Finally A Diet You Can Easily Stick To!
Professor Haub’s got it right. For ten weeks the Kansas State nutrition professor reduced his calories, resulting in a 27-pound weight loss, and an 8 ½ point decrease in percent body fat (from his overweight 33.4%). And he achieved this consuming 2/3 of his calories from junk food. Yes, a diet made up almost exclusively of forbidden foods. Doritos, Twinkies and Hostess cakes, Oreos and sweetened cereals to name a few. Oh, and about 18 calories per day of baby style carrots, in addition to some nutrient packed supplements.
To me, the guy is brilliant. His actions and the results fly in the face of what the general food obsessed dieter believes to be true, demonstrating that it all comes down to calories.
What happens to the Twinkie-restricted?
Beth came to see me this week with a history of binge eating, with periods of bulimia for over 24 years. Her pattern was to follow the Overeaters Anonymous (OA) grey sheet—a rigid, restrictive intake of carbohydrate types and amounts. Sweets have absolutely no place on this plan. Even fruit was limited to one piece daily. Go figure.
Then after a daytime of successful adherence to the plan she would binge at night on guess what? The forbidden foods. She’d feel so terrible she would start the next day determined to restrict, to make up for the damage. And this would only perpetuate the cycle. Yet when I pointed out this pattern, suggesting she change her rules and liberalize her daytime intake of the very foods she binged on, she looked stunned—and frightened. In spite of the fact that her current strategy failed her, she clung to it like a lifeboat, with a faith that maybe this time it might save her. And she’s been stuck here for 24 years.
Now back to the Twinkie diet and weight management. From a weight stand point your body couldn’t care less where your calories come from—carbohydrate, protein, or fat, the three building blocks of all foods. Nor does the form of the food matter. High or low glycemic index, high fiber or processed, it all comes down to calories.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you only eat Twinkies, so to speak, because for health, we also need a variety of nutrients. Those three building blocks I mentioned, as well as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And then there’s the benefit of antioxidants and polyphenols, chemical substances which occur in foods and help prevent disease.
So what’s the benefit of Twinkies, then? We certainly don’t need them, nutritionally speaking. But allowing them as part of a balanced diet doesn’t have to interfere with energy balance and may even help. Because you won’t feel deprived and dissatisfied choosing only those foods you perceive as “good” for you. Being flexible with your food choices helps shift your thoughts and eating behaviors.
Instead of feeling it’s “now or never” when you have a sweet or chips, giving yourself permission allows you to have just as much as you really need at the moment. Because you know it’s going to be there later. And over time, you’ll start to trust that eating these foods does not cause weight gain, as Prof. Haub so skillfully demonstrated.
Yes, legalizing foods, truly giving yourself permission to eat even those items with little nutritional value ultimately helps weight regulation.
Think about it. How do you feel if you have something you think you shouldn’t be eating? Feel like you’ve ruined it? Does the “what the heck effect” take over, leading to continued eating and overeating? Eat foods that satisfy and you’ll stop searching around, trying to fill the void with everything else.
Clients sometimes present feeling frustrated with their inability to manage their weight. They state they “know what to eat”, may select healthy foods, and are left puzzled that their weight continues to climb. Just as the Twinkie diet doesn’t cause weight gain, a diet full of healthy foods doesn’t ensure a healthy weight. It’s still about how much you take in. Again, it all comes down to balancing your needs (for stabilizing, losing, or gaining, depending on you), and your intake.
Look for an upcoming post on practical strategies to legalize the forbidden foods—without overdoing it.