Home Fad Diets The Twinkie Diet: What Do You Mean, It Works?!

The Twinkie Diet: What Do You Mean, It Works?!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I’m not gonna tell you how many of Team BGG2WL sent me this story… let’s just say that I am eternally grateful that y’all care this much about this stuff. It makes me feel like less of a nerd.

Let’s just also say that I am also honored to know that y’all care what I think about these issues. Don’t ever stop sending me stuff, though. Ever.(Please?)

On to the subject at hand, though.

Meet Professor Mark Haub. He teaches nutrition at Kansas State University. That’s important. Remember that.

Professor Haub decided to go on a diet that consisted of majority junk food… as a means of proving that it is the quantity of the calories one consumes, not the quality. Meaning, it doesn’t matter where your calories come from. What matters is that you cut your portion sizes down. This is important. Remember this, too.

I’m going to [resentfully] quote the article:

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.

“That’s where the head scratching comes,” Haub said. “What does that mean? Does that mean I’m healthier? Or does it mean how we define health from a biology standpoint, that we’re missing something?”

It means you’re missing something. Trust me. The article goes on, though:

Despite his temporary success, Haub does not recommend replicating his snack-centric diet.

“I’m not geared to say this is a good thing to do,” he said. “I’m stuck in the middle. I guess that’s the frustrating part. I can’t give a concrete answer. There’s not enough information to do that.”

Two-thirds of his total intake came from junk food. He also took a multivitamin pill and drank a protein shake daily. And he ate vegetables, typically a can of green beans or three to four celery stalks.

Families who live in food deserts have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so they often rely on the kind of food Haub was eating.

“These foods are consumed by lots of people,” he said. “It may be an issue of portion size and moderation rather than total removal. I just think it’s unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits. It may be healthy, but not realistic.”

Haub’s body fat dropped from 33.4 to 24.9 percent. This posed the question: What matters more for weight loss, the quantity or quality of calories?

If the body isn’t operating optimally, how long do you think you can last on a diet that doesn’t aid it in achieving that goal?

But wait… there’s more:

His success is probably a result of caloric reduction, said Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian based in Atlanta, Georgia.

“It’s a great reminder for weight loss that calories count,” she said. “Is that the bottom line to being healthy? That’s another story.”

Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said she’s not surprised to hear Haub’s health markers improved even when he loaded up on processed snack cakes.

Being overweight is the central problem that leads to complications like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, she said.

“When you lose weight, regardless of how you’re doing it — even if it’s with packaged foods, generally you will see these markers improve when weight loss has improved,” she said.

Before jumping on the Ding Dong bandwagon, Blatner warned of health concerns.

“There are things we can’t measure,” said Blatner, questioning how the lack of fruits and vegetables could affect long-term health. “How much does that affect the risk for cancer? We can’t measure how diet changes affect our health.”

I can’t take this any more. All of these people with big giant degrees and alphabet soup behind their names still don’t get it.

I’m going to start from the top. Professor Haub went from eating 2600 calories a day to eating 1800 calories a day. Let’s take a look at Professor Haub’s sample daily diet:

  • Espresso, Double: 6 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat; 19g sugar; 220mg sodium
  • Centrum Advanced Formula From A To Zinc: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • Little Debbie Star Crunch: 150 calories; 6 grams of fat; 11.9g sugar; 70mg sodium
  • Hostess Twinkies Golden Sponge Cake: 150 calories; 5 grams of fat; 19g sugar; 220mg sodium
  • Diet Mountain Dew: 0 calories; 0 grams of fat; 0g sugar; 35mg sodium
  • Doritos Cool Ranch: 75 calories; 4 grams of fat; .5g sugar; 85mg sodium
  • Kellogg’s Corn Pops: 220 calories; 0 grams of fat; 12g sugar; 110mg sodium
  • whole milk: 150 calories; 8 grams of fat; 12g sugar; 125mg sodium
  • baby carrots: 18 calories; 0 grams of fat
  • Duncan Hines Family Style Brownie Chewy Fudge: 270 calories; 14 grams of fat; 32g sugar; 115mg sodium
  • Little Debbie Zebra Cake: 160 calories; 8 grams of fat; 31g sugar; 170mg sodium
  • Muscle Milk Protein Shake: 240 calories; 9 grams of fat; 6g sugar; 580mg sodium 

Totals: 1,589 calories and 59 grams of fat (143.4g of sugar, 1730mg of sodium)

The sugar and sodium totals are mine – CNN didn’t provide those. Remember that, too.

Let’s look closely at Professor Haub’s “results” from his diet:

  • He lost 27lbs in 2mos.
  • His body mass index (BMI) decreased from 28.8 to 24.9, .1 below the “overweight” classification, considered “normal.”
  • His LDL cholesterol (cleverly referred to as bad cholesterol) dropped 20%, while his HDL (the good cholesterol) was elevated by 20%.
  • His body fat percentage dropped from 33.4% to 24.9%.

I have questions.

First, I know that he said he worked out regularly and ate healthily before he began this “diet,” but he also said that he also worked out during the diet, as well. Did he find himself properly fueled for his regular activity? Did he ever increase or decrease the length of his workouts? Did he find himself growing more and more tired throughout the day as the diet continued? Did he ever hit “the wall” earlier on in his workouts than before?

(And, really, I am familiar with how people overreport their “healthfulness” and underreport their healthy living shortcomings… so I don’t expect honest answers, let alone answers period to my question.)

Secondly, why would a nutritionist [professor] be confused about cholesterol levels decreasing when meat is cut from one’s daily intake? Assuming he wasn’t a vegetarian, the fat consumed from his “twinkie diet” would be considerably less than that consumed from animal and animal by-products… so if you’ve cut meat and all you’re ingesting (as far as animal by-products go) is whole milk, then yes. Your cholesterol will decrease. Mentioning these results without clarifying that point seems dishonest and while I don’t know whether Professor Haub or the journo is to blame for that, it needs to be said.

Thirdly, I want to be clear. Can diets create weight loss? Yes! A big giant man who is used to taking in 2600 calories each day, who cuts his caloric intake by 800 calories, is going to lose weight. Let me be clear. Deprivation works.

That’s not what’s in question, here.

I’ve said this before and it [clearly] bears repeating:

Why does dieting work? Dieting works because it is an extremely mindless form of calorie counting. If I’ve only allowed myself to choose from this one low-calorie food to eat, I can’t possibly gain weight, right? You don’t have to think about the food you’re eating and whether or not it’ll cause you to gain weight – you KNOW this one food won’t cause you to put on any pounds, you know exactly what you’re going to do. It’s auto-pilot for weight loss.

However – because it usually involves something that you can only manage temporarily, you tend to come off of it – excited to beat the pounds – by celebrating with what? More food you have no business indulging in in the first place!

Why does the weight ALWAYS come back? Because… wait for it… auto-pilot doesn’t work for weight loss! That’s right – you can’t do it. Why? Because waking up one day and deciding that you’re going to go auto-pilot eating nothing but grapefruit for breakfast and lunch can’t change the fact that your auto-pilot used to lead you to McDonalds or Krispy Kreme for breakfast every morning. Auto-pilot, unfortunately, does equate to mindlessness. It’s operating without thinking. “Not thinking” before led us to being unhealthy in the first place. It certainly won’t lead us to “healthy,” and if it does, it certainly wouldn’t do it overnight… or in two-six weeks like other diets.

Without a relatively rare medical condition, you cannot put the weight on if you aren’t putting harmful things in your mouth. It simply does not work that way. Dieting might help you drop a few pounds, but if your eating habits are in check you couldn’t put it on in the first place… and you couldn’t run the risk of gaining it back once you “come off” of your diet. It solves the immediate visual problem – if only momentarily- however you’re not addressing the thing that not only ensures that you’ll always have the weight, but in some cases also ensures that you’re doing some damage to your insides, as well.

Excerpted from: The Anatomy of A Diet: Why They Work, and Why The Success Never Lasts

The issue is not – nor has it ever been – whether or not a diet can work. If “work” is defined as “causing you to lose weight,” then yes, they “work.” The issue is sustainability. The issue is whether or not you’ve taken on a diet that cannot be turned into a lifestyle. Whether or not you’ve properly addressed any issues you may have with emotional eating (which will directly affect ones ability to control their portions, something this diet apparently makes a huge deal out of), whether or not you’ve handled any psychological issues that may prevent you from reaching your goals (because, as with most diets, you will hit a brick wall where you have to change again in order to keep losing) and whether or not you’re doing yourself a disservice internally will all play ginormous parts in one’s success in a diet.

You didn’t think I was going to do all this dieting talk without talking about health, right? “But his cholesterol… his blood pressure… his body fat percentage… they all lowered!” So what? Let me tell you something. The chemical makeup of his diet is… nauseating. To quote Maya Naura, RD:

In order to lose weight, our liver essentially turns fat stores into energy and is burned off. When we consume, breathe in, be in, or live in ’toxic’ material, that same one and only liver neutralizes the toxic material and it is removed from the body. Keep in mind diet coke is ‘seen’ by your body as a toxic substance. It’s not food, it’s not water, so what the heck is it? An unusable, toxic substance. Our liver is very clever in prioritizing it’s duties. We can’t live with toxic material overloading the body so the liver needs to neutralize it, putting weight loss to the side. And the better news? If toxin removal pathways aren’t functioning properly, which most aren’t, that toxic substance ends up stored in fat cells… so much for counting calories. [source]

So… my unscientific opinion is that a privileged male living on a tenured professor’s salary probably has been eating well enough for long enough that these effects haven’t hit him yet, but they would. Without question. A middle (upper?) class man coming down off of a healthy lifestyle to “eat like the poor” is much different from people who, unfortunately, have to live this reality.

And that’s my next point. Studies like this won’t affect privileged and monied college professors who can afford to jovially come up off their pathetic little twinkie diet. This will affect the people who have to live this diet, as well as the public’s perception of those people… that even though they’re poor and aren’t getting enough food, they’re still obese because they’re eating too much food. So, not only should the poor not have access to certain foods, they should also stop eating as much as they do now, and we need to stop harassing grocery conglomerates about setting up shop and offering these people actual food that isn’t all chemicals.

I cannot explain how alarmingly important that is: “even though they’re poor and aren’t getting enough food, they’re still obese because they’re eating too much of the food they actually have access to, now.” It’s right back to “fat people are fat because they have no self-control.”

A person living off of a processed food diet faces the following:

If you watched the clip above, you already know. Our processed foods are broken down to their most basic parts, mixed in with preservatives (which help, you know, preserve the final product), flavor additives, water, flour, various forms of salt, then manipulated to be whatever they want to sell us. The same ground up chicken carcass (which is what is in that photo) can be chicken patties, chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, “diced chicken,” the chicken in your chicken pot pie, the chicken in your soup… whatever. Just look for “mechanically separated [animal] parts.” You won’t have to look too hard.

Once it’s broken down to create this… goo… chemicals are used to hold it in place to form whatever shape it’s going to take. Once it meets your saliva and enters your body, it breaks right back down to the goo… with no fiber inside to help push it out. It essentially deflates inside of your system, making it easier to consume more calories because you’re “not full yet.” Couple all of this with the fact that it takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal from your digestive system that you’re “full,” and you start to see why a food that breaks down this quickly is a recipe for disaster – a breaded chicken breast on wheat bread breaks down much more slowly than a chicken patty sandwich on white bread, takes longer to chew (buying you time until that 20 minute mark… see what that 30 bites was important?), takes longer to digest (thus leaving you feeling fulfilled longer), and keeps you from overindulging. You’re getting that “full” feeling for less calories. You’re not scarfing it down because it’s breaking down faster than it can fill you up… only to find that “all-of-a-sudden-I-feel-like-I-ate-too-much” feeling arrive.

A privileged, well-off professor… who – it is likely – has never experienced these issues before his stupid twinkie experiment, probably doesn’t have a hard time understanding “I eat this much. I stop. That’s it. No more.” 10 weeks may not be long enough for his body to get sucked into this cycle. Maybe years of “eating healthily” has rendered him immune to these harmful effects.

I’m just gonna come out and say it. This is why I find nutritionists useless, pointless and downright annoying. Taking the nutrients out of the context of the food, the foods out of the context of the diet, the diet out of the context of the lifestyle and the lifestyle out of the context of duration does nothing to further nutrition science. It does nothing to further our understanding of how food impacts our health. What sense does it make for a rich white dude in the suburbs with (assumedly very little stress) to adopt the lifestyle of the impoverished who might fear their lights being turned off?

How much sense does it make that he would release his findings to places like CNN, for goodness sake, when all he can do is scratch his behind and say “Derrr, I don’t really know why any of this happened… I just know that it happened?” Why does he not know the consequences of his releasing his findings? Why wouldn’t he wait until he had more concrete answers? How salacious and attention getting for him (and his University, don’t get it twisted) to release these findings, knowing there’d be hoards of people excited that they, too, might cut 800 calories from their daily intake, still work out, eat sugary crap food and still lose weight? Nothing to mention of whether people are even in the position to cut 800 calories from their diet (a girl who weight 120lbs, antsy to lose a last 5lbs isn’t in a position to cut 800 calories AND still work out.) Nothing to mention of whether or not people would be satisfied after eating a twinkie for a meal. (Did the article say whether or not HE was satisfied after eating that amount?) Nothing to mention whether or not there would be additional ramifications of his little diet. He doesn’t know… and I’m not sure whether or not it’s because he doesn’t care, but I’m positive it’s because he’s not concerned with that.

Before I go… there are two parts of the CNN article I want to address directly:

Blatner, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, said she’s not surprised to hear Haub’s health markers improved even when he loaded up on processed snack cakes.

Being overweight is the central problem that leads to complications like high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol, she said.

“When you lose weight, regardless of how you’re doing it — even if it’s with packaged foods, generally you will see these markers improve when weight loss has improved,” she said.

So… excess fat causes high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels? Or… is it that the foods that cause high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels also cause excess fat?

One sentence makes the weight the problem. The other sentence makes the weight an additional consequence of the actual problem… which is poor food choices. I bet almost no one will catch that, though.

Meanwhile, twinkie sales have gone up 30%, and Kansas State University will probably be opening up a new science and nutrition lab in about three years: Hostess Hall.

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39 comments

Sarah November 9, 2010 - 11:39 AM

*raising a hand for the nutritionists*

I agree with you, Erika, re: nutritionists who don’t understand the true relationships between true wellness (both physical and emotional) and the eating of whole, healthy, unadulterated food in a way that makes sense for that individual.

I recently found a nutritionist who does understand that link, and he has been tremendously helpful to me. My key issue was portion control and processed foods, and, with his help, I’ve been able to see that an fresh pear is much more satisfying than a piece of cheap chocolate (both nutritionally and emotionally).

Nutritionists like the one mentioned in the article who pull stunts like this–yeah, not so much.

Erika November 9, 2010 - 11:45 AM

Thank you! I’m GLAD you found someone who could work within the context of YOUR life to find a lifestyle that worked for YOU! That gives me hope for everyone else who may still need the help of a nutritionist…. hopefully they weren’t educated by THIS dude. Good grief.

JoAnna November 9, 2010 - 12:01 PM

speechless. This is so quasi-science… gotta come back with a objective comment ’cause I’m just mad at the nutritionist and other “learned” degreed professionals after reading this nonsense. ‘sigh’

Remember Thalidomide? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalidomide
It was considered the thing to take in Europe for over 10years as a sedative, pain killer, tranquilizer, even a cure for morning sickness. That is until thousands of babies were born with birth defects. It was availble in the US for clinical trials, and it was on the market for almost 20years.

We’re in that same “loop” right now with high fructose cornsyrup, and perservatives in our food. But there’s a lot more money to be made with corn subsidies, farm “welfare”, etc… There’s a lot more money to be made with the pharmaceutical industry in meds to treat obesity and the diseases it helps along. And from a business point of view, you get people hooked on your cheap product, make it widely available, make it tasty, and they buy and buy to feed that addiction. So what if it leads to a disfunctional body 20-30years down the road? They’re made their money already many times over after you’ve bought 2 or 3 of the things.

Same with this “diet”. No thought about the ramifications of gullible dieters touting this “study” as a way to “have/eat your Hostess cake and lose weight too…” The guy lost weight. That’s all that matters. And so let’s market this with a glass of whole milk as a “healthy” meal replacement. And when the dieters develop other health problems, well, we got lots of meds to keep them going, and being “profitable” contributing members of society.

It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you…

Erika November 9, 2010 - 12:09 PM

I have the most brilliant readership on Earth. *puts down pen, walks away from laptop*

SingLikeSassy November 9, 2010 - 12:03 PM

HA! I thought about you as soon as I saw this story yesterday so I’m glad other folks were on the ball and sent it to you.

On another note, I just want to say thank you for starting and maintaining this blog. I struggle with my weight and food issues and whenever I feel like I will never get things under control, I come over here and read this and realize I can do it, I just have to take it a day at a time.

Erika November 9, 2010 - 12:08 PM

Awwwww, I am so honored and flattered! And YES, one day at a time is all it takes! I PROMISE!

Osusmith November 9, 2010 - 5:00 PM

Erika,

This is the same garbage that hit twenty-some years ago, only then it was called “Fat Free”. Everything had to be fat-free and cholesterol-free, but no one was keeping an eye out for the sugar, sodium, and preservatives they were loading into the food just to get it to taste right. I was a young college student back then, desperate to rid myself of the “College 25” and I fell hook, line, and sinker for the hype. Oh, I lost weight, alright, but the yo-yo cycle never stopped until I decided on a lifestyle change. It ain’t fast, and it ain’t easy, but it works. As you said, “one day at a time”.

Erika November 9, 2010 - 7:38 PM

*big sigh* I think we all got suckered. The funny thing is… the doctor is planning a …

…BOOK! *gives up on life*

rissa November 9, 2010 - 5:37 PM

No, seriously. I know someone like this in “real” life. He once weighed 320 lbs. He’s down to 168 lbs. lost all of that in about an 8 month period. he lost the original 130 eating exactly like the professor of nutrition. it does not matter what he ingests, as long as it’s not alot. he drinks about 2 liters a day in diet soda (about 8-16 oz of water) because he “needs” flavor. it works, so he won’t switch up; he’s afraid of getting fat again. everything is processed, and has aspartame in it. i asked if he cares what his insides look like, but no, he doesnt because we are a society so concerned with looks.

Erika November 9, 2010 - 7:41 PM

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, buuuut… he won’t make it.

Not only that, but… is he well-built? Or is he scrawny? Because doing the math on the Professor’s “body fat percentage,” losing 27lbs but not losing more than 10% (doubting he weighed 270 to begin with) in bodyfat means he lost LOTS of muscle mass… so his muscles were deteriorating, too. Nice.

keisha brown November 9, 2010 - 9:09 PM

wow.
just wow.
thanks for reading and for writing
the mis-education of the public at large (pun intended)

Thembi November 10, 2010 - 5:19 AM

I know all about this move – its called what stress from college apps and planning from prom did to my senior year lunches – nothing but iced tea and soft pretzels. Yeah, I ended up with that weight back on and then some once things got back to normal, with nothing to show for it but screwed up metabolism. What makes me saddest about this is that it makes for great soundbites that justify keeping food deserts just as they are.

And don’t forget the sodium! I’m not a big sugar person so if that were me I’d be the most savory junk food eating fool, but if my math is right 1600 calories worth of twinkies has like 2500g of sodium or some such. That’s just a bit on the high side but throw in some diet soda to wash it down and youre a walking salt lick.

rissa November 10, 2010 - 2:30 PM

oh i know. he looks very deflated and jiggly. he has 0 muscle tone. things he used to be able to lift are too heavy now. actually last month he started to improve the diet. he’s still drinking the 2 liters of soda, but he eats some fruit now. he’s also stopped eating so much fast food/processed foods. i keep trying to get him to hit the gym but he wont.

Erika November 10, 2010 - 3:17 PM

Ahhhh…. feels good to be right. LOL!

Eva November 10, 2010 - 2:33 PM

I must say that if you think professors are “well off” you’ve never worked in academia.

However, what no one bothered to mention is the LONG TERM effects of this “diet.” You can do anything for six months, but try doing that for years. Eating that junk for years will do a number on your body.

Erika November 10, 2010 - 3:17 PM

An assistant professor at Kansas State University makes between $44k – $78k. (Did a little more digging – he’s listed as an Asst Prof there.) You’re right – that isn’t well off. He’s still doing FAR better than people who actually have to live the lifestyle he’s making a mockery of with his diet, you know?

Eva November 10, 2010 - 2:39 PM

BTW, we’ve got a lot of food deserts right in NYC; but as quiet as its kept, not all of those food deserts are in strictly poor neighborhoods.

Chris November 10, 2010 - 4:57 PM

Hi Erika,

I just found your site a week ago and it has been infinitely helpful. Between you and Mark’s Daily Apple I have been inspired to make a change in my life for the better. I started over the course of the summer but got backtracked during vacation last month. Now, I’m back on the wagon for good (hopefully).

I agree with your viewpoint on the Twinkie Diet and that any restriction in calories along with continued exercise will initially work. I ate like crap but walked four miles a day and lost 30lbs so it is possible.

Keep up the good work!

Erika November 10, 2010 - 5:02 PM

I’m BEYOND honored to be listed among Mark because I think the world of him. Thank you soooo much for that!

And you’re absolutely right – when I first started working out, I had a garbage diet and STILL lost almost 30lbs, myself. It wasn’t until I got my own house in order that I realized where I was going wrong.

Thank you so much, and thank you for commenting!

Danielle November 12, 2010 - 9:24 PM

It doesn’t surprise me that people are supporting this psuedoscience. At the end of the day, society doesn’t make it about health because it’s never been about health. It’s about appearances and that fat people are soooo dumb and disgusting. I’ve always known it’s not exactly being fat that makes/made you unhealthy. It’s the crap food you ate to make you fat in the first place. I’m glad you also noticed that his cholesterol decreased after cutting fatty foods from his diet. I’ve been overweight my whole life and grew up as a carb-junkie and doctors have always raved about my cholesterol. Does that mean I was healthy overall? No.

But again, you know as well as I do that this is just going to be used as further “evidence” to show the “the fatties” that everything is fine in moderation, even if it’s some processed piece of junk that no one should ever be eating.

Victoria K. June 15, 2011 - 4:13 AM

“why would a nutritionist [professor] be confused about cholesterol levels decreasing when meat is cut from one’s daily intake? Cholesterol can only be obtained from animal and animal by-products… so if you’ve cut meat and all you’re ingesting (as far as animal by-products go) is whole milk, then yes. Your cholesterol will decrease.”

It is true that animals and animal by-products are the main dietary source of cholesterol. However, most of the animals we eat for food are herbivores, yet their bodies often contain high levels of cholesterol. (Plants and fungi actually also do produce small amounts of cholesterol, as well.)

It does not immediately follow that a person’s blood cholesterol level will decrease as his dietary intake of cholesterol decreases. If that were true, then vegans should have cholesterol levels approaching zero, and they don’t. When human beings consume lower levels of cholesterol, their bodies continue to synthesize cholesterol from fat (just as the bodies of high-cholesterol food sources like cows and pigs do).

The dietary factor that has the greatest effect on blood cholesterol is a person’s consumption of fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat. I am confident that Professor Haub knew this, which is why he was surprised that his blood cholesterol went down on a diet full of Doritos and packaged snack cakes. I don’t think it is reasonable to treat his reasonable surprise at this result as evidence that he is a fool. Maybe he is one, but if so, then certainly not for this reason.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 15, 2011 - 7:42 AM

Let’s follow your logic.

So, you mean that a person who leaves behind [what I’ll assume to be] a relatively meat-laden diet – meat being a “main dietary source of cholesterol,” by your words – and pick up “a diet full of Doritos and packaged snack cakes” that is virtually devoid of meat – meat being a “main dietary source of cholesterol” – for eight weeks… should not expect their cholesterol levels to decrease?

Come on. There are other debatable elements of what you’re saying here, and the “vegan cholesterol levels” one is an interesting point that may be more affected by processed grains than anything else… but on this point, I feel like you’re trying to explain away questioning of conventional wisdom, which is what I think is the problem here.

Victoria K. June 15, 2011 - 11:43 AM

Thanks for replying, Erika. I enjoy reading your blog and would not post here with any intention other than to communicate my honest thoughts. So I was a little taken aback that you said you feel like I am trying to “explain something away”. I don’t have any reason to do that. I don’t think I should be accused of “explaining things away” (which is usually considered a dishonest act) just because I raised a disagreement with one part of your overall argument. And if you read my comment as a defense of the Twinkie diet, it definitely is not nor do I intend for it to be.

I thought your other arguments about how studies like these serve to justify food deserts and make them seem “not that bad” were on point. I just think there are some problems with what you say about cholesterol.

Your argument has a hidden premise–that dietary cholesterol is such an overwhelming factor in determining blood cholesterol, that a person with a low-cholesterol *diet* should expect to have a lower blood cholesterol than a person with a high-cholesterol diet, irrespective of their relative fat intakes. This premise is false.

The logic you run through in your reply is not “my logic”–it is the same logic you used in the original post, and assumes the same hidden premise. You add the false premise to my argument, derive an absurd conclusion, and then attribute it to my logic… and then tell me to “Come on” and eventually dismiss my comments with the remark that I must just be trying to “explain something away.” These are the same tactics used in your original criticism of Professor Haub’s surprise that his blood cholesterol level had gone down.

When I replied that meat is the “main dietary source” of cholesterol, the emphasis was on *dietary*. Most of the cholesterol that people consume in their diet comes from meat. However, as I mentioned, dietary cholesterol does not play the biggest role in determining a person’s blood cholesterol. Human beings synthesize cholesterol in their bodies, as do cows, for instance, which is how those hamburgers get to be so high in cholesterol in the first place. This is why it is not obvious at all that a decrease in blood cholesterol will accompany a decrease in dietary cholesterol, *if* the overall fat consumption increases or stays the same.

The dietary factor that has the greatest effect on a person’s blood cholesterol is not their consumption of dietary cholesterol, but rather, that person’s consumption of fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat. Therefore, the most important piece of information is actually missing–we don’t know how much fat Professor Haub was consuming in his original diet, and so it’s not possible to say conclusively whether Haub’s surprise is reasonable, or not.

I’m not totally sure what “questioning of conventional wisdom” you think I am trying to explain away. I’m just pointing out what is already basic nutrition science–dietary *fat* is the single biggest factor in determining blood cholesterol. I would actually think this type of argument is of a piece with posts you have made about why just going vegetarian or vegan is not enough unless you actually take a cold hard look at the nutrients you are consuming. People cannot simply assume that if they stop eating meat, their cholesterol issues will resolve–they will still need to observe their overall fat intake to make sure it is not negating the effects of lowering that dietary cholesterol intake.

Erika Nicole Kendall June 15, 2011 - 12:43 PM

You know what, let me step back – I finally saw what you were taking issue with. In my post, I said this: “Cholesterol can only be obtained from animal and animal by-products…” and then followed THAT up with “so if you’ve cut meat and all you’re ingesting (as far as animal by-products go) is whole milk, then yes. Your cholesterol will decrease.”

You’re ABSOLUTELY right – it’s not cutting the exposure to cholesterol that comes with cutting meat, it’s cutting the exposure to the FAT that can come COUPLED with the cholesterol that would make the difference. My sincerest apologies. I get TONS of people who come here “correcting” something only because they’re affiliated with a representative organization… so I take both my research and the information made available on this blog seriously.

That being said, there are still two things that stand, here: a) if you’re cutting the primary source of “the problem” from your diet, of COURSE you would experience a positive result which I’d ALSO expect him to understand, especially considering he’d be getting decreased levels of fat (calorie counting as opposed to his regular diet without calorie counting) AND would still be working out. I’m making assumptions about his diet here because b), we’d need to be able to compare his twinkie diet to his former one in order to assess why he experienced those benefits. We both agree there.

I hope you’ll accept my apologies, and I’m going to correct my post to reflect the modification. That’s a really important catch.

Victoria K. June 15, 2011 - 1:13 PM

I was so glad to see your reply and it really brought a smile to my face! I know you take the research and information you present very seriously, which is why I thought I would bring up that point about the dietary cholesterol for discussion. I was never trying to negate the overall point of your post, which I really agree with. I’m glad you see the point I was making about the dietary cholesterol issue, and yes, I agree 100% with your points (a) and (b).

As a sista trying to lose weight, I really appreciate what you’re doing, Erika! And thanks for hearing me out. 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall June 15, 2011 - 3:11 PM

LOL No problem, and thank you for being appropriately patient, even though I was wrong as two left shoes! ROFL

KissytheCutie July 30, 2011 - 10:59 AM

He did this diet for only 2 months and generally no matter what diet you do to lose weight in the beginning phase you will lose weight. The problem is that hyper-palatable foods like the one he consumed on this Twinkie diet are very addictive and after habituation sets in the person eating these foods on a daily basis the person will most likely find it harder and harder to control how much junk he or she is eating. Also the corn syrup in the food is metabolized by the liver and its never good to consistently load up your liver with fat. This study would have been more legit if he did for about 2 years…2 months means nothing…all diets that cut calories will work in the first few months..what about long term?

KissytheCutie July 30, 2011 - 11:22 AM

Its me again…i just wanted to add that I think the best implications that the Twinkie diet gives people who want to lose weight is the freedom of not feeling guilty. Often when we try to lose weight despite what the experts say, we go on a diet and when we go on diet we try not to mess up but when we do mess up, we feel very upset, depressed and guilty but the Twinkie shows dieters that you can still eat junk and still lose weight. I don’t think people who wants to lose weight especially for long term should do something like the Twinkie diet but this study shows that there is room for junkfoods in a weight loss plan and therefore if you eat junks while on a diet once in a while then that means you don’t have to feel like you committed the greatest sin against the Diet gods..you know what I mean?

Rose June 12, 2012 - 2:20 PM

I find this entire study to be hilarious! Please sir could you provide how you operationally and conceptually defined all of your term such as “junk food” in your study?” Yea probably not and if he did I’m quite sure the definitions wouldn’t match,up with what I would think of. You also brought up several really good points in your analysis Erika. To keep this concise this study reeks of class bias and white male privilege. And really sir? How long did you conduct this study? Two months? And you expect me to take any of your basically pointless inconclusive results seriously? Was this even a legitimate study? I want to see the proposal and IRB approval because this study and its nonexistant results are to put it nicely as crappy as the food he supposedly ingested. Which brings to mind did he self report what food head he ate? Like Erika mentioned what about exercise? My problem with “studies” like this is that it has been based upon faulty at best science. Also what about the reliability and validity of his study/results? It just makes me shake my head.

r June 16, 2012 - 6:29 PM

i love u. all ur articles make so much sense. i had heard about this guy with his twinkie diet before. and i had the same issues with u that u did. but u articulated it so well. u may not have an alphabet of letters behind ur name, but u have a lot of intelligence in ur head.

Ravi July 29, 2014 - 5:14 PM

I have to say… You are equally.. If not more annoying as the nutritionist you say you hate.

Editor’s Note: Aww, can’t discuss the merit of my argument? Talk about annoying! I pay too much for bandwidth to have it wasted on the irreverent insults of random strangers who can’t even type their own e-mail address correctly.

Don’t both coming back to offer any merit-based critique. Considering how you failed the first time, I can’t imagine you ever being able to get it right.

-E

irv September 12, 2014 - 9:54 PM

erika

this is a novice’s rant, if i say so myself. haub is not promoting that we eat a diet like his; nor is he promoting that this kind of diet constitutes a lifestyle of health. he was simply trying to demonstrate to his class that weight loss is about consuming fewer calories than one needs to live and do whatever it is one does. that he did lose weight on this diet, and continued to teach, exercise, etc and got beneficial results on his blood work demonstrated exactly what he set out to show: losing weight, by whatever means, can confer health benefits, too. yes, he ate crappy food, but because his body needed more calories than he consumed, he used his calories to their most optimum purposes: as fuel.

now, i don’t imagine he nor anyone else who believes as i do would promote such a diet as a lifestyle choice or even a short term means by which to drop some pounds or test out for an expensive life insurance plan. but i do believe he answered, albeit in a study of one, the question he set out to answer; and did not try to suggest anything beyond this. so, your arguments are valid from a HEALTH standpoint assuming readers and followers are also cutting calories and exercising. but please give credit where it’s due: weight loss is about calories in vs calories out.

thanks.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2014 - 12:41 PM

“this is a novice’s rant, if i say so myself.”

Oh, really?

“weight loss is about calories in vs calories out.”

Speaking of “novice,” LOL.

irv September 13, 2014 - 9:44 PM

see my website for more about me. besides over 28 yrs of personal training, ACSM – HFS, NSCA-CSCS/CPT/CSPS, ACE – CPT, and experience, i’m also a PhD. it’s not bragging, nor does it mean i know everything. but i do know something.

Erika Nicole Kendall September 13, 2014 - 10:18 PM

“but i do know something.”

On this, you do not.

I love how people come through here and drop alphabet soup in my comments, like that’s supposed to mean something. You could be the average joe, BA in BS, and it wouldn’t matter: if you’re right, you can share your viewpoint with resources and information like someone who actually has something to say and, right or wrong, get respect. And, no matter how many certifications you have – assuming your Ph.D isn’t in nutrition or sports-related science since you didn’t identify what it’s actually in – spouting wrong shit is spouting wrong shit, period. Furthermore, insulting me in the process doesn’t make me even remotely interested in actually discussing my standpoint with you – it makes me regard you as a troll, and why would I waste my time on that?

Do some research on why, when it comes to weight loss, a calorie isn’t simply a calorie. And do it on your own time. Insulting and dismissing me on my own site pretty much results in you being persona non grata here, bro.

Tes November 7, 2014 - 10:54 AM

I have to agree. He wasn’t saying we should follow his diet, rather it was a demonstration that a calorie is a calorie when it comes to dieting and that eating less calories than you burn will make you lose weight. It’s simple science.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 7, 2014 - 9:11 PM

“He wasn’t saying we should follow his diet,”

Neither did Adriana Lima, but that doesn’t change the fact that TONS of people went on all-liquid diets when the details of HERS came out.

“a calorie is a calorie”

Again, it isn’t.

“eating less calories than you burn will make you lose weight”

If weight loss were such a simple science, there wouldn’t be so many people out there unhappy with their weight. Perhaps the whole “A calorie is a calorie!!!!11111ONE Eat less, move more!!!111ONE” mantra is flawed? I stand by the reality that it is.

Being hyper-certified means nothing if you aren’t actively involved in the research and praxis of healthy living, sorry. Agree with him all you want, but y’all are missing some important points, here.

Mai November 10, 2014 - 5:18 PM

Because people have no self control which is why people and fat chicks are so unhappy. It’s easier to place blame on someone else. And then they’ll go ahead and blame “oh it’s my metabolism” when really it’s you just not learning when to put the fuking fork down. You’re gaining weight? you’re eating more calories than you need. You lose weight, you’re eating less. Science is facts. Done. calories in calories out. OBVIOUSLY health is a different topic. We’re talking about WEIGHT. I lost weight. I still ate McDonalds. I still had my share of cheesecake. I still went out with my friends for a late night pizza and guess what? Still losing weight. WHY, because I’m just counting my calories and eating LESS of it. I don’t get why people are making such a big fuss about this.

Erika Nicole Kendall November 10, 2014 - 5:36 PM

“people have no self control which is why people and fat chicks are so unhappy.”

“People and fat chicks,” with “fat chicks” separate because, I’m left to assume, they aren’t people. They need to be separated.

“OBVIOUSLY health is a different topic. We’re talking about WEIGHT.”

I’m talking about health, too. And all the BIG OL CAPS LOCKS WORDS in your little bitty say-nothing comment isn’t gonna change the fact that I STILL disagree with y’all.

And the world will continue to spin on its axis.

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