The Twinkie Diet
November 8, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe


 
In before "It's the calories, stupid." ?
posted by cavalier at 1:38 PM on November 8, 2010


Reminds me of what my husband did once: he ate nothing but gummy bears for a week and lost 10 lbs. Yet the trick was... he would eat a hand full when he got hungry, and no more. And then forget about food. The last time I tried calorie counting, I felt like all I could think about was food. I think the trick is to reduce calories, but at the same time, not obsessively count them and think about them.
posted by strixus at 1:40 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Twinkie Diet may help you lose weight, but it will also cause you to assassinate city councilmen.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:40 PM on November 8, 2010 [73 favorites]


Haub's "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20 percent and his "good" cholesterol, or HDL, increased by 20 percent. He reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent.

However his frosting quotient is off the charts.
posted by device55 at 1:40 PM on November 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


Thinking about eating nothing but Twinkies for 10 weeks is enough to kill my appetite.
posted by duvatney at 1:44 PM on November 8, 2010 [19 favorites]


But gained 27lbs in impacted colon waste.

Diet of champions.
posted by stormpooper at 1:44 PM on November 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Law of conservation of mass upheld!
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:46 PM on November 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


But gained 27lbs in impacted colon waste.

Diet of champions.
posted by stormpooper at 4:44 PM on November 8


That's no moon...
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:46 PM on November 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


But gained 27lbs in impacted colon waste.

posted by stormpooper


Epony-... oh I don't even want the details.
posted by hippybear at 1:47 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


While it's not exactly Twinkie-based, this is broadly the substance of my own diet. Bluntly, I eat like crap, but because I don't actually eat very much of that crap, I lose weight.

*eats hobnob*
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:50 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Well, losing weight is easy:

- Switching to water from softdrinks and losing 10 pounds: Saves 30 Dollar a months on your Credit Card

- Stopping to eat greasy fast food, switching to healthy food and losing 15 pounds: Additional 100 bucks on your Credit Card.

- Becoming gluten intolerant and hoping to stop losing weight? Priceless

There are some things money can't buy. For everything else there is Mater Card.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:51 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hurf durf twinkie eater?
posted by axiom at 1:51 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm counting calories myself now and am loving this. I generally avoid sugary sweets just because they don't fill me up enough for the calories, but he's totally right that just cutting out all snacks is counterproductive. Last week I ate two homemade cookies a night for several nights and still lost 2 lbs.
posted by rouftop at 1:53 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, a friend of mine told me about this a while back. I just kept saying "yeah, sure, but it's just stupid though."
Cutting out sugars on a diet is one of those "It's a good rule of thumb" things. It's like losing two pounds a week isn't any safer than losing five or ten as some people erronously think, it's just a good rule of thumb to shoot for.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:59 PM on November 8, 2010


Aren't twinkies undigestible kinda like celery?
posted by Ad hominem at 2:01 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, who would have thought that eating less calories than you burn in a day will make you lose weight?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:04 PM on November 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


misleading title. he didn't lose the weight by eating twinkies, he lost the weight by putting in less calories than he burned. it could have been any food. bad form op, linked bloggers and college professor.
posted by krautland at 2:05 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


What would the negative results be if you managed to get all of your nutrients in pill form, maintained a healthy daily calorie count, but ate terrible processed shit as a way to keep your stomach from complaining? Over, say... like 2 years.
posted by codacorolla at 2:07 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


While it's not exactly Twinkie-based, this is broadly the substance of my own diet. Bluntly, I eat like crap, but because I don't actually eat very much of that crap, I lose weight.

Yeah, me too. I eat all day -- crackers, hummus, raisins, ice cream, rice cakes, apples, jelly beans etc, but I don't eat much else.

I wonder if at some point the bad stuff in the Twinkies will outweigh the benefits of lost weight. His cholesterol went down a lot because of lost weight, but at some point he'll stop losing, and then will the crappiness of the twinkies creep up on him?
posted by bluefly at 2:09 PM on November 8, 2010


Hey, he also mixed it up:

To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.

posted by bearwife at 2:09 PM on November 8, 2010




If I hear one more story about some stat-grinding min-max spreadsheet nerd is busily charting his next stunt diet into the next decade while carefully listing the size color and clarity of their daily shit I am going to beat them to death with my cast iron pan and serve them for dinner.
posted by The Whelk at 2:11 PM on November 8, 2010 [54 favorites]


Diabetes, here I come.
posted by morganannie at 2:11 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was no control for this. We don't know what the weight loss or cholesterol changes would have been if he had eaten all organic vegetables, and hand-fed chickens over the same period of time. This is just beyond useless. What was the value here?
posted by kellyblah at 2:11 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Holy shit, who would have thought that eating less calories than you burn in a day will make you lose weight?

I think that's rather the point, demonstrated in as extreme a manner as possible.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:13 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Sno-Balls? Sno-Balls? Sno Balls? Where's the f*cking Twinkies?" - Tallahassee
posted by Nauip at 2:14 PM on November 8, 2010 [11 favorites]




Interesting that there's no mention of his insulin resistance, which actually turns out to be pretty damn important in the long run...
posted by stoneweaver at 2:15 PM on November 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


Seriously, the point of this was to show that no matter how crappy the food you eat, the quantity of calories matters more than the quality of food if your goal is to lose weight.

A lot of otherwise reasonable people seem to believe in some pretty out-there hocus pocus wrt to weight loss alchemy. That is why his diet had to be so "stunt-y".
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


However his frosting quotient is off the charts.

Imagine this Twinkie represents the normal amount of frosting in the New York Area...
posted by condour75 at 2:18 PM on November 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


I am tempted to admire the strength of will in those who stunt-diet in this way, except then I imagine going to bed night after night with the chemical tang of processed sponge cake lingering in my mouth, and conclude that the only way I could do this is by becoming a raging blind-drunk alcoholic.

Heck, that would probably work even better, if I stuck to hard liquor.
posted by emjaybee at 2:19 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


no matter how crappy the food you eat, the quantity of calories matters more than the quality of food if your goal is to lose weight.

But that's a fucking stupid goal, frankly. If you're just trying to decrease the number of pounds you register on a scale at the expense of all other factors, you should just amputate a fucking leg and be done with it.

BAM! Thirty pounds lighter! In your face, Weight Watchers!
posted by dersins at 2:20 PM on November 8, 2010 [34 favorites]


Holy shit, who would have thought that eating less calories than you burn in a day will make you lose weight?

You'd be surprised at how many people are violently opposed to this idea. Many people will get very, very angry with you if you say this. I've learned to keep my Hacker Diet love to myself.
posted by bonecrusher at 2:20 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


but ate terrible processed shit as a way to keep your stomach from complaining?

Just, uhh, as a side note. Eating terrible processed shit actually might NOT keep your stomach from complaining. Not mine, anyway.
posted by kingbenny at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2010


A lot of otherwise reasonable people seem to believe in some pretty out-there hocus pocus wrt to weight loss alchemy. That is why his diet had to be so "stunt-y".

For some of us, there is definitely more hocus pocus to it than simply "eat less, exercise more." Medications and medical conditions (sometimes undiagnosed) can cause it to be well-nigh impossible to take off even 1 lb.

Its just this easy for him? Terrific. Meanwhile, I spend 90 minutes a day doing aerobic exercise and eat salad salad salad and never lose a pound. If you know the magic words, I'm open, because my doctors clearly don't.
posted by anastasiav at 2:22 PM on November 8, 2010 [11 favorites]


Hmm, I guess my Hostess orange Cupcakes aren't going to kill me afterall! :)
posted by Lynsey at 2:24 PM on November 8, 2010


You'd be surprised at how many people are violently opposed to this idea. Many people will get very, very angry with you if you say this. I've learned to keep my Hacker Diet love to myself.

Oh, I'm not surprised at all. Well, I am surprised, because people that violently oppose this shock me, but I know it is true. They were on full display in a recent, related, thread's "derail."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:24 PM on November 8, 2010


Are you eating Little Debbie again?
Yup
That slut
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:25 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Halfway through the CNN article on the subject, it is revealed that Haub’s entire diet didn’t consist solely of junk food, but he also took a multivitamin pill, drank a protein shake, and ate some vegetables each day.

So how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:25 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I spend 90 minutes a day doing aerobic exercise and eat salad salad salad and never lose a pound.

You are probably not counting your calories correctly. And salads (esp ones you don't make yourself) can be surprisingly absurdly fucking high in calories.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:26 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


he shed 27 pounds in two months.

The only problem is that's all he's going to shed. Calorie counting diets are good for 30 pounds. Then your metabolism adjusts to whatever your caloric intake is. After that, exercise is required to boost the metabolism. And then the quality of the calories is everything unless you want to cause heart damage.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:26 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is just a stunty way to illustrate a point that doesn't seem to be getting through to dieters. It's all about quantity...not quality. That said, he'd be better off buying his dessert cakes from a local bakery to avoid all the preservatives and other chemical additives.
Also...message to Dwight Howard: When your delts are bigger than your head you look kinda goofy.
posted by rocket88 at 2:28 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only problem is that's all he's going to shed.

No, if after that, you've lost that much and run into a brick wall, you readjust your intake versus expenditure.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:28 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the density, stupid. Unprocessed foods aren't magically better, but they are less calorie dense. We have traded vegetables, water, meat that had to be chased down, and grains that had to be manually processed in exchange for buckets of starch, fried food, and syrupy fizz that is delivered or available without getting out of one's car.

In the words of Michael Pollan: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

(Sure, Mike. Just after I finish this plate of cheese and quince pa-- ooh, is that port?)
posted by notion at 2:31 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


When your delts are bigger than your head you look kinda goofy.

But your Zaphod Beeblebrox Hallowe'en costume is kickass.
posted by Shepherd at 2:32 PM on November 8, 2010


If all that matters is dropping pounds, um, that's sorta weird. I thought the idea behind dieting was to get healthy, which involves a lot more than just losing a few pounds.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:32 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know someone on the wine diet. In a few short months consuming little else but cheap wine he lost 70 some pounds, and now he is working on losing his sanity.
posted by caddis at 2:32 PM on November 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


Weight Watchers actually cites the First Law of Thermodynamics in their introductory materials to prove the point that the only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn in a day. It wasn't the justification I was expecting, but I was pleased to see it.
posted by Tesseractive at 2:35 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I could imagine eating nothing but Twinkies every day for two months I'd probably lose 30 pounds regardless because I'd sooner starve.
posted by blucevalo at 2:37 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am considering copyrighting my Moon Pie and RC Cola Get Slim Quick Diet...
posted by jim in austin at 2:38 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


All the "duh, fewer calorie"-ness aside, I find it kind of amusing that a dude who has dedicated his life to the study and science of nutrition had an extra 30lbs to lose.
posted by phunniemee at 2:39 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Its just this easy for him? Terrific. Meanwhile, I spend 90 minutes a day doing aerobic exercise and eat salad salad salad and never lose a pound. If you know the magic words, I'm open, because my doctors clearly don't.

The magic word is Zonisamide, but believe me you don't want to go there.
posted by The Bellman at 2:39 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought the idea behind dieting was to get healthy, which involves a lot more than just losing a few pounds.

The best way to instantly get magically healthy, aside from quitting smoking, is to not weigh more than you should.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:39 PM on November 8, 2010


the only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you burn in a day.
Not quite--you have to absorb fewer calories than you burn in a day. That's why Atkins (and laxatives) works. That's why two people eating exactly the same foods and doing exactly the same amount of exercise may have different results.

But, yes, if you do, in fact, consume fewer calories than you burn, you will, you must, lose weight.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:42 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


You are probably not counting your calories correctly. And salads (esp ones you don't make yourself) can be surprisingly absurdly fucking high in calories.

I would guess that you fully accept the idea of a "hard gainer." Someone, generally skinny and male, who can literally double their calories and not gain weight. I think this is generally accepted. Why is it so hard for people to accept the opposite?
posted by peep at 2:44 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


You are probably not counting your calories correctly. And salads (esp ones you don't make yourself) can be surprisingly absurdly fucking high in calories.

I make them myself. All veggies. No dressing. No bacon. No croutons. Lettuce, carrots, green peppers, onions, radishes. 1 ounce of shredded, grilled, plain chicken. Do you want to know the weight of each ingredient? I can tell you.

Strict, doctor monitored 1250 calorie a day diet (plus or minus twelve calories). (No, I don't just eat salad. But I'm really f'ing sick of salad, day in and day out.) But I don't expect you to believe it. Because its easy for you. You just cut back a few things here and there and *poof* - a smaller pants size.

For a lot of people, including me its just not that easy and the diet and the exercise plan and the appointments take over your entire fucking life and sucks the joy out of everything as when, for example, your son bakes cookies at preschool and brings one home for you and begs you to eat it, because he's so proud to have baked it -- and you do, not because you even actually want to eat the cookie (you passed the point of even craving cookies long ago), but because you don't want to make him sad, but you can't even enjoy one god damned 1 inch wide sugar cookie, not only because you have to weigh the damn thing first, but also because the entire time you're eating it you're thinking about trying to figure out how many calories it has in it and how you're going to report it, and what the bitchy, stick-bug thin dietician is going to say and how she's going to tut-tut you on Thursday. Because, you see, my fat is not a medical condition. It is -- as everybody knows -- really a moral failing, brought on by a simple lack of self control. Or my being bad at math. Or -- clearly -- I'm just "cheating" on my diet. Or whatever. But obviously its my fault and my body ... my hormones and fat cells and insulin markers and metabolism or whatever ... those things have nothing to do with it. Its only my willpower. And my choices. God, how I hate that word.

I weigh 264 lbs. I've weighted about the same (plus or minus 2 lbs, as I'm a girl and sometimes I retain a little more water than normal) for 96 days now, unchanged, despite being on this super rigorous plan with a doctor and a dietitian and a fitness trainer and blood tests and checking my blood sugar levels and you name it. But, you see, I also have to take a medication that enables me to breathe. And my body reacted to that medication (many years ago) by making me gain weight. And I've stayed at that same weight for years now, day in and day out. And apparently this weight is well-nigh impossible to take off.

I'm sorry if I sound bitter about this. Its probably because I am. Because I'm really, really tired of being told how easy it all is. I'm sick of people snickering at me as they see me walk out of McDonalds -- despite the fact that I only stopped to use the bathroom. I'm tired of having to justify every morsel of food I put in my mouth to three different people on a weekly basis. I'm tired of writing it down. I'm tired of being told "its easy"

Its not easy.
posted by anastasiav at 2:45 PM on November 8, 2010 [168 favorites]


This interesting to me because he still calls his old diet "healthy". By every standard they discuss in the article he's better off with the new diet: he lost weight, which prevents a number of diseases, and his LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are lower.

Before his Twinkie diet, he tried to eat a healthy diet that included whole grains, dietary fiber, berries and bananas, vegetables and occasional treats like pizza.

What's better about whole grains and fruit? I'll concede that it probably tastes better than Twinkies every day. And it's a good source of fiber and vitamins, but he seems to have that covered in his new diet.

"There seems to be a disconnect between eating healthy and being healthy," Haub said. "It may not be the same. I was eating healthier, but I wasn't healthy. I was eating too much."

Or maybe "eating healthy" conjures a specific image of a diet that may or not be the best diet for your health.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2010


All diets are controlled malnutrition. All of 'em. The problem isn't picking the most sure-fire way to starve yourself, but sticking with it once the choice is made. Calorie-counting presents some serious challenges in this regard, some biological, some psychological, for many, if not most people.

Changing your lifestyle is the name of the game to keep yourself thin and healthy - compliance will always be the single most important factor in long-term weight loss.

Twinkies everyday is not a good way to achieve this.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought the idea behind dieting was to get healthy, which involves a lot more than just losing a few pounds.

I think part of the point is that weight is such a big factor in health that if you just lose excess pounds by eating less you are a good bit of the way to being healthy.

Also, note that Haub is not coming down one way or the other on whether his junk-food-based diet is a good thing to do or not:

"I'm not geared to say this is a good thing to do," he said. "I'm stuck in the middle. I guess that's the frustrating part. I can't give a concrete answer. There's not enough information to do that."
posted by ekroh at 2:48 PM on November 8, 2010


There was no control for this. We don't know what the weight loss or cholesterol changes would have been if he had eaten all organic vegetables, and hand-fed chickens over the same period of time. This is just beyond useless. What was the value here?

The financial cost.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:49 PM on November 8, 2010


The only problem is that's all he's going to shed. Calorie counting diets are good for 30 pounds.

I lost 65 pounds calorie counting.
posted by maxwelton at 2:49 PM on November 8, 2010


I wonder how much his leaking anus contributed to the weight loss?
posted by helmutdog at 2:50 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, when I first visited the US I was very excited to try a Twinkie, this fantastical food that we had had heard of but never had over on the UK... It turned out to be about the grossest, most nastiest snackfood I have ever eaten. Disgusting AND disappointing.
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on November 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


If anyone's interested, I did some reverse BMI calculations: He's 5'10", and he weighed 201 lbs before the experiment.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:51 PM on November 8, 2010


never had over on the UK... It turned out to be about the grossest, most nastiest snackfood I have ever eaten.

You never had Marmite?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:53 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


MArmite is fucking gorgeous...

Though I did have an American who tried twiglets tell me they tasted "Like Auschwitz".
posted by Artw at 2:54 PM on November 8, 2010 [14 favorites]


You'd be surprised at how many people are violently opposed to this idea. Many people will get very, very angry with you if you say this. I've learned to keep my Hacker Diet love to myself.

This is because this flies in the face of some people's subjective experience. They are not stupid, they may even intellectually believe you but it sure doesn't feel the way you are describing.

Think of it this way. You are teaching someone how to drive a car via telephone. Assuming the person on the other end even has a car you say "Step on the gas the car goes forward". They stomp on the pedal they think you are talking about and go nowhere. Maybe they are stomping on the breaks, maybe the car isn't in gear, maybe they have no gas. No matter how loud you yell "Step on the gas, what are you an idiot ? how hard is it to step on the gas" their car may never move. " You start to ask, are you even stepping on the gas? maybe you are just to lazy to step on it." People are going to get angry, and eventually give up.

I've met one person who I honestly believe could not lose weight. I watched as she made daily, or twice daily, trips to the gym, yoga, spinning, running on treadmills. I saw what she ate, pretty much nothing but collard greens, tofu and beans, she would not eat meat, bread or anything containing HFCS or other assorted ingredients. She made twice weekly trips to a nutritionist to go over her food diary. This girl certainly understood what she was supposed to be doing, eat less and exercise right? Needless to say everyone wanted to have their opinion heard, “You need to do more cardio and less yoga”, “ You need to eat more protein” it was frustrating for me and I didn’t even have to experience it. I don’t know how this all turned out but I am now totally convinced that some people just have a different type of car, they can stomp on the gas all day and never move an inch.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:54 PM on November 8, 2010 [20 favorites]


Or deep-fried Mars bars?
posted by Apocryphon at 2:55 PM on November 8, 2010


While I'm open to the possibility that different people may obtain different amounts of energy from the same amount of food, owing to differences in their digestive tracts, etc., these differences can only go so far. Eventually, you run into some unforgiving laws of thermodynamics to which your metabolism is just another series of chemical reactions.

The 'Calories' figure on the side of a Twinkie are "nutritional calories", and they're built around a hypothetical person. Because food contains a fair amount of stuff which is combustible but indigestible to humans (think celery), "nutritional calories" are less than the true chemical potential energy stored in the hydrocarbon bonds of a unit of food. It seems plausible that some people might be better or worse than others at extracting energy from food, but there's a limit -- you may have an iron stomach, but it's never going to be a bomb calorimeter.

I've always thought that it would be better if they printed true thermal calories on food, rather than hand-wavey nutritional calories, because at least that way you'd have a worst-case estimate: it would overestimate celery, sure, but it would never underestimate anything. Eat less than your daily burn (BMR+exercise) of those calories, and you'd definitely either lose weight or starve. (Also, you could, if you were really motivated, collect your poop and burn it to discover your 'intestinal efficiency' -- just think of the science-fair projects! On second thought, maybe it's good that they don't.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:59 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


I would guess that you fully accept the idea of a "hard gainer." Someone, generally skinny and male, who can literally double their calories and not gain weight. I think this is generally accepted. Why is it so hard for people to accept the opposite?

Except these people don't exist either. When you actually measure the food of "hard gainers" they are simply not eating enough to accommodate their level of activity. They have low appetites, they don't view food the way a heavier person views food (as a source of comfort, socialization, joy, whatever the case may be), they are not as focused on meals, and they get full easily. They feel like they're eating a lot because they're not used to the degree of fullness and regularity of eating that it takes to gain weight.

I guarantee you, once you take your "hard gainer" and have him or her count their calories to ensure they're getting an excess number, the weight comes on.

It is the opposite for the "hard loser" . . . More psychological ties to food, less likely to absentmindedly skip meals, requires more calories to feel full or is comfortable at a higher fullness level than their "hard gainer" counterparts.

This is a rather nice article describing the phenomenon.

Also . . . Taking in less calories than your body consumes will always result in weight loss. What type of weight you lose--muscle or fat--and how you feel at the end, and where your fitness and performance lies, that a whole other story.

Measuring "what your body consumes" is the hard part . . . For example, women often need a lot less calories than they think or the calorie calculators would have you estimate, it takes longer for the weight loss to kick in--sometimes up to a month!--and their bodies are far more hormonally resistant to fat loss and far more likely to either enter "starvation mode" or develop cravings due to insulin insensitivity or a whole host of other factors that produce feelings of hopelessness when following a diet. I like barbell weight training + no grains, hi-GI fruits, or sugars + some cardio for people, especially women, as it will both help boost testosterone levels, burn calories, and moderate the crazy insulin spikes that come with the low-fat, high-carb diets that fucking Self and Oxygen magazines are pushing all the time.

The saddest part of this whole weight loss thing is that there's so much misinformation about there about proper forms of exercise, effective diets, all that, that people can come out feeling like they've tried everything and they just can't lose weight. And a lot of this misinformation can come from doctors and nutritionists themselves, because doctors simply aren't training in nutrition and exercise science, and nutritionists and dieticians are operating on common-wisdom "science" that's based on faulty data from 50 years ago.
posted by schroedinger at 3:02 PM on November 8, 2010 [25 favorites]


To everyone chirping the obvious sentiment that this isn't healthy, I think you missed the critical part of what he did: he in fact assumed the same thing as you all (that his twinkie diet wasn't healthy) yet by all conventional measures (LDL, HDL, triglycerides), he was in fact "healthier" than before.

So really the take away isn't that reducing calories is a good way to lose weight; it's that losing weight, however you do it, seems to be much more important than what you eat as a contribution to your overall health.

But as he says himself, the data is confusing and you probably shouldn't diet this way.
posted by danny the boy at 3:03 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants Twinkies." - Michael Polian
posted by tommasz at 3:04 PM on November 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


Dunno about getting more energy from the same food.

I'm more inclined to believe that some people need much less energy. How little can you eat before you miss out on other neccessary nutrients.

My mother ( not the same person I wrote about before) was on one of those liquid diets in the 80's I'm not aware of her losing any weight but she became so anemic she fainted on the street and broke off all her front teeth at the gumline. You would think she would have lost some weight before she got to that point.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:08 PM on November 8, 2010


Its just this easy for him? Terrific. Meanwhile, I spend 90 minutes a day doing aerobic exercise and eat salad salad salad and never lose a pound. If you know the magic words, I'm open, because my doctors clearly don't.

I don't know the "magic words," but I can give you a tip: there's nothing inherently slimming about a "salad." If it's iceberg lettuce with lots of bleu cheese dressing, that's not going to be your key to weight loss. Saying "salad salad salad" is meaningless.
posted by John Cohen at 3:10 PM on November 8, 2010


I'm not aware of her losing any weight but she became so anemic

Those are two totally different things. Please do not further confuse people. Anemia is caused by a lack of red blood cells and has nothing to do with weight. Your mother probably had no iron in her crazy liquid diet.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:12 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, never mind, saw your follow-up.
posted by John Cohen at 3:14 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Bellman: "Its just this easy for him? Terrific. Meanwhile, I spend 90 minutes a day doing aerobic exercise and eat salad salad salad and never lose a pound. If you know the magic words, I'm open, because my doctors clearly don't.

The magic word is Zonisamide, but believe me you don't want to go there.
"

Hmm. Why do you say that? Not that I think pill taking is good. Do you know anything about the hypohydrosis? I'm pretty hyperhydrotic myself and overweight... Just curious.
posted by symbioid at 3:16 PM on November 8, 2010


Those are two totally different things. Please do not further confuse people. Anemia is caused by a lack of red blood cells and has nothing to do with weight. Your mother probably had no iron in her crazy liquid diet.


Yes I know that.

What I am saying is that in order to get necessary nutrients, such as iron, you need to eat.

posted by Ad hominem at 3:17 PM on November 8, 2010


I think the "more calories out than in, duh" sentiment is missing the point a bit. When it comes to weight loss, people are generally stupid. I know a guy at my gym, and I have seen many such guys, who sits in the sauna for 40 minutes to "sweat out" the fat. I know people that obsess over getting 40% of their calories from protein and no more than 10% from fat. God help you if it is more than 10%!

Sometimes you just need a nice twinkie hammer to hit you over the head and knock out all the stupid. Jared didn't lose a hundred pounds because of Subway. Dr.Haub didn't drop 27 pounds because of twinkies. It is the calories, stupid but that principle needs new PR and this is a creamy way to do that.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:18 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have a friend* who lost a considerable amount of weight and is now a marathon runner. He told me that diet + cardio is a ticket to failure. The cardio part just makes you hungry, and less likely to stick to the diet. The solution that eventually worked for him, after several unsuccessful attempts, was to follow a calorie-restricted diet with minimal exercise. Once the diet became entrenched as a habitual lifestyle, only then did he ramp up the cardio for overall fitness.
*Anecdata with sample size = 1, YMMV.
posted by rocket88 at 3:19 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Interesting that there's no mention of his insulin resistance, which actually turns out to be pretty damn important in the long run...

Short term, he's probably fine as long as he goes back to better diet.
posted by nomadicink at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2010


But focusing just on triglycerides is really misleading. There are lots and lots of other numbers that indicate your general health. A full blood panel would be a much more interesting gauge of what this was doing to him. Did his iron levels stay the same? How about his fasting blood sugar? Etc. etc. LDL and HDL aren't the only important numbers.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:21 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I am saying is that in order to get necessary nutrients, such as iron, you need to eat.

Yep, and you don't need to have a whole lot of food in order to get the necessary nutrients. You can get by with a lot less than most people* think. But having the proper amount of iron has absolutely nothing to do with how much other shit you eat.

*who live in the US
posted by Threeway Handshake at 3:24 PM on November 8, 2010


But that's a fucking stupid goal, frankly. If you're just trying to decrease the number of pounds you register on a scale at the expense of all other factors, you should just amputate a fucking leg and be done with it.

BAM! Thirty pounds lighter! In your face, Weight Watchers!


Having once in my life carried a human leg (just the leg, detached from rest of human) I assure you that one would lose more than 30 pounds. Especially if that leg were from an American.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


You can't just drop that in the conversation and not elaborate, Mister Fabulous. Please, do elaborate.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:28 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


If I hear one more story about some stat-grinding min-max spreadsheet nerd is busily charting his next stunt diet into the next decade while carefully listing the size color and clarity of their daily shit I am going to beat them to death with my cast iron pan and serve them for dinner.

Hey! I lost 100 pounds ten years ago on The Hacker Diet! Those spreadsheets are a great motivational tool.

And to second rocket88's anecdote, I held off on the cardio until my calorie-restricted diet was a thoroughly ingrained habit. After I was mechanically eating the same thing every single day, hunger temptations from excercise weren't so prevalent.
posted by sourwookie at 3:30 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


symbioid: I know nothing about hypohyrosis, but Zonisamide has a number of potential issues. Among other things it's a "super model" drug -- it makes you thin, but stupid.

I'm sure it's going to be a great solution for some people when it gets approved for obesity (if it does) but it's a pretty heavy duty drug and I'm not entirely sure I would be comfortable taking a drug that got approved for a condition because people happened to notice it works on that condition when no one really has any idea why.
posted by The Bellman at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


jim in austin: I am considering copyrighting my Moon Pie and RC Cola Get Slim Quick Diet...

I call dibs on the Slim Jim Get Slim Quick Diet.
posted by youngergirl44 at 3:34 PM on November 8, 2010


Interesting that there's no mention of his insulin resistance, which actually turns out to be pretty damn important in the long run...

There is a strong link between obesity and insulin resistance.
posted by !Jim at 3:41 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, when I first visited the US I was very excited to try a Twinkie, this fantastical food that we had had heard of but never had over on the UK... It turned out to be about the grossest, most nastiest snackfood I have ever eaten. Disgusting AND disappointing.

I don't think I know anyone who actually eats twinkies, or any of those pre-packaged snack cakes as a matter of habit.
posted by !Jim at 3:42 PM on November 8, 2010


They live!

on Twinkies
posted by mmrtnt at 3:46 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


no matter how crappy the food you eat, the quantity of calories matters more than the quality of food if your goal is to lose weight.

But that's a fucking stupid goal, frankly.
But why? When so many health risk factors are linked to obesity itself, doesn't it stand to reason that losing weight is a great way to improve your overall health?
posted by !Jim at 3:47 PM on November 8, 2010


If you eat sufficiently few calories you will lose weight, but that isn't all there is to it. Calories as listed on the nutrition facts don't account for how your body actually absorbs stores and uses energy. They are accurate for how hot water gets when you light food on fire.

What you eat effects your appetite. It works the simple way where if you eat more you will be less hungry. Or if you eat a smaller amount for a while your version of normal will change. Or if you drink a 400 calorie drink you will be hungrier than if you eat a 400 calorie sandwich. Or if you eat 200 calories of vegetables you will be less hungry than if you eat 200 calories of cheese. Hunger is a tool like a thermostat is a tool. Depending on how it is calibrated you can slowly find yourself gaining weight, losing weight, or staying the same. You can learn to be ok with being hungry more often.

Men from Toronto are just as cold as you or I are when they wear jean shorts in March. They just don't think that they shouldn't be cold. Being cold sometimes is not a big deal. It is part of life. Being hungry is part of life. You can get (more) ok with being hungry.
posted by I Foody at 3:48 PM on November 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


I don't know the "magic words," but I can give you a tip: there's nothing inherently slimming about a "salad." If it's iceberg lettuce with lots of bleu cheese dressing, that's not going to be your key to weight loss. Saying "salad salad salad" is meaningless.
-John Cohen


I suggest you start by reading the relevant posts before you offer the inanely obvious as low-rent snark. Really.
posted by flippant at 3:51 PM on November 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


The reason people get upset at the Laws of Thermodynamics simpletons is that they are both wrong and generally smug about their wrongness.

The human body is not a fire. There is no reason that it must store any excess calories consumed as body fat, and in fact in my case (I'm pre-diabetic) as long as those excess calories aren't carbohydrates, my body doesn't store them. I lost 40 lb without counting calories this way and have kept it off for over 2 years.

My body also sends me much better signals on the low-carb diet than it did when I was eating normally; I tend to get full much sooner and when I'm full I really can't eat any more -- I feel like I'd get sick if I tried to pack any more in, even if it's the best dish I've ever tasted and I know it's going to waste if I don't eat it. (That said, I'm very sure I still eat more calories than I burn. I spend most of my life behind either a keyboard or a steering wheel.)

On the other hand your body can be ferociously jealous about the weight it wants to maintain, and make you seriously ill or even kill you in any of several unpleasant ways before it starts to let go of body fat stores. We acquire this defective programming in a lot of different ways; it could be genetic, enivronmental toxins, poor diet or a diet that is so different from what our pre-farming ancestors ate that even though it should be healthy we aren't sell adapted to it. Having gotten our setpoints all messed up not all of us can fix the damage the same way, and since the whole thing is so poorly understood for some of us there may be no fixes available at the current state of the art.

But one thing we can be sure of is that such fixes will not be forthcoming as long as so-called experts content themselves to smugly announce that if you just stop eating you have to lose weight. You don't. You could simply leave the world as a very heavy corpse.
posted by localroger at 3:51 PM on November 8, 2010 [18 favorites]


I don't think I know anyone who actually eats twinkies, or any of those pre-packaged snack cakes as a matter of habit.

Years ago, my mom would put a Twinkie in my lunch. She used to keep them in the freezer (don't ask).

There is something really delicious about biting into a Twinkie with the cake part soft like it should be but the inner caulking sugar partially frozen.

mmmm, mm.
posted by mmrtnt at 3:52 PM on November 8, 2010


I suggest you start by reading the relevant posts before you offer the inanely obvious as low-rent snark. Really.
-Flippant


I suggest you read the comment two posts below the one you criticized before you post. Really.
posted by auto-correct at 3:55 PM on November 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


But, you see, I also have to take a medication that enables me to breathe. And my body reacted to that medication (many years ago) by making me gain weight.

Anastasiav, that sounds absoltuely horrible. I'm on medication with sideeffects also, but thankfully nothing on that scale - and it actually helps me from being malnutritioned. I can only imagine how frustrating and dispiriting you find it.

However, without trivialising or marginalising your experience in any way, to paint medications and other metabolic issues as the primary driver behind the western world's weight gain, and an absence of weight-loss is incorrect. The problem - for the vast, vast majority of people carrying too much weight - is that our metabolisms are all too typical.

I don't think hating on overweight people - who are generally feeling insecure about their weight and not always in the best place self-esteemwise - is at all productive. Everybody knows how society feels about the overweight; all you have to do is pick up a gloassy magazine or turn on the television. Personal reminders are confrontational, hurtful, and redundant.

But at the same time, I think pretending that our exploding obesity rates are connected in the main to medical conditions and unalterable metabolic issues is equally unhelpful. The western world is overweight because we eat shit, and we eat too much of it. Certainly, there are people for whom this is not true (another reason for us to withhold judging anyone based on their weight), but they would be statistically insignificant.

I feel that recognising this can help take the pressure off overweight people, believe it or not. Weights can change, weight-loss is accessible, it can be done, you don't need to buy the book, or the meals, or the shakes. It's not excessively technical, it's not out of reach. etc etc. I understand some people would disagree me there, and it's only a sidepoint.

My main point is that the western world is undergoing a public health epidemic based on the availability of poor nutrition, and poor nutritional choices. This epidemic carries significant mortality and costs to individuals and societies, and I think ignoring its causes will make resolving it so much the harder.

posted by smoke at 3:59 PM on November 8, 2010 [13 favorites]


MArmite is fucking gorgeous...

Though I did have an American who tried twiglets tell me they tasted "Like Auschwitz".


Related video.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:59 PM on November 8, 2010


ugh forgot to close my em.
posted by smoke at 4:09 PM on November 8, 2010


People eating the same food will potentially extract different calories from it, even holding diet, exercise, and genes constant. A lot of the digestion isn't done by "us" per se but the ~10^12 bacteria competing in and complicating our gut. Researchers do not begin to understand what regulates these bacterial communities, but specific assemblages are strongly associated with obesity: they can even cause mice to gain weight and develop metabolic syndrome.
posted by civicDuty at 4:22 PM on November 8, 2010 [10 favorites]


One thing that twinkies (and many other snack foods) have going for them is that they are portion controlled. He simply counted them. This is easier than measuring, weighing, etc., which most dieters (myself included) don't do very well. So he lost weight because he actually consumed the number of calories he planned to.

I'm not saying that everybody would lose on an 1800 calorie diet. I'm saying that many people end up eating more than they think.
posted by mr vino at 4:24 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


They are accurate for how hot water gets when you light food on fire.

This isn't quite true. The calories listed on most packages are converted to something that's supposed to approach "nutritional calories", i.e. the amount of energy available for use when digested by a typical human, although the model used is arguably simplistic.

Here's a very interesting Slate article which details some of the methods that are used to produce the "Calories" figure on processed food.

There are a set of conversion tables (last updated 1973) that you can use to convert from thermal calories to nutritional calories for various food items. Implicit in that conversion are assumptions about the human body's ability to digest various types of food; a huge amount of complex chemistry is being glossed over.

As I said in my earlier comment, I actually would prefer if they didn't do this and just printed the bomb-calorimeter chemical energy measurement on the side of the tin, but that's definitely not what they do.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:28 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


to paint medications and other metabolic issues as the primary driver behind the western world's weight gain, and an absence of weight-loss is incorrect

I didn't see that painted anywhere in Anastasiav's comments.

When you actually measure the food of "hard gainers" they are simply not eating enough to accommodate their level of activity. They have low appetites, they don't view food the way a heavier person views food (as a source of comfort, socialization, joy, whatever the case may be), they are not as focused on meals, and they get full easily.

As a "hard gainer" with a mild but happy obsession with food and family who have struggled with weight eating much smaller proportions less frequently and being far more active than myself, I find the "skinny people do this/fat people do that" generalizations offensive.

While the science can frequently be driven on averages, it's a mistake to make assumptions about any individual, especially with such a complex subject as this.
posted by moira at 4:28 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't think I know anyone who actually eats twinkies, or any of those pre-packaged snack cakes as a matter of habit.

*extaends hand for shake*

Pleased to meet you....
posted by jonmc at 4:29 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


You can't just drop that in the conversation and not elaborate, Mister Fabulous. Please, do elaborate.

This is off-topic, and not meant to be a derail. Names, locations, dates, etc. all removed due to the nature of the story.

Once upon a time I worked as an orderly in surgery. I was fresh out of high school, still only 17, but managed to slide in to a hospital job for my summers during college. The life of an orderly is not a glamorous one. A typical day involves scrubbing down the operating rooms 15-40 times, pushing patients of all shapes and sizes on beds that weigh over 300 pounds themselves, holding various people and body parts in strange, backbreaking positions. And it was anything but a clean job. I'd estimate I changed scrubs twice a shift on a typical night. Taking specimens to the lab was a common chore and was a handy excuse to leave the OR and catch a breath.
We had a patient who came in a few times to surgery, initially from a gunshot wound provided to her by her husband. They were drunk, in an argument and he shot her. Unfortunately for her, the bullet went through her femoral artery. I was working when this happened, and got to run to the blood bank for several pints. The good news was that the patient survived, the bad news was that the femoral artery was missing nearly 5 inches, and there was no hope for the leg. She was in too bad of shape to remove it then and there, so it was placed on ice while she recovered in the ICU.
A week later the patient was brought back to amputate. And as the orderly, someone must take the specimens away. I was the larger and stronger of the two orderlies working that night, so I hoisted the large specimen aka human leg over my shoulder while my cohort was the lookout.
When you are carrying a leg through a hospital, it is a very conspicuous item. There aren't too many containers made to hold such an object. We used biohazard bags and cloth tape after the nurses gave us a shrug and a look of "I don't know, and it's your problem now." Problem was, this leg still looks like a leg that is resting over my shoulder, bent at the knee. We took the back way out of surgery and went down the back stairway. Our very sick sense of humor gave the leg one last walk down the stairs. We got to the lobby of the hospital (the only way to the lab) and the lookout checked to make sure the way was clear. I distinctly remember walking out of the stairway, leg over shoulder, and watching the mother and three children walk into the lobby. I still feel badly for the mother who had to answer the question of her oldest child "What's that man carrying Mommy?"
By the way, this patient was approximately 5'6" and 160. The leg weighed out to 45 pounds. It felt like a lot more on that particular night.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:31 PM on November 8, 2010 [156 favorites]


Mister Fabulous, that was well worth the derail. I .... well. Let's just say I'm glad I asked.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:41 PM on November 8, 2010


Metafilter: Men from Toronto are just as cold as you or I
posted by benzenedream at 4:49 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mister Fabulous, I now feel ill, but that was a great story.
posted by Dasein at 4:54 PM on November 8, 2010


Mister Fabulous, I now feel ill, but that was a great story.

My friends have made me swear to never tell my work stories during dinner. Hell, a few of my stories every day will make you drop untold amounts of weight. I bet Mr. Fabulous story time could be more effective than a twinkie diet.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:59 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yes. This!

Worthless anecdata: I call my diet "No Binge, No Cringe". I eat exactly what I am craving, and I indulge spontaneous cravings whenever they occur, but I stop the moment I no longer feel gnawing hunger, rather than when I feel full. Hungry again soon? Great! Have something. Same rules apply.

To illustrate how difficult this is for the first few days, here's a direct transcription of my internal monologue:

"Hey dickweed, what are you doing? Why'd you stop? You're still able to perambulate, you're not done. Get a-chewin'. N-NO, are you.. THROWING THAT ... WAIT, WHAT?! REALLY? YOU THREW IT AWAY? SERIOUSLY? You wasted food? You FAILED AT DINNER? Nice job! I can't believe this. You know, there's some cake in the fridge, if you have the slightest inclination to redeem your.. GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN, ASSHOLE! WE'RE NOT DONE! THIS ISN'T OVER! YOU'LL GO BACK! (30 seconds pass) ...Heyyyyy buddy, about that time, huh? It's been hours, let's go murder some spaghetti, huh? Imagine how delicious it'll be...Hey, you there?... (30 seconds pass) ..I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ARE DOING THIS."

You adjust pretty quickly, over the next couple of days and weeks, and your brain stops being such a prima donna. Not being full, but not being hungry, is an amazing feeling.

While I don't disagree at all that quality matters for overall health, and while I'm amazed by the complexity of dietary science, I think maybe the priority is immediate triage when you're as overweight as I was (+120 lbs), and for the reasons I was (average portion could have fed a family of six).

Lost 80 pounds this year by rollin' up on Taco Bell like their own personal Jared ("Hi, one taco, please"). Blood numbers are great, no longer considered "pre-diabetic", doctor has stopped raising her voice, wife has stopped leaving cemetery brochures under my pillow, and I have far more energy because I no longer gorge myself into a coma. As a bonus, on cold mornings I can pull all the extra loose skin up over myself like a parka.

In short: Some fat people are fat for legitimate reasons that are beyond their control, and these people deserve sensitivity and science on their side. Others of us got fat because we ate too much, and fixing it involves not eating too much.
posted by jake at 5:01 PM on November 8, 2010 [29 favorites]


I have a friend* who lost a considerable amount of weight and is now a marathon runner. He told me that diet + cardio is a ticket to failure. The cardio part just makes you hungry, and less likely to stick to the diet. The solution that eventually worked for him, after several unsuccessful attempts, was to follow a calorie-restricted diet with minimal exercise. Once the diet became entrenched as a habitual lifestyle, only then did he ramp up the cardio for overall fitness.

Wisdom.

I also think there's a bit of 'No True Scotsman' going on here. "Sure, he's lost weight and is significantly healthier by the normal measures... but it's not real weight, and it's not real health. And since when do dieters care about their weight?"

Our midwife (who was completely fantastic in all ways associated with her profession) had a similar thing with artifical fabrics compared with wool. "There's nothing in them", she'd say.

It's not real warmth, see.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:02 PM on November 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


. It turned out to be about the grossest, most nastiest snackfood I have ever eaten. Disgusting AND disappointing.

They didn't use to be.
Like a lot of industrial foods, they've morphed into unrecognizable shells of their former selves.
posted by madajb at 5:34 PM on November 8, 2010


Though I did have an American who tried twiglets tell me they tasted "Like Auschwitz".

Oh no no no. I have a coworker who brought some back from England last year and I ate almost the entire bag by myself. I'd never tasted such stank deliciousness. Bless your people, and their snack foods. (Twinkies are also awesome, but I'd trade a truckload for more Twiglets right now.)
posted by Kloryne at 5:45 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought the idea behind dieting was to get healthy

Er, thats _a_ reason. Many people just want to look skinnier. Or maybe some other reason (although I think health and appearance are clearly the big two). I'd happily take a non-health-increasing 10 pound weight loss.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:50 PM on November 8, 2010


Moira et al, I happen to think that "smokes"post was thoughtful, sensitive and substantially objective. I have read and posted on these Boards for a number of years and I never cease to be amazed at the intensity and passion in supporting, defending, explaining, justifying , etc. the metabolic/genetic role in obesity. There are certainly outliers on both ends of the continuum that have unusual metabolic conditions/diseases that can lead to significant extremes (2 standard deviation or more) but this in no way explains the vast majority of people struggling with weight problems--it is calories metabolized/calories burned. I think the most common sense validation of this is to look at the experience of immigrants who come to this country and the overwhelming differences in BMI between Americans and many Europeans. Now one can pick and pick and pick and rationalize almost all the issues around differences in national or individual obesity statistics. But the observable and measurable fact is that Americans are obese because they consume to many calories and expend to few. I live in rural Ireland 4-5 months a year and the most striking difference when I come home is the size of the cars, the width of the highways and the obesity of the population. Now it is very possible one can have a side effect to a medicine (possibly steroid based--a real bitch when it comes to weight ), maintains a vigorous 1250 daily calorie intake and exercises regularly. But the fact is she historically gained weight through an imbalance in calories in/out and the only way she will loss weight is by restructuring that imbalance--regardless of the cause. Who knows what secondary problems have now set in that probably does make it extremely difficult to lose weight--the body does want to preserve itself. However, the one truly unique thing among persons who are obese is that in all probability a long term caloric imbalance got them there and only a long term caloric restructuring will get them back. This does not mean that one should not vigorously pursue all possible medical, metabolic, genetic causes of obesity--and hopefully find solutions--but at some point, for most of us, it will once again come to calories in/out.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:55 PM on November 8, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah, little plastic wrapped Twinkies are ick.

Homemade Twinkies are the bomb.
posted by Leta at 6:09 PM on November 8, 2010


That's nothing - I spent a week in an alley just shooting heroin, and lost 60.
posted by simms2k at 6:11 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


So .... the real way to lose weight is to develop a gimmick, and stick with it? Worked for Jared, too.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:29 PM on November 8, 2010


So .... the real way to lose weight is to develop a gimmick, and stick with it?

No, the real way to lose weight is to consume less than you expend, and stick with it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:32 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ah, but you see, consuming less than you expend is clearly more effective when coupled with a gimmick.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:57 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


A gimmick doesn't make it a bit more effective. It does make it more fun. Life is better when you're able to have a good time while you undertake very serious challenges like fending off the grim reaper. I learned this from playing Castlevania!
posted by jake at 7:06 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


A gimmick doesn't make it a bit more effective. It does make it more fun.

I don't understand you people at all.
posted by The Whelk at 7:09 PM on November 8, 2010


To everyone chirping the obvious sentiment that this isn't healthy, I think you missed the critical part of what he did: he in fact assumed the same thing as you all (that his twinkie diet wasn't healthy) yet by all conventional measures (LDL, HDL, triglycerides), he was in fact "healthier" than before.

I don't think people are noting another important element of his dietary change. From the article:

To curb calories, he avoided meat, whole grains and fruits. Once he started adding meat into the diet four weeks ago, his cholesterol level increased
This explains his cholesterol changes. He would presumably have obtained the same improvement, or better, had he been eating vegetables and fruit instead of snack food. One Twinkie has 20mg of cholesterol (7% RDA) and 2.5 grams (13%) of saturated fat. Oreos have no cholesterol but have 1.5g (8%) of a day's saturated fat. Meanwhile, 4 ox of lean steak has 75g cholesterol (25%) and 2.8 g saturated fat (14%). Plain chicken breast has about the same cholesterol as beef but much less saturated fat.

As for triglycerides, they result from your body's taking excess calories and converting them into liquid fats carried in the blood. When you're not taking in excess calories, they drop.

So these improvements in his blood cholesterol are likely completely due to the fact that he ate no meat or cheese, not to a superiority of the snack food diet over a healthier set of choices. In other words, he was taking in too much cholesterol and saturdated fat before. Even had he eaten sawdust for two months, he would have seen an improvement there. It's not because Twinkies are a good diet, it's because his diet before had a lot of liabilities.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on November 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think Brian Wansink, the Food Psychology guy at Cornell, said in his book that basically any time you really think about what you eat, you tend to eat less, and that is why people swear by so many different diets.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:35 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


The best way to instantly get magically healthy, aside from quitting smoking, is to not weigh more than you should.

It gladdens the heart to see Americans having an intelligent conversation about weight loss. Eight years ago a comment like that would have gotten your ass dragged over to Metatalk for a "please explain."
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:36 PM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Did it involve massive amounts of vomiting?

drtfa
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:45 PM on November 8, 2010


I don't think I know anyone who actually eats twinkies, or any of those pre-packaged snack cakes as a matter of habit.

*extaends hand for shake*

Pleased to meet you....
And you!

I am going to go eat a twinkie now.
posted by !Jim at 8:05 PM on November 8, 2010


I once lost 18lbs following my own similar diet which I call the "I'm not going to eat anything I'll regret except Fritos diet."
posted by pianomover at 8:43 PM on November 8, 2010


I never cease to be amazed at the intensity and passion in supporting, defending, explaining, justifying , etc. the metabolic/genetic role in obesity.

Because food is not seen in strictly nutritional terms, but in religious and social terms and as a source of personal identity.

Eating the same thing every day (not necessarily Twinkies) or rigidly adhering to a low-calorie diet turns people off because it sounds like punishment, and a lifelong one at that. It seems like giving up taking pleasure in food in order to live longer, a poor trade and one that goes against our instinct to Seize Pleasure Now, because who knows how many days you have left? Healthy people get hit by Hypothetical Buses too.

Also, I think we are more prone to overeating because we are so afraid of sex and drugs, and we work like dogs. Now that smoking's gone and drinking is harder to hide, almost all we have left is food to help us deal with our stupid cubicle-sitting jobs and our crashing economy and possible looming ecological catastrophe and whatever. People may shun you if you're fat, but you won't go to jail for it.

I figured out how to lose weight several years ago (low carb works really well for me) but I also found myself almost panicking when I did--I had to go through some therapy and other stuff before I could actually, mentally, deal with eating in a non-neurotic way. Still working on it, actually.

I think a great deal of Fat Acceptance has to do with people simply trying to handle their shit and being tired of being judged all the damn time. Creating a space where people can simply say "I'm fat, I'm fine with it, everybody fuck off" is actually mentally healthier than never leaving your house because you are so full of shame. It's also impossible to get enough exercise if you are too ashamed to be seen.

In other words, it's complicated. Try to have some compassion.
posted by emjaybee at 8:58 PM on November 8, 2010 [32 favorites]


Meanwhile, I spend 90 minutes a day doing aerobic exercise and eat salad salad salad and never lose a pound. --anastasiav

He didn't lose weight by eating salad, he lost weight by eating Twinkies. He chose Twinkies to try to make his point really obvious--it is not snacks or salads or hamburgers, it is how much. If the amount of food is low enough, you can even eat cookies, or in his case one Twinkee/Little Debbie/Swiss Roll every three hours, and still lose weight.

I believe it is that simple, in fact he proved it is that simple, as long as all you are looking at is food.

If you take into account health, metabolism, exercise (which can make you healthier, and can just as easily make you gain weight as lose it, since muscles weigh more than fat), environment (friends, family), lifestyle (what you do when you are not exercising), habits (eating and otherwise) and human emotions and interaction with all of the above, then it gets quite a bit more complicated.
posted by eye of newt at 9:04 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Twinkies? Bleah. But I could live on Drake's fruit pies. That is all.
posted by flotson at 9:06 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Twinkies? That's just disgusting. Everyone knows he should have been eating the Little Debbie's peanut butter wafer stick things. Mmm. Peanut butter and chocolate...

(and now, back to my salad)
posted by Ghidorah at 9:08 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing that really bothers me about this thread is that a lot of people are misunderstanding what the thermodynamics argument says. Things like this comment:
I never cease to be amazed at the intensity and passion in supporting, defending, explaining, justifying , etc. the metabolic/genetic role in obesity.

Because food is not seen in strictly nutritional terms, but in religious and social terms and as a source of personal identity…
Or, this comment:
What you eat effects your appetite. It works the simple way where if you eat more you will be less hungry. Or if you eat a smaller amount for a while your version of normal will change. Or if you drink a 400 calorie drink you will be hungrier than if you eat a 400 calorie sandwich. Or if you eat 200 calories of vegetables you will be less hungry than if you eat 200 calories of cheese. Hunger is a tool like a thermostat is a tool. Depending on how it is calibrated you can slowly find yourself gaining weight, losing weight, or staying the same. You can learn to be ok with being hungry more often.
How you feel is not part of the thermodynamics argument. The thermodynamics argument is simply that if you maintain a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. That it only takes 12 twinkies per day to reach 1800 calories, which leaves you awfully hungry is a straw man. The fact that for many people, eating is a very social activity, and this makes it harder to choose calorically-appropriate food is irrelevant. It is not a counterargument to the thermodynamic argument in any way.

The thermodynamic argument is not in itself a complete technique for weight loss, because it doesn't answer the question “What do I eat?” It only answers the question “How much of a given (mix of) foods can I eat while achieving my weight loss goals?” This is precisely the point of this experiment.

By the way, the fact that different people convert different foods to fat or energy at different rates is also completely irrelevant. There are no absolute scales here, just guidelines. Any successful application of the thermodynamic approach to dieting involves a bit of adjustment to find the right amount to eat. In my case, the rough guidelines recommended I eat about 2400 calories per day. When I tried to do that, I wasn't losing weight. I eventually dropped it down to about 1600-1700 calories per day, and was losing 2-4 lbs per week. So, I had to eat less than predicted to achieve my goals, but the thermodynamics argument still worked! By maintaining that caloric intake, I was able to maintain that weight loss.

As someone who has lost and gained a lot of weight, and struggled with it a lot, I do have compassion. Nowhere did I say that the hacker diet is easy. It's simple, as in uncomplicated, but difficult to achieve consistently. The thermodynamics diet really shouldn't be represented as easy, and people who represent it as such lack compassion. That does not mean that the diet is wrong.
posted by !Jim at 10:05 PM on November 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Also, I just ate a twinkie, and I thought it was gross. To each his own, I guess.
posted by !Jim at 10:06 PM on November 8, 2010


!Jim dude what the hell?

ps: Is this you?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:48 PM on November 8, 2010


Holy shit, who would have thought that eating less calories than you burn in a day will make you lose weight?

Holy shit, who would have thought this isn't sustainable in the medium to long term, and that chances are very, very good he'll put all that weight back on, and then some?

Think it's that simple? Then why aren't you a weight loss billionaire, with a Nobel prize for medicine under your belt for ending the Western world's obesity crisis?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:55 PM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


It is that simple. World peace is that simple. Human nature gets in the way.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:14 AM on November 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Think it's that simple? Then why aren't you a weight loss billionaire, with a Nobel prize for medicine under your belt for ending the Western world's obesity crisis?

It's simply a scientific fact that consuming less calories than you expend will cause your body to lose weight. There are certain bodies that, for whatever reason, do not burn as many calories as another person, or hold too much water, but that does not change the science. I can also similarly solve the problem of war: stop making weapons and killing each other. If everyone did that, there would be no more war. Whether we are willing to reach compromise without violence is another matter entirely. Obviously things get more complicated when you involve human emotion and our capacity for self-delusion and denial and greed.

I say this as someone who has lost 100 lbs over one year on an 1800 calorie diet and working out two hours a day. It worked for me, until I moved away from the ocean and started overeating again. I have put on 40 pounds in the past two years, but I'm not in denial about why I'm getting fat. It's a choice I make every time I eat out instead of having soup at home, or having a latte instead of a black coffee, or pouring oily Italian dressing on a salad, which is has more calories per milliliter than peanut butter.

This is not to say that it's easy. Dieting fucking sucks. And in America, it's tough because literally doubling the quantity of food you get anywhere only costs 10% more. Our entire food system is skewed to provide dirt cheap potatoes and fatty meat, pasta, and cheese, which are not bad for you per se, but are incredibly dense. Probably the most important part of my weight loss is that I never ate out, or ate any prepackaged meals, ever. So, while I didn't deny myself a nice juicy steak or or an alfredo pasta here and there, I had to spend an hour making it. Maybe smelling the food for that long made it just as satisfying not to stuff my face. But really, I was too lazy to make anything overly exotic, so I chewed on carrots and hummus and pita bread and bits of aged cheddar. I adore fried chicken, collard greens, fried okra, mashed potatoes, stuffing... but there's not a chance in hell I would spend an entire day cooking all of that. Yet for $10 I can swing by a number of places for lunch and have it all just by lifting my fork.

(I also saved an ENORMOUS amount of money not ever eating out. When I move back to the beach next week it's something I'm going to try to make part of my new routine.)
posted by notion at 12:14 AM on November 9, 2010 [9 favorites]


Uncanny, uncanny hengemen!
posted by notion at 12:15 AM on November 9, 2010


why aren't you a weight loss billionaire, with a Nobel prize for medicine under your belt for ending the Western world's obesity crisis?

The Nobel for thermodynamics was already awarded (several times).
posted by benzenedream at 12:39 AM on November 9, 2010


Anyone care to guess how many times mefi has seen this debate before? 20? 50? 100 times?
posted by telstar at 1:35 AM on November 9, 2010


Anyone care to guess how many times mefi has seen this debate before? 20? 50? 100 times?

Lots. I still remember this comment from 8 years ago. It was said nice'n'early in the thread, and it went nuclear from there. Sorry, nucular.

But it was also what I was alluding to in my comment above. That's sort of sentiment isn't so "outlandish" as it once was, for want of a better term. I'm pretty sure we wouldn't get the same reaction.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:08 AM on November 9, 2010


notion: It's simply a scientific fact that consuming less calories than you expend will cause your body to lose weight.

And the reason people get upset with this argument is that it is not universally true. It is true for many, maybe even most people, but there are people who will get dangerously ill before their body starts to let go of fat reserves, just as there are people who can eat 4,000 calories a day and never gain an ounce.

I know this because I have been on both sides of it. From the age of 16 to 28 I weighed 145 lb and I ate a lot. I would have been considered a "hard gainer" if I had any interest in bodybuilding. And it was not a matter of not realizing how little I ate; it wasn't unusual for me to put away an entire large pizza in one sitting. For lunch. Then a large bowl of pasta for dinner. Oh, and six or eight non-diet cans of Dr. Pepper over the course of the day.

Then my metabolism changed. At the time I didn't know what had happened but today I'm pretty sure that's when my pre-diabetes surfaced. I started to gain 5 lb a year. Not 8 lb, not 3 lb, but 5 lb, steady as clockwork, every year. When I hit 180 lb I started to get worried and tried dieting and exercise. Nothing worked, including eating so little that I was too lightheaded to work effectively most of the time.

Then, at the age of 42 and weighing 220, I discovered my blood sugar glitch and started eating to keep it under 140 mg/dl all the time. It turns out, perhaps fortunately, that my body is very sensitive to high blood sugar; if I let it trend over 150 for more than a few hours a day, within a week or two the gout and hemorrhoids will return, so I am very motivated to keep my glucose under control. Under this regimen, again not eating to limit calories but simply eating mostly meat, cheese, and greens, I lost 40 lb within two months and have maintained that weight since 2006. (Did I say two years upthread? Time flies when you're feeling healthy.)

So, for some of us, it is very demonstrably not simply about how much we eat; if you think about it that's as stupid as saying "well, now that you filled your car's gas tank you'll have to do maximum velocity for 450 miles until it's burned off." That would be a stupid way to design a machine and I don't think the human body is really designed that way either -- but a lot of us are broken in ways nature didn't intend, which is why various versions of this problem are an epidemic.
posted by localroger at 5:07 AM on November 9, 2010 [14 favorites]


Regardless of how well calorie cutting works, it's rare to see the discussion presented without including an implicit judgment of others.

Recognizing truths is one thing; assuming you know everything you need to know to judge the reasons for someone else's weight condition is another. The latter is totally unnecessary and, basically, none of your business unless they've asked for your help. We're terribly comfortable slamming other people for their food choices, while every one of us has serious human failings whose results are probably less visible. To repeat part of a comment of mine from a long-ago fat hate thread:
It's as useful to ask overweight people why they don't do better at losing weight as it is to ask you "Why didn't you do better in college? Why didn't you go to a better college? Why aren't you getting promoted at your job? Why haven't you gotten a raise? Why do you procrastinate so much? How come you make so little money? Why aren't you better looking? Why don't you have a better girlfriend? Why is your family so fucked up? Why are your personality traits so irrritating? How come you don't get a better haircut? Why do you dress so badly?"

There are superficial solutions to all these problems, but I doubt that just hearing someone say "Work harder, lazy butt! You look ugly, dress better! You're just too dumb - lower your expectations!" is enough to solve your problem.

In short, YES, taking in fewer calories than one burns will result in a weight loss. However, that is one piece of a large, interconnected, and complex puzzle. To jump around excitedly brandishing this one piece of information and considering that you have found a solution is as silly as saying subprime mortgages were the cause the financial crisis. You've got one proximal piece of a much, much bigger picture whose roots and underlying causes are much deeper and more widespread, located both in the individual and in society.
Calories in/calories out is true inasfar as it goes, but reductive as an offered solution in real-life situations. Rather than implying someone must be lying to you about their intake or activity, why not confine your comments to your own experience, and offer some respect and consideration to those for whom making this system work is not so simple, whether those factors are within or outside their control?
posted by Miko at 6:28 AM on November 9, 2010 [15 favorites]


I think the real issue with weight and weight loss is the idea that it is somehow easy, that there is a quick fix to the weight you gained over 1 year, 5 years, 15 years etc.. You don't just get fat overnight, it takes time. You don't get unfat overnight, it takes time. There is no quick fix, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to make some major changes in your life and stick to them for the most part. Do research on proper eating, not fad dieting, not processed 'healthy choice' foods. Do research on proper exercise and how your body may or may not adapt to such exercise.

Having been through the weight loss thing years ago and having kept most of it off, I have finally learned what works for me.

Quality food - I try and shop only the outer walls of the supermarket and avoid the aisles where most of the processed food lives. Cook as often as I can, and when I can't try and stick to quality barely processed foods that are easy to eat.

Work out hard - I have one basic rule about working out. If I can read a book, a magazine, or follow a tv show while I am 'working out' then I am doing it wrong. I am not looking for a healthy glow while doing the my eliptical for 45 minutes while chatting with friends and watching Judge Judy because I am trying to stay in the 'fat burning zone'. When I am in the gym I want to push myself hard each time, be it weights or cardio. When I am done, I want my body to know that I just worked out. I want to be dripping in sweat, have people give me funny looks, have trouble walking up the stairs on the way out. Thats when I know I am doing it right.

Thats what works for me.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:36 AM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) Invent a special Weight Loss Twinkie
2) Sell it in a ten-week, 1000-count package that comes in a convenient shipping pallet and requires no refrigeration
3) Advertise on late-night TV
4) Watch as people add Twinkies to their regular diet rather than substitute it
5) Invest in dental clinics, cholesterol medication, scooters, etc
6) Profit!

posted by miyabo at 8:04 AM on November 9, 2010


MetaFilter: beef fat
posted by crapmatic at 8:15 AM on November 9, 2010


localroger: And the reason people get upset with this argument is that it is not universally true.

I have split hairs here, because it is absolutely universally true. It's a scientific law, without which the universe would not function as we know it.

I am not arguing that metabolism and other issues, like the blood sugar that you describe, don't make it nearly impossible to diet. I am being a pedant about considering the human body as a system, and the Law that says that if it takes in less energy than it expends, then that system will lose mass.

As a fat guy, I'm glad this is the case. It means that if I am ever having trouble losing weight, there is a way, and I just haven't found it yet. Having said that, I do have friends who have serious metabolic imbalances, thyroid issues, and other physical issues that make dieting and being conscious for work a tough proposition. I know they are giving 100% of themselves to lose weight, and I would never accuse anyone of being dishonest, unless I knew otherwise and they were very close friends and they asked for my help.

This comes out of compassion and a desire for a person to live a long and healthy life, not asking them to conform to some body type for society. I believe people need to make this distinction before they start decrying "fat hate."
posted by notion at 8:39 AM on November 9, 2010


notion: I am being a pedant about considering the human body as a system, and the Law that says that if it takes in less energy than it expends, then that system will lose mass.

You are doing that wrong. Mass and energy are not equivalent on the scale at which the human body uses either, and it is quite possible -- and demonstrably happens to some people -- that when they stop taking in food, their bodies refuse to burn their fat reserves even though that would be a good idea; if they are drinking water it is quite possible for them to gain weight. The body's mass balance is very open and only loosely linked to its energy balance, and with regard to mass it is not a closed system.

Please repeat that a few times: With regard to mass balance, the human body is not a closed system. Now go back to the laws of thermodynamics and make note of what kind of system they apply to.
posted by localroger at 8:59 AM on November 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


Except these people don't exist either.

Oh, but they do.

There was a documentary from the BBC called, Why Are Thin People Not Fat, where a small group of normally thin people participated in an experiment where IIRC they ate double their normal amount of calories for two months and, weren't allowed to exercise during that time. Out of the experiment there was one, or two people who had a really hard time gaining any weight at all.
posted by squeak at 9:21 AM on November 9, 2010


My diet would be called "be in your 20s again", would be 100% effective and require a time machine.
posted by Artw at 9:25 AM on November 9, 2010 [8 favorites]


For those with mobile devices who wish to track calories, Track3 is nice app for iOS and Android. It tracks calories (along with fat, cholesterol sodium, carbs and protein) and glucose readings for all my fellow diabetes, comes with a large library of regular foods already built in (you can add custom foods too) and tracks your exercise too and computes how it interacts with calories. For instance, I swam this morning and burned about 600 calories, so after inputting that fact, the app subtracts 600 calories from the daily calorie count. You do not need an internet connection for general usage, but you do need one to mail reports to yourself. It costs a few bucks, but it's worth it in my opinion

My wife swears by Weight Watcher's Point system, which totally confuses me, so to each their own.
posted by nomadicink at 9:50 AM on November 9, 2010


Once the diet became entrenched as a habitual lifestyle, only then did he ramp up the cardio for overall fitness.

nd to second rocket88's anecdote, I held off on the cardio until my calorie-restricted diet was a thoroughly ingrained habit. After I was mechanically eating the same thing every single day, hunger temptations from excercise weren't so prevalent.

Thirding. Find a (healthy, reasonable-calorie-level) daily/weekly meal and snack system (certainly not a "diet") that is sustainable for you, and then tweak your physical exercise workout later to meet your own weight and shape goals. (Much easier said than done.)

I also like to fast for a day (two is more effective) every once in a while to reset. I was injured and unable to walk for a few months and am still catching up 18 months later. It's not easy.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:21 AM on November 9, 2010


How Ultra Processed Foods are Killing Us.

The paper linked to in the Atlantic article is a great read.

They are formulated to be sensually appealing, hyper-palatable, and habit-forming, by the use of sophisticated mixtures of cosmetic and other additives, and state-of-the-craft packaging and marketing.

I really think there's something to that, but the habit-forming claim doesn't seem to be supported well.

It's the density, stupid. Unprocessed foods aren't magically better, but they are less calorie dense.

Exactly. "Nutritionally dense" good; "energy dense" bad. Generally.

Dr. Joel Furhman (Eat Right America) has an ANDI score which is supposed to represent nutrition/calories.

It's no magic bullet, but it's also helpful to have a relative scale (e.g. sweet potato > white potato; carrots > cucumbers; etc.) for calorie consumption.

Keep in mind that nutrient density scoring is not the only factor that determines good health. For example, if we only ate foods with a high nutrient density score our diet would be too low in fat. So we have to pick some foods with lower nutrient density scores (but preferably the ones with the healthier fats) to include in our high nutrient diet.

And here comes avocado.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2010


Oops. Forgot the link.

The big issue is ultra-processing - Carlos Monteiro, Centre for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition, University of São Paulo
posted by mrgrimm at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2010


I really think there's something to that, but the habit-forming claim doesn't seem to be supported well.

There is some research that suggests that certain kinds of food trigger urges and responses in the brain that are similar to those active in addiction to alcohol and drugs.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on November 9, 2010


The "three types of processing" model in "ultra-processing" article is a very useful way to think about foods.
posted by Miko at 11:58 AM on November 9, 2010


The only problem is that's all he's going to shed. Calorie counting diets are good for 30 pounds. Then your metabolism adjusts to whatever your caloric intake is. After that, exercise is required to boost the metabolism. And then the quality of the calories is everything unless you want to cause heart damage.
posted by 3.2.3

How did you come to this incorrect conclusion with such an arbitrary number?

The idea is to not cut the calories too drastically below a maintenance number (that is adjusted monthly). If that is done someone can continue to lose scale weight for a long time just through calorie counting.
e.g. If maintenance is 3000 calories a day don't immediately start eating 2000 calories if long term weight loss is a goal.

Lifting and other high intensity activities are a great help though!
posted by zephyr_words at 12:38 PM on November 9, 2010


localroger: With regard to mass balance, the human body is not a closed system

If that were true, there would be at least a few overweight people in subsaharan Africa who are living on just handfuls of rice a day.

You cannot be alive unless you maintain a body temperature. You cannot maintain body temperature without expending energy. You cannot expend energy without first ingesting food with caloric value, or burning fat or some other tissue. That's why you die when you don't eat. Your body runs out of the energy it needs to keep itself functioning. The only people who don't burn calories are dead people.

Besides water and respiration and food, your body has no other inputs. Once you reduce the caloric value of these inputs below energy expended to maintain body temperature and muscle function and electrochemistry, the body will lose mass, period, end of story. Whether your body decides to keep fat instead of muscle or even brain tissue is irrelevant to the scientific reality that it's going to lose mass from somewhere. If there are people who can function without using energy, then we need to synthesize their biology and we will have solved the world's energy crisis. What you are claiming is no different than claiming that there is such a thing as a perpetual energy machine.

There is not even anecdotal evidence to suggest that starving people maintain their body mass. Please stop spreading pseudoscience around. It's not doing anyone any good.
posted by notion at 3:21 PM on November 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


Anyone care to guess how many times mefi has seen this debate before? 20? 50? 100 times?

Who gives a shit? 20? 50? 100 people? Just you?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:30 PM on November 9, 2010


I'm going to re-contextualize this slightly.

Let's not talk about twinkies, or the junk food. File those as "filler."

What the researcher is doing is pointing out a truth about the human diet that rarely gets promoted: there is a certain minimal amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water that we need in order to live in some healthy fashion. We're at a point where these needs can be delivered through nothing more than a multivitamin, a can of green beans, a protein shake, and a glass of milk.

Seriously. A multivitamin, a can of green beans, a protein shake, and a glass of milk. 500 calories. Everything the human body needs to live on. The rest of our diet is so arbitrary that we can just eat empty calories and remain reasonably healthy.

The interesting thing about this is that it's so uncontentious, but it's not something that's commonly stated. Ultimately, when you take out the snack foods, his diet hits the RDAs and nothing more, and that will work out fine.

I feel there really needs to be more promotion of this kind of clear thinking: establish a baseline "what you need to live" lean and protein-rich diet, and then add on in moderation from there.

Calorie counting diets are good for 30 pounds. Then your metabolism adjusts to whatever your caloric intake is.

[No, the] idea is to not cut the calories too drastically below a maintenance number (that is adjusted monthly).

Both of these notions are incorrect.

Virtually all of the research on protein-sparing very low calorie diets -- ie, diets which are reasonably high in proteins but very low in calories -- shows that fat loss can be sustained over long periods so long as protein consumption is great enough to maintain lean body mass. There are many who have lost far more than 30 pounds using VLCDs, who start with a very low number of calories -- such as the 500 I mentioned above -- and end with 500 calories.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 3:30 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


there is a certain minimal amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water that we need in order to live in some healthy fashion.

While that's true, I don't think living on an incomplete diet for two months constitutes evidence for this larger point. I would definitely expect deficits in this person's health were he to maintain this diet for a year or more.
posted by Miko at 3:53 PM on November 9, 2010


notion, my father was a physicist and one of my best friends is a doctor, and both would be aghast at your misuse of the phrase "scientific law" in this context. You are using a rhetorical flourish that is wholly unsupported by any actual scientific discipline to give undeserved credence to the *cough* notion that people who can't easily lose weight by dieting are just too weak to do it right.

I'm not jumping on you for being a fat hater here. I'm jumping on you because the way you are using the language of science is just plain wrong, both in physical and medical terms. There is no sense whatsoever in which the linkage between food intake and weight loss is a "law." The human body can simply refuse to process excess input calories and pass the food right through. It can also clam up its outputs, hoard water and refuse to process stored reserves, and expire of anemia or hypoglycemia or a number of other conditions while generously laden in fat. Things like this actually do happen, admittedly not very often but the fact that it is possible at all, even once in a billion cases, makes your statement not just wrong but blazingly ridiculous.
posted by localroger at 4:58 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I did not say dieting is easy, but I do make the following assertions:

1) If you are alive, you are burning calories. Your body cannot refuse to follow the laws of thermodynamics: to perform work, you need energy. If the body isn't performing work, it is dead.
2) If you take in less calories than you burn, your body will lose mass.

If you can find a doctor or a physicist who disagrees with those two statements, I would be very surprised.

I believe the only reason that it gets confusing is that most calories are burned by metabolism, which is greatly affected by genetics and diet. However, this does not mean that the laws of physics stop at human skin. The balance sheet of the body's thermodynamic system must balance. It's the law of the universe.
posted by notion at 8:03 PM on November 9, 2010 [1 favorite]




Strict, doctor monitored 1250 calorie a day diet (plus or minus twelve calories).

In spring of this year, I went to my doc and said, "I am gaining about 5 pounds a month on a 1600 cal/day diet. WTF??"

Doc said, "Well, then, you need to cut down to 800 cal/day to lose weight. 500 cal if you want to see noticeable results."

And whaddaya know, it worked. It was unpleasant, but it worked. I also learned a lot about what foods have terrible reputations but don't actually have a lot of calories, and what foods have almost no calories so I could snack on them, and what foods (despite my preconceptions) have tons of calories.

I thought the idea behind dieting was to get healthy, which involves a lot more than just losing a few pounds.

Sometimes losing a few pounds is the primary goal. Example: joint pain sufferers. Even 10 lbs weight loss makes an enormous difference to a lot of people who have joint pain.
posted by galadriel at 8:15 PM on November 9, 2010


galadriel, you should see an endocrinologist. That's not normal. That kind of diet is inhumane and has negative side effects. Have you had your thyroid checked?
posted by melissam at 8:53 PM on November 9, 2010


Melissam, I've been thoroughly checked out every which way for a couple of years, while they try to figure out what's going on with me. Yes, in fact, my thyroid stays within normal parameters. The doc who advised me that I'd need to cut way down on caloric intake was looking at a tall stack of test results, saying, "There isn't anything in here that would contribute to weight gain. You're just taking in more calories than you're using in a day."

To clarify: I lost about 10 pounds by counting calories and restricting caloric intake. After that, I applied what I had learned about relative calorie contents and changed my eating habits, stopped counting or restricting calories and just ate when I was hungry, and now I continue to lose weight, just slowly. It's been more than half a year since I stopped counting calories, and I've only lost more weight.

The habits I changed were actually very easy changes to make, and so this is quite sustainable and still healthy. I'm a lot happier with my attitude toward food than I have ever been (including when I was a teen, ate everything I put my hands on, and people still thought I was anorexic).

~ ~ ~

My point, though, is that if someone else is clearly not losing weight at 1250 calories a day, it is in fact possible to eat less than that. I was *gaining* at 1600 cal/day; I thought I was eating enough to lose weight, and my doc showed me I was wrong. Hey, it's possible to eat less than 1600 cal/day. It's not fun, but it's even possible to eat less than 1250 a day.
posted by galadriel at 4:51 AM on November 10, 2010


galadriel, interesting. I guess your metabolism is low? If I ate that little I would faint. I'm a naturally under-eater and I've always had to worry about counting calories to get enough. My doctor made me do that and when I realized I was getting about 1000, he told me I better eat A LOT more.
posted by melissam at 5:20 AM on November 10, 2010


most calories are burned by metabolism, which is greatly affected by genetics and diet

An important point. And also, NEAT and the body chemistry of inactivity (like sitting at a desk in front of a computer most of the day), which are huge variables, and among the reasons some people can be working hard on diet and maintaining a good basic workout schedule and still not lose weight.
posted by Miko at 6:13 AM on November 10, 2010


When you actually measure the food of "hard gainers" they are simply not eating enough to accommodate their level of activity.

Back when I was a hard gainer (I now have, I guess, a normal metabolism -- if I eat more than I should, I might gain some weight) I once ate an entire pint of Reese's Ice cream, in one sitting. That's around 640 extra calories. At the time my "level of activity" was nil; I was a sit-on-my-butt-all-day programmer. The most exercise I got was the 5 minute walk from my house.

I love to eat; I've always loved to eat. I think about food constantly, and I eat until I burst. It's only recently, that I'm no longer a "hard gainer" that I've had to start thinking about the wisdom of stopping before I'm overfull.

So, yeah, hard gainers do exist; they are a real thing. When I ate a normal amount of food, I maintained my weight. When I at more, somehow those extra calories were burned. Maybe what happened, if you want to believe that I must have burned them somehow is that perhaps those 600 calories gave me an extra bit of pep the next day and so I walked a bit more briskly than usual and burned those extra calories in my 0.2 mile haul to work.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:09 AM on November 10, 2010


If I ate that little I would faint.

Looks like you and I have very different bodies, then, huh? Whaddayaknow.

Just a comment, by the way...when someone says "My doctor told me to do X," responding with "Wow, X isn't normal, you should get checked out by a doctor" might be, y'know, somewhat offensive.
posted by galadriel at 8:19 AM on November 10, 2010


galadriel, it essentially possible, but you're for all intents and purposes in a state of semi-starvation which brings on a whole whack load of psychological baggage to contend with. During the Minnesota Starvation Experiment one man went so far as to amputate three fingers with an axe in what researchers went on to call semistarvation neurosis on a 1500 calorie a day diet. People who restrict calories; dieters, CRON'ers, people with eating disorders exhibit some of the same symptoms as those men like obsessing about food, ritualized eating, binging, anxiety, depression, low libido &c.

But, the thing is, because anastasiav isn't losing any weight the knee jerk opinion is she's still eating too much and/or not the right things which completely ignores what happens to the body when it thinks its in a state of starvation; the body temperature lowers, metabolism slows, glucose and insulin levels drop. Its going to do everything in its power to protect itself.

And, if you think about it she should be losing a pound a day based on what her body needs to maintain its current weight vs. to lose. Hell, theoretically based on conventional wisdom about weight loss, if she wanted to she could eat 3500 calories a day and lose a little over a pound a week, but for whatever reason her body is refusing to play along, to behave like the norm. It must be ever so irksome to have people continue to tell her she's doing it wrong and, have to defend what she is doing. I used to be in her shoes and, its no fun.
posted by squeak at 10:11 AM on November 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


galadriel, I meant a specialist. Primary care doctors aren't very helpful with these kind of problems. I'm very surprised your doctor told you to do 800 calories a day. My roommate is an endocrinologist and he says that's irresponsible of any doctor unless you are under direct supervision (talking to the doctor several times a week).

If you didn't have thyroid problems before, being on a starvation diet is a known way to cause under-active thyroid.
posted by melissam at 10:58 AM on November 10, 2010


You want a leg? I can get you a leg, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don't wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a leg by 3 o'clock this afternoon...
posted by nushustu at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2010


galadriel, I meant a specialist.

That doesn't matter. You don't *know* what kind of doc I saw. You don't know what tests had already been done, what info we were working with, what my OTHER problems are, or what kind of program she and I discussed. You knew two sentences worth of comment, approximately.

Someone said, "My doctor told me to do X" and you said, "That's not normal, see a doctor!" It doesn't matter how you qualify it.

That's offensive.

I can sympathize a lot with anastasiav, who's being told that her efforts must be inadequate and she needs (whatever other posters think is the magic bullet). She's consulting with her docs. She's working with what they have to say. We don't know what's going on, what her tests say, what other issues she has, or anything of that nature. I piped up that I've been in a situation where a doc told me that to lose weight, I'd have to eat even less than her 1250 calories/day.

I don't know, but I'm certainly not going to tell her what TO do. Just that X was what MY doc suggested FOR ME in a particular set of circumstances, and hey, it worked.
posted by galadriel at 12:40 PM on November 10, 2010


Someone said, "My doctor told me to do X" and you said, "That's not normal, see a doctor!" It doesn't matter how you qualify it.

I dunno. If your doctor told you to eat 20 hot dogs a day and cut out vegetables, I'd say "That's not good, get another doctor."

I'm not qualified to comment on a recommendation of 800 calories/day, but it seems sorta dangerous at first glance, unless this is a highly supervised diet/hospitalized/etc.

I understand and sympathize with your position, but I think you take the grievance a bit too far here. A 800-calorie diet is an unusual prescription.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:48 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


When there are physicallyenforced calorie limits, like with a gastric bypass, are there still people who can't lose weight?
posted by smackfu at 2:44 PM on November 10, 2010


Yes. They learn to drink milkshakes.
posted by benzenedream at 3:11 PM on November 10, 2010


notion: 1) If you are alive, you are burning calories. Your body cannot refuse to follow the laws of thermodynamics: to perform work, you need energy. If the body isn't performing work, it is dead.

And this is precisely the problem, and why your use of the phrase "physical law" is so completely inappropriate. Your body does in fact have a choice. Thinking it is facing starvation, it can actually shut down your metabolism, and if this goes on too long you will die -- possibly with a lot of fat reserves in place that could have been burned, just like the poor souls found dead in the desert with a full gallon of lemonade they were too worried about conserving to drink. Your body does not have to use any particular resources, neither the fat it has stored nor the calories in food you eat which it is perfectly capable of passing through unprocessed. Your body can choose to ignore those resources, even if it needs them to stay alive, and if it does that instead of losing weight you will get sick and then die.

These things are not only possible, several different people have reported them in this very thread. Considering the relatively small fraction of the general population who post on Metafilter, I'd say this must be the kind of result most doctors would see at least occasionally.

So even if you want to back into your corner insisting that sure, you might get violently ill and fuck up your thyroid and faint and hallucinate before you start losing weight but keep it up and YOU ABSOLUTELY WILL EVENTUALLY LOSE WEIGHT NA-NA-NA, all I can say is that even if it might be technically true that is also NOT USEFUL.
posted by localroger at 5:12 PM on November 10, 2010


My understanding is this: The body is not a machine. The body is an organism. Machines are designed, tested and refined and engineered to the last rivet. Organisms generally get to where they are through "least worst" selection and random chance. As such, while a machine mostly goes wrong because a designer screws up, organisms can fuck themselves up for any number of completely random reasons.

Organisms are black boxes that we can model approximately with some accuracy most of the time, we think, as long as all of the interactions we're not even aware of keep running smoothly to keep observed correlations ticking happily along.

Then the immune system turns against itself. Or cells mutate and become cancerous. Or the organism otherwise does things that ensure any intelligent designer will never ever work in this town again. I mean, we've been getting our appendixes cut out routinely for how long, and it's only in the last ten years that it's been thought of as anything other than a vestigial organ? There are still unknown unknowns in this picture.

This is not to say that I am a fat bastard because it's in my genes or whatever. AFAIK, these are not amongst my problems. I'm lumbering around at 280 again because my default answer to everything is "FOOD!".

------------------------

I've never really about this, but what does the number of (kilo)calories on a twinkie wrapper even mean? I mean, I understand that a calorie is the amount of energy needed to heat 1 gram of water by 1'C. A twinkie can therefore theoretically heat 150 kg (= 150 litres) of water by 1 degree.

Is that the absolute maximum potentially usable energy in the average twinkie? An approximation of how much the average human being is expected to be able to derive from the twinkie?

Someone help me out here.
posted by Decimask at 9:27 PM on November 10, 2010


My physiol lecturer said our body burns energy about as efficiently as a internal combustion engine. Which isn't very good.

Sorry, I'm at work so don't want to be searching for links, so I'm only going from memory.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:17 PM on November 10, 2010


>>Microwave on high for 6 to 13 minutes? Is that right?
>>posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:38 PM on November 10 [+] [!]

>NO. If you are going to make it in the microwave, you want four layers of paper towels, bacon, two layers of paper towels then three minutes. Then check it. Continue 30 seconds at a time.


ABSOLUTELY NO. What sort of microwaves you got over there? Or just how burnt-to-a-crisp do you like your bacon?

I reckon 60 seconds, tops. I'm speaking from experience. This is how I cook bacon most of the time.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:39 PM on November 10, 2010


Sorry, wrong thread. And a rather unfortunate wrong thread at that.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:41 PM on November 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


uncanny hengeman, best wrong thread post ever!


"hard gainers" don't provide any source of mystery. I would think they are just passing the food through. No energy is showing up from nowhere.
posted by Iax at 12:17 AM on November 11, 2010


Decimask: I believe it's the amount of energy extractable from the food by oxidizing it, which I guess is a close enough approximation to what your body can extract. It's measured using calorimeters (eg bomb calorimeters) or just calculated if all the ingredients have known values. I don't know how they account for things like indigestible cellulose.
posted by hattifattener at 1:40 PM on November 11, 2010


You cannot be alive unless you maintain a body temperature. You cannot maintain body temperature without expending energy. You cannot expend energy without first ingesting food with caloric value, or burning fat or some other tissue. That's why you die when you don't eat. Your body runs out of the energy it needs to keep itself functioning. The only people who don't burn calories are dead people.

Besides water and respiration and food, your body has no other inputs. Once you reduce the caloric value of these inputs below energy expended to maintain body temperature and muscle function and electrochemistry, the body will lose mass, period, end of story. Whether your body decides to keep fat instead of muscle or even brain tissue is irrelevant to the scientific reality that it's going to lose mass from somewhere. If there are people who can function without using energy, then we need to synthesize their biology and we will have solved the world's energy crisis. What you are claiming is no different than claiming that there is such a thing as a perpetual energy machine.

There is not even anecdotal evidence to suggest that starving people maintain their body mass. Please stop spreading pseudoscience around. It's not doing anyone any good.
posted by notion at 11:21 PM on November 9


This. THIS, people. For god's sake, learn some basic science. Anyone who cannot accept the above truth is simply in denial, and they're making a goddamn fool of themselves if they persist in refusing to accept it.

Why are there no fat people with "glandular problems" or "slow metabolisms" in famine zones? Unbelievable how many supposedly educated people refuse to accept reality when it hurts.
posted by Decani at 12:57 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


Decani, no one here is arguing we can sustain life by subsisting on air alone; it's the huge grey area between where many overfeeding studies have shown that food in doesn't necessarily equal pounds packed on/lost that's being argued. Sadly, a lot of people have reduced the law of thermodynamics to a very rudimentary calories in = calories out equation, but the law is not that simplistic.
posted by squeak at 10:11 AM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


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