because cows, like you, produce hormones on their own. And it’s easy to talk about the dangers of hormones in meat if you offer no comparisons, like this credible one:
The birth control pill (which Dr. Sara should know a lot about, given her choice of profession) has 20,000-50,000 nanograms of estrogen
Beef that has been given estrogen while being farmed has, per 100 grams, 2.2 nanograms of estrogen
But wait! 100 grams of cabbage has 2,381 nanograms of phytoestrogens! Paging Dr. Sara!
So hopefully the above puts Dr. Sara’s claims into perspective. Yes, estrogen is stored in fat. But how much red meat are you eating, anyhow?
This is the classic example of twisting facts and creating a half-truth to further your cause, or in Dr. Sara’s case, pretty much her entire ‘Hormone Reset Diet’.
The fix: Eat less red meat and very little processed meat, and/or choose organic grass-fed if you want.
In her Grain-Free chapter, Dr. Sara asserts that up to 80% of the population is sensitive to gluten, which can ‘make you fat’. This number is ridiculous and completely false, but it widely used in alternative medicine circles. Gluten doesn’t make people fat, either. I’m not sure where she even got that information, because there’s…wait for it…no citation to back that up!
The real science is that 1% of the population has celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity may affect around 6% of the population. Lots of people believe that they’re gluten-sensitive, but over 80% of those people are not. As an aside, if you suspect that you may have issues with gluten, you should be tested by your doctor. Not your naturopath, or your ‘nutritionist’, or anyone else.
And if you take gluten out of your diet before you’re tested, your test may be falsely negative…so don’t stop eating gluten until you’ve been tested, ok?
Dr. Sara encourages people to ‘free themselves from the tyranny of gluten’ and warns that even if you have no symptoms from eating it, you may in fact still be sensitive to it. Whoa, Dr. Sara. Talk about overstepping SCIENCE.
This sort of scare-tactic is used throughout the book, especially in this chapter. She even links autism to gluten, which is ridiculous. This chapter is supposed to be about thyoid, but most of it is focused on ‘evil’ gluten. Probably because grains don’t really do anything to your thyroid, sorry. Sigh.
The fix: Don’t be scared into avoiding grains. Your diet doesn’t need to be based on them, but you certainly don’t need to be afraid of them. And they don’t mess up your thyroid. What?
In her Dairy-Free chapter, among all the ‘you MUST be allergic or intolerant to dairy, since everyone else is!’ speak, Dr. Sara says that casomorphins, a protein found in dairy, are opioids which addict you to dairy products.
She jumps to the conclusion that casomorphins are ‘like crack’ (her words, not mine, thank you very much) and the reason why you need that morning latte is because you’re addicted to the milk in it. Unfortunately for Dr. Sara, there is (only old, since this is a done deal) research saying that casomorphins aren’t really addictive like crack. What is she even talking about?
She then goes on to talk about growth hormones in milk (there are no growth hormones in Canadian milk, FYI).
The fix: if you live in the US, and don’t want hormones in your dairy, choose organic. Dairy addiction isn’t a thing, either. The reason why you’re addicted to your latte is probably the caffeine in it, not the milk.
In her Sugarless chapter, Dr. Sara’s claim that eating more than 99 grams of net carbs a day increases insulin resistance is completely absurd. Normal healthy people eat at least 100-150 grams per day, and this is considered a ‘moderate carbohydrate diet’. Dr. Sara provides no research confirming this 99 gram recommendation.
There is a study that she cites that looked at 20 obese subjects for 28 days and shows that restricting their diets helped with blood sugars. I couldn’t actually find any good research at all confirming her ’99 gram’ idea. If you eat too much food, and you become overweight, you may have issues with insulin sensitivity.
By cutting out calories – like this diet does in spades – you will probably lose weight, and in turn, can increase your insulin sensitivity. See how this works? Simple!
The fix: Don’t drive yourself nuts by counting carbs. Eat a protein-rich diet full of vegetables, and cut out ultra-processed foods as much as possible.
The Fruitless chapter focuses on leptin and fructose. Dr. Sara contradicts herself by saying that most healthy people can absorb 25-50 grams of fructose, but later on says you shouldn’t be eating more than 20 grams a day. I’m not sure where she gets this figure, but I do agree that we eat too much SUGAR, which includes fructose.
She reports that when your leptin is normal, you shouldn’t be hungry between meals. This is untrue (and an assumption of her part). Unfortunately for you, her meal plan for this chapter consists of:
Breakfast: Mint chocolate chip shake (2 scoops of Dr. Sara’s protein powder, of course; 1 CUP of mint leaves (she’s definitely not a chef); 1.5 cups coconut milk, 0.5 cup dandelion greens; 0.25 cup raw cacao nibs.
Lunch: Thai coconut soup and lots of salad
Dinner: Dr. Sara’s Hormone Reset crab cakes, bok choy, arugula, and watercress.
Regardless of your leptin levels, eating this little in a day is going to ensure that you’re hungry…all day long.
The fix? Limit fruit to 2-3 servings a day. Fruit isn’t a ‘free’ food – no food is ‘free’ – but there’s zero evidence to warrant cutting it out for 3 days to ‘reset’ any hormones.
The Caffeine Free chapter focuses on the effect of coffee on cortisol, a stress hormone that encourages your body to store fat.
Dr. Sara is correct in her assessment that caffeine raises your cortisol, but I feel that her claims are exaggerated.
I don’t have much to say about this chapter.
The Fix: Cut down or eliminate your coffee if you feel stressed.
The Toxin Free chapter starts with the same bogus ‘assessment’ that every other chapter starts with. Apparently, because I feel fatigued after a workout, have bags under my eyes, anxiety, plateau in weight loss, and am tired, I desperately need to eliminate toxins from my life using Dr. Sara’s plan! OMG! OMG!
Yes, you should stay away from BPA, phthalates, and parabens. But pretty much everything else in this chapter is pseudoscience.
She endorses to the thoroughly-debunked-why-are-we-still-talking-about-it concept of ‘alkalizing foods’. Talk about ZERO science…the acid-alkaline diet is complete BS. For a doctor to promote it says everything we need to know about that person’s competence.
She also subscribes to the woowoo ‘benefits’ (in quotes because surprise! There are none!) of hot water and cayenne and lemon water, which are common BS myths that abound in the alternative medicine world. Unbelievable.
It’s important to note that Dr. Gottfried’s ‘store’ on her site has a host of ‘detox’ supplements and a ‘carb blocker’ that are not only expensive, but also not scientifically proven.
Yes, she states that ‘as a board-certified physician, I don’t rely on anecdotes when it comes to supplements’. Instead, she seems to rely on weak research studies. Same difference.
On this diet, you need to take your fasting glucose every morning. This means you need to buy a meter and test strips, which are expensive (and you’ll do it a few times and trust me – never again). You also need to test your urine pH, which tells you nothing about your weight-loss ability. Don’t be sucked into this BS.
In order for this Hormone Reset Diet review to not be 18 pages, I’m going to summarize the entire book and diet in point form:
The book uses lots of words like ‘dirty, virtuous, toxins, contaminants, clean’ to describe food. Fear-mongering, overblown, and often meaningless (clean??) words like these are a real red flag when used in this context, because the intent is often to convince you to buy what the author is selling.
People who use credible science don’t need to use those words to convince you of anything.
Making a promise of a specific weight loss, like 15lb in 21 days, is the sign of a fad diet. Credible nutrition professionals do not promise weight goals. Know that.
Dr. Gottfried also talks about ‘Big Food’ and ‘Big Pharma’ and how they’re in cahoots with eachother. Now, call me crazy, but doesn’t ‘Big Pharma’ pay her bills as a board-certified MD? When people start talking ‘Big’ this and ‘Big’ that, it reeks of conspiracy theory.
The truth is that there’s corruption in every industry, but let’s not take it ‘conspiracy theory’ far, if you know what I mean. She’s very against GMO foods, even though a link between GMO foods and health issues has never been proven.
Making the average person feel guilty about choosing conventionally produced foods (vs organic, non GMO) can actually work against them because not everyone can afford to buy everything organic.
You metabolism isn’t like a Barbie doll that’s had its leg ripped off. It doesn’t get broken and it doesn’t get fixed.
These is absolutely no evidence that eliminating any of the food she instructs readers to remove, in particular for the time periods that the diet tells you to, does anything for your hormones or weight. ZERO. This is a made-up diet plan. A low-calorie one.
The diet includes meal plans, which show that daily, you’ll be consuming, by my educated estimation, around 1000-1200 calories a day. As I mentioned above, this is nothing but a low calorie diet.
Some meals consist of only a ‘detox shake’, most meals are a ton of vegetables and a small portion of protein, which makes a lot of sense if you’d like to starve yourself.
This is a diet only for the wealthy. I laughed, but in a sardonic way, at her recommendations for Alaskan wild blueberries, organic poultry and wild fish, food products that you buy at Whole Foods, and weird stuff I’ve never even heard of – like ‘dried organic tulsi’.
The recipes in the book are no better. They call for ‘the juice of one meyer lemon’, a salad with ‘4 oz raw oysters’, pink Himalayan sea salt, ½ cup of maca powder, ghee, pastured rabbit, rendered duck fat, dairy-free brie, hardwood-derived xylitol, Marcona almonds (which are delicious but exorbitantly expensive and hard to find)…the list goes on.
This is not a diet for the masses, which is fine, but how in the world is this sort of eating $u$tainable? And how is eating this way for 21 days going to change your life?
I’m done. I’m so done. I want the past 3 days I spent writing this Hormone Reset Diet review, back. Hopefully, you’re done too – done with doctors who abuse their credentials to sell you things like diets and supplements that are based on nothing.
Are hormones linked to weight? For sure. Can you lose weight by manipulating your hormones on a restrictive, 21-day diet? Probably not. Can you lose weight on a diet that provides very low calories for 21 days? Almost certainly. But there is zero research to back up the main premise of this diet.
If you take nothing else from this post, take this: just because someone is a doctor, and/or a bestselling author, doesn’t mean they’re selling you something credible and science-based.
Diets don’t work. Fad diets really don’t work. Scare tactics are pathetic. And there’s a lot of bad research out there.