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Every year, Americans spend millions on celebrity-endorsed diets that promise to melt off pounds quicker than any other plan on the market. But when it comes to weight loss, nutrition professor Mark Haub proved there’s really only one rule you need to follow: Eat fewer calories than you burn. The Kansas State University professor lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks by eating Twinkies, Doritos, Kit Kats, Corn Pops and whatever other packaged treats he could buy at a convenience store.
For his junk food diet, which started as a classroom experiment, Haub limited his calories to 1,800 a day. For a point of reference, that’s roughly the amount a sedentary 5’5” 120-pound woman needs to maintain her weight. Pre-diet, Haub probably consumed closer to 2,600 calories. That kind of calorie deficit, even when eating an all-snack-food diet, brought his body mass index from 28.8, which is considered overweight, to a normal 24.9.
So did he throw up in the Quik-E-Mart parking lot, like Morgan Spurlock did in Super Size Me and get warnings from physicians to quit before he killed himself? Not exactly. Believe it or not, Haub’s vital signs actually improved. His body fat fell from 33.4 to 24.9 percent; his total cholesterol dropped from 214 to 184 (the “bad” LDL cholesterol decreased by 30 points); and his glucose dropped by almost 20.
“You can lose weight on any diet, even an all-sugar one,” says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. “And because most diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension are a direct result of being overweight, your disease risk will decrease as the fat melts off,” she explains.
That doesn’t mean a convenience store diet is actually good for you -- or even nutritious. Haub supplemented his diet with a multivitamin and a few veggies when eating in front of his children.
And just because he didn’t get sick over the course of 10 weeks doesn’t mean a person could survive on such a diet. “The long-term picture is a bit different, says Somer. “There are thousands of studies spanning decades of research to show that junk food increases the risk for diseases that were not detected in this one-man case study,” she says. For example, the risk of colon cancer increases with a diet like this.
Even though he met his weight loss goal, Haub does not recommend trying this diet at home. What he hopes people will take away from this experiment is that, for overweight or obese people, weight loss will improve their health. And if you can’t do it by eating only whole grains and 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day, that’s okay. Adopting a weight-loss program that let’s you eat the foods you enjoy will up your chances of success. If that means eating a piece of junk food here or there, that’s okay. Just don’t make it the only thing you eat.
What’s the craziest diet you’ve ever gone on -- and how much weight did you lose? Chime in below.