Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds:

 

For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.

His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most -- not the nutritional value of the food.

The premise held up: On his "convenience store diet," he shed 27 pounds in two months.

 

But the highlight, for LW-ers, comes at the end:

 

Despite his weight loss, Haub feels ambivalence.

"I wish I could say the outcomes are unhealthy. I wish I could say it's healthy. I'm not confident enough in doing that. That frustrates a lot of people. One side says it's irresponsible. It is unhealthy, but the data doesn't say that."

New to LessWrong?

New Comment
17 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:30 PM

Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.

Well, geez. I wonder why that part didn't make it into the article title(s)?

Yeah, that explains a lot. There are three things wrong with a twinkie diet: no micronutrients, no protein, and oscillating blood sugar/energy availability. All three of these are addressed - the first two directly, the third by eating small portions every three hours.

What the article doesn't mention, is how he felt.

I'm currently wrapping up a diet to lose the 50+ pounds I've gained in the last 20 years. This process has reinforced the connection between what I eat and how I feel.

When I eat the "wrong" foods such as cookies, donuts, candy, hamburgers with fries, and pizza, I will feel groggy, dizzy and I will get migraines. I will also have trouble thinking clearly and with focusing on any task. These affects can build over several meals. When I am having trouble being productive, these affects are usually a prime factor.

Exactly.

It is unhealthy, but the data doesn't say that.

I don't see what the difficulty is. The data measured weight loss, and he lost weight, and cholesterol improved as a result of reducing meat. The data didn't measure digestive function, fat versus muscle, bone strength, long-term risk of cancer of the colon, scurvy, or any of the things we'd expect this diet to affect. If these had been measured, then the data would have supported the claim he wanted to make.

For LWers there's no story here.

If you are still around, would you mind sharing how you are doing with the Hacker's diet; if you still feel the same way about junk food; and what your diet is like these days?

The problem with dieting isn't calorie-counting or healthy eating. It's not feeling hungry while eating only as many calories as you need.

I've experience two types of hunger during this year of dieting, a normal hunger and a craving hunger. With normal hunger I feel good, I can focus on my work, and it is easy to wait for my scheduled meal. With the craving hunger I usually feel poor. I have trouble focusing on anything. I will crave something specific like a hamburger or a donut.

The controlling factor for this appears to be what I've eaten previously. If I eat a donut for breakfast I will crave a hamburger for lunch. If I eat a hamburger for lunch I will crave a soda or candy as a snack. If I ate any of these foods on Monday, I will crave similar food on Tuesday.

If I avoid these foods for a few days, my weight loss becomes easy to manage. I can better judge my level of calorie restriction and make fine adjustments. I can also make fine adjustments to what I eat to optimize for how I feel.

I was surprised to find this wasn't a problem for me at all. I've lost 25+ lbs since the end of July and I've actually discovered that my stomach adjusts to the smaller portions and I start finding it very difficult to exceed my calorie limit. I ordered a Chipotle burrito a few weeks ago and only ate half of it. A year ago I would have eaten the whole thing. I wasn't restraining myself, I just felt full (and I had eaten little else that day). This kind of thing is always happening to me now.

The problem is, if you do break your diet your stomach adjusts again and you'll want more food for the next few meals.

(If this stomach adjusting thing is all in my head, please let me keep the placebo)

Likewise. I made some minor changes to my diet -- smaller typical portions, more meals through the day, more fruits for snacks instead of junk food -- and over the past ten months or so, I've lost about 20 pounds without feeling hungry. I can eat whatever I want without counting calories, and my pants are getting loose around the waist. It's damn peculiar.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

I'm experiencing the same issue. Small to moderate size meals will fill me up. On weekdays when I'm only eating a single meal, dinner, this can be an issue for me. I've had to add occasional snacks to ensure that I don't eat too little.

I'm confused. Doesn't "dieting" imply losing weight, and therefore you should be eating fewer calories than you actually need?

"Dieting" describes any process of tracking and restricting your diet. For instance, I have type 1 diabetes, so I'm on a diet worked out together with my clinical dietician, which is separate from any weight loss issues. Eating vegeterian, eating healthy, etc. are all diets.

Secondly, when dieting to lose weight, you normally eat as many calories as you need - not less. You'll lose weight as long as you stop eating more than you need to get to your target weight.

"Dieting" describes any process of tracking and restricting your diet

Yes of course you are right, I should have remembered that.

Once you are at target weight, generally the process you use to maintain target weight is also called "dieting." (Generally we hear of it as losing weight because most people are over their target weight, and require higher willpower expenditures when they are.)

Be careful about generalizing from one example.

I've read a fair number of accounts from people who were told repeatedly that there was a weight and/or calorie ration which would reliably improve their lives, but which didn't.

Kudos for the nutrition professor for not saying that what seemed to have worked for him (two months isn't a long run test, but he probably didn't feel like crap doing it-- some people would) isn't the solution for everyone.

Agreed. I would suffer from non-stop migraines if I tried the diet as described in the article.