Move over, “nothing but potatoes” diet, there’s a new crazy diet in town.
For 10 weeks, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, ate one of these sugary cakelets every three hours, instead of meals. To add variety in his steady stream of Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Haub munched on Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too.
His premise: That in weight loss, pure calorie counting is what matters most — not the nutritional value of the food.
The premise held up: On his “convenience store diet,” he shed 27 pounds in two months.
For a class project, Haub limited himself to less than 1,800 calories a day. A man of Haub’s pre-dieting size usually consumes about 2,600 calories daily. So he followed a basic principle of weight loss: He consumed significantly fewer calories than he burned.
His body mass index went from 28.8, considered overweight, to 24.9, which is normal. He now weighs 174 pounds.
But you might expect other indicators of health would have suffered. Not so.
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.
Haub didn’t eat just junk food — he added a protein shake, a multivitamin, and a vegetable to his daily intake. And he paid careful attention to the amount of calories he was ingesting, which was lower than his normal caloric intake.
But what’s important to note is that in essence, Haub did a modified but traditional diet — he limited his calories to be less than the amount he burned, he made sure to get all of the necessary vitamins needed daily, and he included moderate physical activity.
The real issue with his diet, and with Voigt’s promotional “potato diet,” is that what they are doing isn’t how people eat in the real world. People who eat mostly junk food aren’t counting their calories while they do it to make sure that they burn off the right amount. And people don’t complain about potatoes being too large of a part of children’s diets at school because potatoes are always unhealthy, but because in the cafeteria they are receiving their vegetables almost entirely in the form of french fries.
As a thought exercise, if these news stories can convince people that they can eat healthy by consuming moderate amounts of the foods they love as part of a larger healthy, balanced diet, that’s wonderful. But as singular diets themselves, they are overall as healthy as can be — to the unhealthy person’s mental state as much as their physical one, as they will never learn how to properly eat.