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An Interview With Dr. Cathy Wong, Author of The Inside Out Diet

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At age 35 and feeling healthier now than ever before, Cathy Wong, N.D., C.N.S., naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, mother, and the About.com guide to Alternative Medicine, has published her first book – The Inside Out Diet: 4 Weeks to Natural Weight Loss, Total Body Health, and Radiance.

Why did you become a naturopathic doctor and nutritionist?

In my last year of college, I was planning to do a doctorate in clinical psychology, but in my spare time, I started learning about naturopathy, acupuncture and nutrition. It made so much sense. These gentle therapies address the underlying problem and help people feel better, rather than worse. I met people who had been helped when nothing else had worked. It also helped me improve my own health. After several months, I knew this was the right career for me and I cancelled my psychology admissions interviews. I haven’t looked back since.

I graduated from the University of Toronto and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. I also completed a two year internship in acupuncture.

Being the daughter of a Chinese father and a Korean mother, were you influenced by Eastern medicine’s benefits?

Certainly. I grew up knowing about Chinese medicine and acupuncture. My mom would say, “Here, take this,” but I didn’t understand its intricacies. I had some basic exposure.

How long have you been the guide to the Alternative Medicine section of About.com?

I've been writing for About.com since 2000.

What will The Inside Out Diet do that no other diet can?

A lot of diets can help people shed weight temporarily. But it doesn’t last and in the meantime people don’t feel good. They may be skinnier but they don’t feel or look healthy. That’s because when weight is shed, fat-soluble chemicals are released into the body. This makes you feel worse, interferes with hormone balance, metabolism, and actually impedes your ability to lose weight. That’s why you hit the plateau and the cravings and weight come back.

The Inside Out Diet bypasses these problems because it supports your body’s natural function. It's a gentle detox diet that supports the liver and gets rid of those chemicals, which means you’ll not only lose weight and keep it off, you’ll also feel and look better.

Why begin on the inside with the liver?

The liver is directly associated with metabolism and weight loss. It’s responsible for metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbs; it produces hormones, regulates blood sugar, detoxifies unwanted chemicals and toxins, and regulates cholesterol. Most people don’t realize just how important the liver is and why detoxifying it and supporting it during weight loss is crucial.

How can I tell if my liver is not functioning optimally?

Signs of poor liver function include being tired all the time, skin problems, not sleeping well, weight fluctuation, excess cravings, an ache in the abdomen on the upper right side, PMS, and grogginess in the morning.

In Chinese medicine, poor liver function is associated with negative emotions – being irritable and angry, stressed, or unable to concentrate. Conventional medicine doesn’t always identify the connection between emotions and the physical body.

But even people who aren't experiencing these things but just want to lose weight or improve their health can benefit from the diet.

Why do you recommend cleansing the colon by eating artichokes?

Artichokes have long been known as a liver food. They stimulate the flow of bile, which helps rid the body of fat and toxins in the liver. They're also a gentle laxative and can reduce gallstone formation.

But there are also many other colon cleansing food options besides artichokes on The Inside Out Diet. Examples are apples, pears, beans, grapefruit, and newer foods like shirataki noodles.

What are the most important things I can do to detox my body?

First, avoid certain foods temporarily. In the book, I describe how to do it, explain why it will help you detox, and show you how to reintroduce the foods back into your diet to identify any problem foods that might be triggering cravings and other symptoms.

Second, eat vegetables and fruit. One component of The Inside Out Diet is devoted to the benefits of specific fruits and vegetables. They are categorized by function and color; their pigments are the active components. Eat a variety from the different groups in your daily diet. They not only help with weight loss, but help to detox the body.

Third, add fiber to the diet. Fiber detoxifies the liver by sticking to toxins and moving them out of the body. If they're not physically carried out, these poisons become reabsorbed in the body. Fiber also keeps you full and helps regulate blood sugar; it should be in every weight loss diet.

A newer colon cleansing food I recommend is shirataki noodles – they're very low in calories and carbs, but have fiber. They're very beneficial and expand in the stomach so you feel full for hours.

How much fiber a day should I get?

The typical American eats three to four grams of soluble fiber per day. The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends 10 to 25 grams. I personally eat more than 25 grams daily by eating a variety of fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.

What are you eating tonight?

Tonight, I’m preparing a stir fry with chicken breast, red peppers, and red onions over brown rice with kale.

Will your husband eat this too?

He loves the stir fry but has been slower accepting brown rice.

That’s what goes on in my home. Sometimes I mix a little white rice with the brown, but I prefer the basmati type.

How can I jumpstart weight loss?

Rapid weight loss is a burden on the body. More fat loss means more toxins to detoxify. Having a detox diet component is a good way to start weight loss. Often, toxins released impair thyroid function, metabolism, cause hormone and blood sugar imbalances, affect insulin, or even result in a low level of inflammation in the body. There have been a number of research studies showing this and I talk about them in the book. When weight loss is rapid, there are even more negative effects on body. Sometimes this is only noticed later, after weight loss stops and you hit a plateau.

How much weight loss a week is safe?

You could safely lose up to two pounds a week.

How did you personally experience weight loss with The Inside Out Diet?

As a college student, I ate poorly, gained weight, and was feeling awful both inside and out. It’s like I was going through the motions, but needing coffee and sweets to get through the day.

When I began a detox diet, it made me feel wonderful, and I noticed improvement almost immediately. Indigestion and bloating disappeared. Then I began to lose weight. Sometimes with a diet, people think the harder the better. This isn’t true – a gentle detox is actually better and more effective.

After working with clients and continuing to see success, I tailored this diet — The Inside Out Diet — to be an effective weight loss solution for almost anyone. And it's fully researched with over 300 studies referenced.

There are 72 recipes in the book. Most were designed by Sabra Ricci, a Maui-based chef who cooks for many well-known celebrities. She's primarily known though for her ability to create healthy but tasty recipes.

The Inside Out Diet also has a section on nutritional supplements. At About.com, I often receive questions about various supplements and their effects on the body. One I run into quite regularly is hoodia. I talk about the research that has been done on the various supplements and potential side effects.

Other new items that I think people will be interested in are:

    Honeybush Tea—a kind of tea with a natural sweetness but has no calories. I enjoy it, others will too.

    Erythritol—a sweetener with no bitterness. It’s a sugar alcohol that causes no indigestion, and is becoming a very popular sugar substitute.

Cathy, I’m sure The Inside Out Diet will continue to be a success. Enjoy every minute with your new baby.

Thank you Kelly.

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About Kelly Jad'on

  • Martin

    I have struggled myself for years with all kind of diets: Atkins, low carb, low calorie, you name it. I could lose weight and keep myself thin only until I changed my habits. I use to sleep 4-5 hours, I had large dinners, drank a lot of sodas. Once I was to fat I got to a strict diet, I could lose some weight, and within 3 to 6 month I got the weight back and may be a year later I was heavier. What finally help me: avoid processed meals, I felt great, I was able to sleep 7 hour every night. I had less hunger and I had more energy. I still struggle with the portions and I miss burritos, but my health is my top priority. My kids are small and they need a healthy father.

  • Kristina Taylor

    Detoxifying one’s body is not another health fad as the OC has implied. There is a growing body of scientifically grounded information available, all one needs to do is simply research. More informal “evidence” denoting the favorable outcomes of said approach to health is also available and has been for centuries. 😉 Yes, western medicine is slow to appreciate the benefits of detoxification and it’s vital role in aiding the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Maybe that’s why so many people are busy searching the the internet for information on natural medicine.

    After having acquired in advanced degree in the sciences, and as a current M3 student, I can say in full knowledge that toxins and metabolic waste that cannot be removed from our bodies are stored in the liver AND in adipose tissue. This toxic overload may be the reason why conventional weight loss efforts do not work for some people. Furthermore, this is why detoxifying is often highly effective in achieving weight loss.


    Being a registered nurse, and Rolfing practitioner I am an advocate for weight loss and healthy habits in general. However, I am always skeptical of practitioners promoting “detox” as a quick way to get healthy. It seems “detox” is a catch-all phrase for making healthy shifts in eating, or doing a low calorie fast (like the lemon juice/maple syrup one). However, it has very little basis in the Western medicine approach.

    Detox is really a misnomer. We all poses kidneys, intestines, and a liver. When these organs function properly, our body rids itself of waste. The idea that my adipose tissue (fat) holds onto all these creepy/garbage like chemicals offends my critical thinking abilities. Nothing in this interview convinced me that this book isn’t just riding the wave of “detox” frenzy – largely promoted in the yogic and naturopathic community, making up stories about things that don’t exist.

    Why don’t we just fess up and call it eating healthy and getting exercise? I would’ve appreciated more discussion around the book’s premise with “detox” – b/c I’ve seen it so misused in alternative healthcare today.