The Twinkie Diet

Being mindful of how much you eat matters.

Posted Nov 10, 2010

Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, did an unusual experiment.  He ate snack cakes and other sugary, processed foods for ten weeks.  Delete meals, insert snacks.  This included things like Doritos, chips, sugar cereals, cookies, and lots of snack cakes etc.  Somewhere in the world Little Debbie is smiling. 

Why try this?  To prove a point.  Simply reducing your calories, no matter what you eat, will make you lose weight.  After 10 weeks, he lost 27lbs.  His cholestrol “improved” according to the results.  This is because he lost weight and his BMI, body mass index, moved from "overweight" into the “normal” range.

The point:  Being mindful of how much you eat matters. 

The Upside:  There is a positive aspect to this self study.  It shows that it’s “okay” to eat yummy treats, even when you are trying to manage your weight.  Fad diets will try to convince you that all desserts are “bad” and that you “fail” if you eat them.  But, it’s about balance and being more aware of how much food you take in, even desserts. 

Caution!: The downside to this study is that can be a little deceiving. There are several things that aren’t measure by weight, such as mood.  Each of these snacks are loaded with sugar. This typically leads to a spike in blood sugar and an immediate crash, which results in moodiness and bottoming out of your energy level. 

Also, high calorie items often aren’t filling for very long.  Whole grains and vegetables keep you fuller because you can eat large quanties of them. It’s likely that he was pretty hungry between snacks.  However, he did admit to eating veggies around his kids.  So, don’t think that unhealthy snack foods were the only thing he was eating (which is an important caveat). Approximately 60% was "junk food."  Also, what does counting calories result in?  Often it leads to obessiveness and fear of food.

Not to mention the lack of vitamins and minerals. What about the added chemicals in processed foods?  It’s like putting premium or low quality gas into the tank. They both work, but which one will keep the car well maintained in the long run?  Check out one day of his food intake (quoted on WebMD, posted on his facebook page).

September 10, 2010: A double espresso; two servings of Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake; one Centrum Advance Formula “From A To Zinc” pill; one serving of Little Debbie Star Crunch cookies; a Diet Mt. Dew drink; half a serving of Doritos Cool Ranch corn chips; two servings of Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal; a serving of whole milk; half a serving of raw baby carrots; one and a half servings of Duncan Hines Family Style Chewy Fudge brownie; half a serving of Little Debbie Zebra Cake; one serving of Muscle Milk Protein Shake drink; Total: 1589 calories.

This professor lost a lot of weight, fast.  What happens now that his BMI is in the “normal” range?  It’s likely that the weight loss will slow down or halt.  Would we see his labs change for the worse perhaps?  Needless to say, there are many other concerns that this approach brings up.  Two words come to mind. Toxic and potentially dangerous. 

Is the diet recommended?  Sorry, but I think most of us would agree that a balanced diet would be a healthier option. But, that is up for debate.  As a psychologist, I comment more on "how" and "why" we eat instead of "what" we consume. 

Thank you for conducting this zany experiment.  Sometimes we need the unconventional to remind us that being mindful of how much you take in is important.

To follow him, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Prof-Haubs-Diet-Experiments/152304481454281

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, specializing in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns, and mindfulness. She is the author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food, Eating Mindfully, Eat, Drink, and Be Mindful, and Mindful Eating 101 and is a Huffington Post blogger.  Her books have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, O, the Oprah Magazine, Natural Health, Self Magazine and on the Dr. Oz T.V. show. Visit Albers online at www.eatingmindfully.