You may already know that caloric intake can affect weight gain and weight loss. But many other factors can affect appetite, food cravings, and fat storage, too. Hormones affect many of these factors, so your hormones can be a key player in weight management.
According to The Hormone Diet, there are ways you can reset these hormones through food to get them back to optimal levels and to help your body respond to them effectively.
However, is there research to support this diet, or is it based on the opinions of its creator?
This article is an in-depth review of The Hormone Diet.
“The Hormone Diet” is a book and diet program by Dr. Natasha Turner, a naturopathic doctor. Its primary focus is on hormone fluctuations that may negatively affect a person’s weight. It also focuses on other factors that can contribute to weight gain and other chronic diseases.
The Hormone Diet is a 6-week, three-step process designed to promote hormonal balance and an overall healthier body through diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, and detoxification. The diet regulates what you eat and also tells you the right time to eat to ensure maximum benefit to your hormones.
The book boasts of being the first diet book to emphasize the importance of hormonal balance among all the hormones that influence weight. It also claims to be the first to explain the lifestyle habits that can help boost hormones to burn fat. These include:
- managing stress
The diet aims for weight loss of up to 12 pounds, including water weight, in the first phase. It aims for about 2 pounds a week after that without calorie counting.
According to the author, following the entire protocol may help you optimize the levels of inflammation in your body as well as these hormones:
- dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
- gamma amino-butyric acid (GABA)
- growth hormone
- thyroid hormone
This part of the diet involves a 2-week “detoxification” process. You avoid eating:
- gluten-containing grains
- dairy products made from cow’s milk
- many oils
- artificial sweeteners
- red meat
- citrus fruits
Foods you can eat during this phase include:
- naturally gluten-free grains and starches
- most vegetables
- most fruits
- nuts and seeds other than peanuts
- plant milk
- dairy from sheep or goats
- certain oils
This phase also involves taking nutritional supplements. These include probiotics and anti-inflammatory products, like turmeric and fish oil.
In this phase, you incorporate some foods back into your diet while paying attention to how your body responds to them.
However, the diet recommends an ongoing avoidance of “hormone-hindering” foods. These include:
- high fructose corn syrup
- fish with high mercury levels
- non-organic meats
- non-organic coffee
The full list is in the book “The Hormone Diet.”
The second phase also involves ridding your diet of human-made foods, which include:
- processed foods
- artificial sweeteners
- refined grains
- foods that contain nitrates, such as cured meats
The author explains in the book that her diet approach is a “Glyci-Med” approach. This means she takes some aspects of a glycemic index diet (which is based on foods that don’t spike your blood sugar quickly) and the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet modeled after the traditional, olive oil-rich diet eaten in the Mediterranean (1,
The third phase focuses on entire physical and mental wellness through cardiovascular exercise and strength training. The diet plan of the second phase continues on into the third phase.
Both Phase 2 and Phase 3 allow some wiggle room for foods that don’t strictly adhere to the program, but the book details that you should be making Hormone Diet-approved choices at least 80% of the time.
In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest that highly processed foods — which are off-limits on this diet — contribute more to weight gain than whole, unprocessed foods. They are more calorie dense, and they may also indeed cause dysfunctions in hunger hormones that lead to weight gain (
Highly processed foods may contribute to insulin resistance, a condition in which the body starts to ignore the hormone insulin — which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
This can lead to weight gain as insulin levels increase to compensate for their diminished effectiveness since insulin also triggers fat storage (
What’s more, these foods can contain large amounts of added sugars. Consider limiting them in your diet whenever possible.
The diet takes a solid stance on weight loss and overall health, promoting natural, nutritious foods and regular exercise.
Also, the focus on mental health, stress management, and adequate sleep are all important components that can help you optimize your health, and that may also have effects on body weight-regulating hormones.
For example, high levels of the hormone cortisol are linked to increased abdominal fat. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone because it becomes elevated with stress.
Focusing on mental health, improving your sleep, and managing your stress may help reduce cortisol levels. However, you would need to have your cortisol tested before and after to know for sure (
It also de-emphasizes the importance of counting calories, which may make it seem more freeing than other diet programs for some people. It encourages you to eat often to prevent excessive hunger, and to eat to satiety.
Because it’s not unnecessarily restrictive in regard to calories, you may not experience rebound weight gain or a reduced metabolic rate (number of calories burned at rest) when you discontinue the diet — unlike some other programs that severely restrict calories (
Even without following The Hormone Diet specifically, eating whole and nutritious foods, limiting processed foods, and getting regular exercise will help you manage your weight not only in the immediate future but also long term.
However, there are some downsides to The Hormone Diet. Its focus on timing and testing may be unnecessarily burdensome for certain people.
Some people might not be able to keep up with a schedule of eating in intervals and constantly paying attention to their hormones. Having hormones tested is a complicated process that requires visits to the doctor, blood draws, and saliva tests. It costs both money and time.
Additionally, The Hormone Diet recommends several dietary supplements and advocates for only consuming organic meat and organic coffee. The cost of these items can add up, placing a financial burden on some people.
Before taking any dietary supplements or starting a new diet, be sure to consult a healthcare professional.
The Hormone Diet is a 6-week program that severely limits certain foods or food groups.
Because of its focus on eating whole, minimally processed foods and getting adequate sleep, physical activity, and mental health care, The Hormone Diet may help you lose weight.
It may even have some positive effects on your hormones, although you would need to have them checked before and after the diet to know for sure.
However, the diet can be over-restrictive and burdensome for many people.
For optimal health, you can take the best parts of this diet — like focusing on whole foods, moving more, getting plenty of sleep, and working on your mental health and stress management — and incorporate them in a sustainable way that works for you.