The Twinkie Diet Proved Nothing New

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I wrote this post two years ago, but never hit publish. It got lost in the drafts. Consider this a “lost episode”.

In 2010, Escape the Herd alerted me to the story of a professor that proved that fat loss was all about calories and not about nutritional quality. I still read people who cite this study as proof that it is all about the calories and if you just cut the calories you’d lose the fat. For those unfamiliar with the diet, read Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 pounds:

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.

In my opinion his study proved very little.

The only thing this study showed is that in the short term a single healthy male of 41 years old with University resources can eat a mostly poor diet and lose fat. How does this further our knowledge on obesity? It doesn’t. There are many examples of prisoners of war or concentration camps where those detained consumed nutrient poor and calorie restrictive diets. And they lost weight.

When we discuss fat loss, we should be striving for long term and sustainable. I suspect that one of the reasons people over eat is because they are under nourished. Putting out press releases saying you can lose fat eating Twinkies isn’t helping those that struggle with dieting that may have real health issues in addition to being overweight.

Twinkies

Photo by Joel Kraut. 

Hostess vs High Velocity Super Warrior

Since so many people seemed hellbent on showing that the only thing that matters is calories, I’d like to propose a study. My study would add two additional metrics: long-term success and perceived hunger. Take 100 people with at least 50 pounds to lose over the age of 30 evenly divided by sex.

  • Group A: They would follow the caloric restrictive Twinkie diet for 2 months.
  • Group B: They would get 70% of their calories from the foods listed on the post High Velocity Super Warrior Foods.

If a calorie is a calorie, they should lose weight at equal amounts. Fair enough, but that part isn’t interesting. I want to see what happens when they resume normal eating. Who keeps the weight off better and feels the least hunger? The Twinkie group or the Super Warriors? I strongly suspect it won’t be the Hostess group. I believe the more nourished group will have greater long term success.

7 thoughts on “The Twinkie Diet Proved Nothing New

  1. Jeremy

    I do not believe eating Twinkies is a long term strategy that anyone should implement, but how can you say the experiment proved nothing? It proved the most important aspect of weight loss. You must be in a caloric DEFICIT to lose weight. It doesn’t matter if you eat “healthy” or “junk” food as long as you eat less calories than your body burns, you will lose weight. This is based on thermodynamics and is misconstrued by marketing gimmicks so that “healthy” food companies can get you to eat as much as you want and “claim” you can still lose weight. They may say it will “stoke” your metabolism (BS).

    Common healthy foods that are “loaded” with calories are things like nuts/seeds, peanut butter, avocados/guacamole, cheese, a lot of salad dressings. A couple handfuls of nuts can easily amount to 200 – 400 calories, which can be anywhere from 10 – 20% of somebody’s caloric intake when they’re trying to lose weight. It’s pretty easy to over consume on calories when someone thinks they are eating healthy.

    I have no problem with the above “healthy” foods and believe a nutrient dense eating style is definitely more sustainable than eating highly processed foods long term, but the main point to losing weight is still always the same. A caloric deficit is required by anyone trying to lose weight, but the trick is to find a way to be in a caloric deficit comfortably to fit the person’s lifestyle. Everyone’s lifestyle is different, which is why I agree with your website statements that “one size does not fit all” with HOW you lose weight.

    Jeremy

  2. I’m completely with you, as were a bunch of folks in the blogosphere at the time. I linked to a bunch of those on my blog.

  3. Orville B. Banks

    There is a general perception that almost no one succeeds in long-term maintenance of weight loss. However, research has shown that ≈20% of overweight individuals are successful at long-term weight loss when defined as losing at least 10% of initial body weight and maintaining the loss for at least 1 y. The National Weight Control Registry provides information about the strategies used by successful weight loss maintainers to achieve and maintain long-term weight loss. National Weight Control Registry members have lost an average of 33 kg and maintained the loss for more than 5 y. To maintain their weight loss, members report engaging in high levels of physical activity (≈1 h/d), eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet, eating breakfast regularly, self-monitoring weight, and maintaining a consistent eating pattern across weekdays and weekends. Moreover, weight loss maintenance may get easier over time; after individuals have successfully maintained their weight loss for 2–5 y, the chance of longer-term success greatly increases. Continued adherence to diet and exercise strategies, low levels of depression and disinhibition, and medical triggers for weight loss are also associated with long-term success. National Weight Control Registry members provide evidence that long-term weight loss maintenance is possible and help identify the specific approaches associated with long-term success.

  4. Huh?

    I have agree with Jeremy on this one. I’m not really sure how you can say this study did not prove anything. The general populace for decades have believed that in order to lose weight, you need to exercise and eat “healthy.” People were told to only eat vegetables, lean meats, low fat alternatives, etc and to avoid processed foods (e.g. chips, candy, cookies) like the plague. They were lead to believe that having a snickers bar would somehow halt their weight loss. This study PROVES that you can eat whatever you want and still LOSE weight as long as you’re in a calorie deficit. Plain and simple. Now, people can incorporate chips and candy into their diet without thinking they’re going to wake up 5 pounds heavier.

  5. @Huh? – What did I say?

    There are many examples of prisoners of war or concentration camps where those detained consumed nutrient poor and calorie restrictive diets. And they lost weight.

    So I am acknowledging a caloric deficit causes weight loss.

    I am trying to advance the conversation to figure out why so many (maybe 95%) regain the weight they lose while dieting. I propose studying nutrient density as an alternate way not to lose the weight, but to lose the weight in a method that is more sustainable. I believe the nutrient poor strategy to fat loss is less sustainable, because it is nutrient poor.

    My point was the riddle of weight lose is not how to lose the weight, but how to do it in a sustainable way where we keep the weight off. If 95% of people regain the weight lost during diets, we need to figure what the 5

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