Outside editoral: The Twinkie diet

Posted: Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune:

Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, lost 27 pounds in two months on the Twinkie diet. What are we supposed to make of that? Living on mostly junk food - Oreos, Doritos, Little Debbie snack cakes - with a daily protein shake and some greens thrown in, Haub was testing the premise that calorie counting is the key to weight loss, and ta-da, it is. We thought everybody already knew that.

If the point is that he consumed mostly garbage for two months and lived to tell about it, well, that's not news either. Skip the celery, substitute beer for the protein shake and you've got a diet not unlike that of many college freshmen, and most of them get away with it far longer than two months. If they burn more calories than they consume, they lose weight. If they don't, they don't.

Should we be impressed that Haub's "good" cholesterol went up, while his triglycerides and his "bad" cholesterol went down? One guy, two months - we doubt it. This was a classroom stunt, not a peer-reviewed study. But it's an irresistible counterpoint to all the recent nutritional finger-wagging, from the anti-chocolate milk lobby to the Halloween candy police to the scolds in California who legislated the toys out of McDonald's Happy Meals. They want you to believe it's all poison, and maybe it is. But if you count the calories carefully, you could lose 27 pounds in two months.

If you want to try this diet, and we know you do, forget about shopping at Whole Foods. You can find most of your groceries in the vending machines at work or school. Thanks to a helpful new federal law, calorie counts soon will be posted alongside each item so that consumers can make sound nutritional choices.

For example, this bag of Chili Cheese Fritos, purchased strictly for research purposes, contains 320 calories. Following Haub's 1,800-calorie regimen, you could eat five bags (total cost: $4) and still reserve 200 calories for veggies and protein shakes. You could substitute this 460-calorie twin-pack of SuzyQ's, which we are absolutely going to expense, for one bag of Fritos, though you'd also have to skip the protein shake. You can lose weight eating nothing but M&M's if you do the math right, but it's a really dopey idea. We're pretty sure everybody already knew that, too.

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