When it comes to dieting for weight loss, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. That's why diets that promise personalization to your unique body, like the Hormone Diet, can seem so tempting.
But is there any real science behind this eating approach, and can it really help you lose weight? Here, we'll dig into the research on this trendy diet so you can decide whether it's truly worth your time.
What Is the Hormone Diet?
Hormone diets in general are based on the premise that your hormones are "off," and that this is the driving factor behind your weight gain. The fix, according to this plan, is to change your eating habits, which will alter your hormones, "reset" your body and resolve your weight issues.
This idea isn't entirely wrong — your diet is most likely the reason you aren't losing the weight you want. But only a trip to the doctor and some extensive blood tests can confirm if there is truly something wrong with your hormone levels. And even then, it wouldn't be clear how exactly your hormones were influencing your weight.
The principles behind the hormone diet are not new, however. They include cutting out junk food and encouraging healthier whole foods. But the diet does nix foods that have never been shown to have any effect on hormone regulation, such as gluten, dairy, peanuts and citrus fruit. All of these foods contribute necessary nutrients to the diet, including B vitamins, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin C.
The Hormone Diet by Natasha Turner, ND, is likely the most well-known when it comes to this type of diet. Her approach includes a three-step process:
- Step 1: Renew and Revitalize. This step focuses on sleep, stress and removing certain foods from your diet for two weeks.
- Step 2: Replenish Your Body and Balance Your Hormones. This step dives deep into nutrition and supplements.
- Step 3: Restore Strength, Vigor and Radiance. This last step focuses on the exercise needed to help you lose weight and feel better.
Is The Hormone Diet Safe?
Aside from the initial two-week restriction, the Hormone Diet can safely be followed by healthy adults. At its heart, the diet is really a combo of the Mediterranean diet, a classic diet for diabetes and the glycemic index diet — all rolled into one with a fancy new name.
There is nothing unsafe about this diet if you are paying attention to how your body feels. If you start to feel sluggish, irritable, depressed or have side effects such as joint pain, headaches, hair loss, brittle nails or extremely dry skin, you should take yourself to the doctor to check for nutrient deficiencies.
What Can You Eat on the Hormone Diet?
For the first two weeks, you're encouraged to avoid the following:
- Peanuts (to include oils, butters, powder)
- Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit
Here is what a sample day —during the first two weeks — would look like on the hormone diet:
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 1 banana with 2 tablespoons almond butter
- Classic Hummus with carrot sticks and sliced cucumbers
- 1 cup berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and/or strawberries)
Beginning week three, you can start adding these foods back in one at a time to see how your body reacts.
Does the Hormone Diet Work for Weight Loss?
U.S. News and World Report ranks the Hormone Diet 34th out of 41 weight-loss diets — not a glowing endorsement. Since the diet is so restrictive and you are cutting out many processed foods and sugar, you are likely to lose weight in the first two weeks, but it's not clear how much you will lose or whether you will continue to lose weight after those first couple weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that healthy weight loss occurs at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per week, which is achievable with a diet such as this. However, it is not the initial weight loss that's typically the struggle when you try a new diet — it's keeping the weight off once you start eating normally again. This is why most diets tend to fail.
Most importantly, there is no research to support the claims that the hormone diet can help you lose weight, or indeed that it has any substantial or lasting effects on your health.
There is no research to support the claims that the hormone diet can help you lose weight, or indeed that it has any substantial or lasting effects on your health.
Pros and Cons of the Hormone Diet
1. It promotes healthier eating habits: While this is a food-restrictive diet, it is not a calorie-restricted diet, and excessively restricting calories is not effective for weight loss. This diet aims to change the types of food you're eating rather than the amount of food, which can be helpful when it comes to long-term healthier eating habits. Plus, after the first two weeks, the diet is much less restrictive and much more doable for the general dieter who is seeking a healthier eating pattern. Focusing on whole foods and cutting out excess sugar and ultra-processed food is ideal when looking to drop a few pounds.
2. The focus extends beyond food: In addition, the diet promotes the inclusion of daily physical activity and getting enough sleep, both of which have been shown to aid in weight loss.
1. It excludes some healthy foods: One of the biggest negatives of this diet is the exclusion of some foods, while encouraging the intake of supplements and protein bars — both of which are completely unnecessary when you eat a balanced diet. If you restrict these foods for long periods of time, you could see deficiencies in important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins.
2. It doesn't teach proper portion sizes: While the diet restricts the type of food on your plate, it doesn't offer specific guidelines when it comes to portion sizes, aka how much you're eating. If you're not monitoring your intake, you may end up overeating, which can sabotage your weight-loss goals.
What Diet to Try Instead
While a diet to "reset" your hormones may not work, there are several options when it comes to diets that have been scientifically proven to help with weight loss. If you're looking for a healthy eating pattern and something sustainable, try the Mediterranean diet or the DASH diet, both of which are inclusive of all foods in moderation and emphasize a whole-food and plant-based eating pattern.
The Bottom Line
There is no evidence to support that this diet can manipulate any hormones in your body other than insulin, which is heavily influenced by diet. Just as you are not able to target specific areas in your body for weight loss — for example, you can't just lose weight in your thighs — there's no research to support that you can "target" your hormones through the food you eat.