Trigger warning: Diet culture and disordered eating.
It would be best to view weight loss trends with a skeptical eye, especially those that require a huge overhaul to your current eating patterns and are restrictive. Diets that require you to eliminate food groups or eat meager calories are often more harmful than good. As well, your weight isn't always an indicator of your health or hormonal functioning, as several other factors make up a healthy lifestyle.
The Hormone Diet claims to reset your hormones through diet modifications, helping you become healthier and lose weight in the process. But does it work, and is it safe? Here, we ask dietitians Mary Wirtz and Jana Mowrer to share their opinions of the Hormones Diet, whether or not it works, and what the pros and cons are.
Meet the Expert
What Is the Hormone Diet?
The hormone diet is a diet plan that originated from a book created by Dr. Natasha Turner, a doctor of naturopathic medicine. The diet aims to control women's hormone fluctuations that cause weight gain and other health issues.
The three-step diet plan lasts for six weeks and claims to harmonize your hormones and fix fluctuations that cause ill effects through a specific diet. Additionally, the plan includes instructions for an exercise routine, detox methods, and supplements.
How Does the Hormone Diet Work?
Phase one consists of a two-week detox in which several food groups are eliminated. These include gluten, cow dairy, various oils, peanuts, sugar, artificial sweeteners, red meat, citrus, alcohol, and caffeine. During this phase, you also are required to take supplements such as fish oil, anti-inflammatories, and probiotics.
Phase two has you adding back some foods while detailing your body's reaction to each food type. This phase is still restrictive as it has you avoiding so-called "hormone hindering" foods. These foods include fish thought to have high mercury levels, meat, and coffee that are not organic, dried fruit such as raisins and dates, peanuts, and high fructose corn syrup. Other foods off-limits during this phase include anything processed, artificial sweeteners, nitrates, and refined grains.
Phase three adds physical activity, including cardiovascular exercise and strength training, and continues the same diet from phase two.
Is the Hormone Diet Safe?
The CDC recommends a rate of weight loss at one to two pounds per week but stresses that this should come from a combination of dietary changes and exercise. The Hormone Diet claims to cause weight loss of 12 lbs in the two weeks of phase one, which is much too fast for what is considered safe and sustainable. Additionally, the weight loss in phase one is due to dietary changes alone as the exercise component is only added in phase three.
Likely, much of the weight loss during the initial phase is due to water weight caused by eliminating grains and other foods. However, it is not sustainable weight loss and could easily come back after the initial phase is over or if you return to your normal eating patterns.
"This weight loss in two weeks can set the framework for unrealistic weight-loss expectations when an individual is looking to achieve (and maintain) long-term weight loss. In addition, it often contributes to cyclical yo-yo dieting," warns Wirtz. Mowrer agrees: "The worst part is the suggested 12lbs of weight loss in two weeks. That is excessive and extreme. Healthy weight loss is defined as one to two lbs per week."
"There's a focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods during the initial six weeks. Eliminating refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and highly processed foods as much as possible is good for everyone," says Mowrer.
"Most foods included in the “Hormone Diet” align with the Mediterranean Dietary pattern, high in fiber and low in saturated fat. Foods such as beans and lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and unsaturated oils are still included within this meal plan, and overall these have been well-researched and are supportive for long-term health," says Wirtz
Furthermore, the Hormone Diet has an individual avoid alcohol, fried foods, processed foods, artificial sweeteners, high saturated fat foods, which tend to be less health-promoting anyways. "As a dietitian, I recommend that most clients try to limit these foods for the best health outcomes," says Wirtz.
Mowrer recommends the 80:20 ratio: 80% whole, nutrition-focused foods, and 20% fun foods. "Most people have a lifestyle imbalance, and this program addresses lifestyle factors that impact hormones such as sleep, hydration, stress, etc. It also advocates for consistent meal patterns. I think that is all good stuff and it 1000% impacts your hormone function and ability to lose weight," she adds.
"There is minimal merit to this diet and unfortunately no research-based evidence to support that the Hormone Diet will improve sleep, give an individual glowing skin and healthy hair. Furthermore, the diet touts a 12-pound weight loss within a two-week timeframe, which is unrealistic and unsustainable for most individuals," Wirtz explains.
"Lastly, the “Hormone Diet” can be cumbersome, and it does encourage individuals to prepare and cook most meals. If you rely on packaged and processed foods in any way for you and your family, this may be unrealistic for your lifestyle," says Wirtz.
However, if you have a true hormone imbalance, such as insulin, it will not be corrected in the Hormone Diet's six-week time frame. "Blood turnover takes at least three months. Additionally, the elimination of isolated foods has not been shown to correct hormonal imbalances. Rather, it's the balance of food intake and overall consistent carb intake. For example, someone can consume lots of healthy fruits and yet have an insulin imbalance. On the other hand, this diet eliminates citrus for hormonal balance, and I don't know of any evidence to support that," explains Mowrer.
This program has another tall order: to consume only organic meat and organic coffee. "This is an expensive requirement that many individuals do not have the means to purchase. And why? You certainly regulate hormones with conventional meats and a balanced diet," says Mowrer.
Before you jump into a diet that claims to "fix" your hormones, consider whether that is truly a viable reason for your weight or health issues. "Most people don't have a hormone imbalance; they have a lifestyle imbalance," says Mowrer. If you are concerned about a hormonal imbalance, you should speak to your doctor instead of relying on potentially damaging and restrictive fad diets. Instead, consume a diet rich in nutritious, whole foods and participate in regular physical activity for the best results—no need to eliminate foods or follow complicated diet plans.
Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Losing Weight. Updated August 17, 2020.