Professor loses 27 lbs. on Twinkie and BBQ-chip diet

Youth deliberating on snack food choice at vending machineThe findings of a new study by Mark Haub, professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, might delight those who struggle to take off pounds with diets that restrict carbs, particularly sugary, gooey treats. Haub experimented on himself to see what would happen if he went on a sub-1,800-calorie-a-day diet of foods that are generally considered junk foods, such as Twinkies, sugary cereals and potato chips. The result? He lost 27 pounds in two months, while elevating his good cholesterol and dropping his bad cholesterol.

Stop right there! I know you're already putting on your shoes, intending to head to the store to stock up on Ho Ho's and BBQ chips, but Haub's "convenience store diet" experiment, carried out on one person in relatively good health, while provocative, is not proof enough that this strategy is sound. What it does show is that calories are calories, and eating fewer calories than one burns up will result in weight loss, regardless of the source of those calories.

Haub, as quoted by CNN Health, is quick to state that he's not recommending this to anyone, and is, in fact, still puzzling over the results.

While he seems to have emerged from this regime the better for it, such a diet could be dangerous for many people, including diabetics and those with digestion problems. Most of the diets with good track records, such as Weight Watchers, emphasize a variety of foods, in moderation, for a good reason.

So what did he eat? Haub consumed about two-thirds of his calories eating cellophane-wrapped foods, the kind that require no refrigeration and have a long shelf life; in other words, junk foods. He supplemented them with protein shakes and raw or canned vegetables. The diet wasn't expensive; he budgeted $5 a day. (Yes, sugar, shortening and flour are cheap, profitable ingredients.)

What is a calorie? No, it's not a unit of fat, but a unit of energy -- the energy required to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. (What we call calories are really kilocalories; for sake of clarity, we'll do likewise.) Around 3,500 calories equals a pound of human flesh. To lose weight, a human needs to consume fewer calories than he burns.

Putting this into context: A gallon of gas contains around 31,000 calories. If humans were able to eat gasoline, one gallon could sustain a person at his usual rate of consumption for 10-14 days. If cars were able to run on Twinkies (150 calories per Twinkie), a car getting 20 mpg would burn up around 10 Twinkies per mile.

A 200-lb human walking at a brisk clip (3.5 mph) burns up only around 100 calories a mile, or only two-thirds of one Twinkie. In other words, we are much more efficient users of energy than cars are.

And more flexible. Haub has shown that humans can exist, perhaps even thrive, on a wide variety of energy sources, even those dipped in chocolate and filled with white goo. Match that, Toyota!

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Intro to different retirement accounts

What does it mean to have a 401(k)? IRA?

View Course »

Introduction to Retirement Funds

Target date funds help you maintain a long term portfolio.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum