Twinkie diet: a breakthrough for dieters?

twinkie-diet-professor

Image via CNN Health

 A nutrition professor’s “unhealthy” Twinkie cake diet has created quite a storm lately. I saw a couple of tweets mention it yesterday, and then this morning, one of the blogs featured on Freshly Pressed on WordPress talked about the diet. In her post, Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life says:

“The man significantly cut his recommended daily calories…OF COURSE he’s going to lose weight!!!

Intrigued, I read through the article on CNN Health …and realized a couple of things…

  • Mark Haub is a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University who undertook this diet as a class experiment for a month. When he saw the benefits of the diet, he continued it until he reached a normal body mass index.
  • While on the diet:
    • He shed 27 pounds in two months
    • His body mass index went from 28.8 (overweight) to 24.9 (normal)
    • His “bad” cholesterol (LDL) dropped 20% and his “good” cholesterol (HDL) increased 20%
    • He reduced the level of triglycerides, a form of fat, by 39%
  • Haub consumed less than 1,800 calories a day on the diet, about 800 calories less than a man of Haub’s pre-dieting size usually consumes — 2,600 calories. Such a drastic reduction may not be “healthy,” but then apparently, eating only junk, processed food is “unhealthy” too!
  • Another interesting fact — to control the number of calories he consumed, Haub avoided meat, whole grains and fruits. Once he added meat into the diet, his cholesterol level increased.

Haub had set out to prove that in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food. As the above markers show, his premise held up.

Haub says: “That’s where the head scratching comes. What does that mean? Does that mean I’m healthier? Or does it mean how we define health from a biology standpoint, that we’re missing something?”

Before his Twinkie diet, Haubb tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables and occasional treats like pizza. But he says that there seemed to be a disconnect between eating healthy and being healthy. “It may not be the same. I was eating healthier, but I wasn’t healthy. I was eating too much.”

This indicates that what really matters is portion control and moderation, rather than total removal and denial.

“I just think it’s unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits. It may be healthy, but not realistic.” — Mark Haub

To all the nay-sayers and people who are up in arms at this unhealthy diet, I say don’t look at what he ate, look at what he proved!

Will I go out and start buying processed junk and throw out the veggies and fruits? No! But the next time I feel like some indulgence, I won’t feel so guilty no more!

Here’s what I learnt from Haub’s breakthrough experiment:

  • Count. Your. Calories.
  • Reduce meat consumption.
  • Be aware of portion control — just because something is healthy, doesn’t mean you can eat it in huge quantities!
  • Junk doesn’t deserve the bad rep it’s got — consumed knowledgably, it ain’t gonna kill ya!

Of course, a much longer-term study will need to be carried out to find out what affects the lack of fruits and vegetables could have on long-term health. In the meanwhile, the next time you’re dieting, if you really feel like that packet of chips, reach out for it. Just be aware of the number of calories you consumed!

So, what do you think about the Twinkie diet?

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16 Comments

  1. I would say that it’s interesting even though most of it ‘sounds’ wrong to me. I believe a big part of dieting is also sustainability- not just calorie control and thus loosing weight… I feel there is little thought in this diet in the area of sustainability…. Reducing fruit intake? Can’t do that!
    … But then I am not a fan of fried stuff, they make me feel sick… Maybe this is just an automatic reaction…

    • I agree, you have to able to sustain a diet. When you’re working to lose weight, you cut down your calorie intake quite a bit initially, but once the loss starts and your fitness levels improve, you add calories back on to maintain your energy levels. At all stages, though, calories count — even when you’re on weight maintanence. What I believe this diet experiment shows is that it’s ok to eat junk sometimes. I’m not going to throw out the fruits and bring in the junk — I can’t live without fruits — but the next time I have a small bag of chips, I’m not going to beat myself up over it either.

  2. cutting & controlling the calories is what triggered the weight loss- plain & simple. but it is also a good exercise in not bashing ourselves for a “slip up” food. MODERATION is the key : )

    • Exactly! That’s why I think that it’s a breakthrough diet! Count your calories, eat in moderation (even if all you’re eating is health food) and don’t guilt out over the occasional slip-up.

    • Less and better foods – check; excercise – check; only Twinkies – not really. The prof ate some other stuff too — and I would certainly not recommend anyone to follow the diet to a T. What I would take away from the experiment, though, is the fact that junk is not bad for you, provided you count your calories and don’t consume more than you should.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this. I think he made a great point about how overly-focused our society is on “junk food” and the manufacturers of the food making us all fat and sick. Really, a fast food meal once or twice a week is not the end of the world if you’re balancing it out in other healthy ways.

    • Absolutely! That is the most important point of the experiment…and so relevant for dieters too. After all, almost all of us enjoy junk food, and sometimes, there is no choice but to opt for fast food…doesn’t mean you can’t still control or lose that weight!

  5. I don’t think I could survive on twinkies alone……not a sweets person at all. But it is interesting to see that it doesn’t matter what you eat, just as long as the calories are below the recommendations, you should see a loss in weight. Interesting! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I’ll be back to see you – enjoying your posts!!

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