This is not Prof. Mark Haub by the way. He’s got enough media attention I decided not to put up a picture of him. Yea I’m an ass. What else is new?
Ok I’ve had enough with people sending me emails with links to Prof. Mark Haub’s successful junk food weight loss journey and so I decided to slay the monster today. For those of you who don’t know who the hell Prof. Mark Haub is, click here to read about his credentials and below is an excerpt from the CNN article about him which will give you an idea as to why I am even writing this blog post.
“Over the summer Kansas State University nutrition professor Mark Haub decided it was time to drop some weight. Considering his profession and expertise, you’d think he would do it by ditching crummy foods and loading up on healthy stuff like fruits and vegetables. But Haub had other ideas.
He had a theory that simply cutting back on calories would be the key to weight loss, not the nutritional value of what he was eating. So for 10 weeks, Haub consisted on mostly Twinkies, Doritos, Oreo cookies, Diet Mountain Dew and other treats. He did mix in some carrots, green beans, celery and a protein shake as well. He limited himself to 1800 calories a day.” [Emphasis added]
I’m pretty sure you didn’t read the article and so here are some highlights.
On his “convenience store diet,” he shed 27 pounds in two months.
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.
His body mass index went from 28.8, considered overweight, to 24.9, which is normal.
He now weighs 174 pounds.
Haub’s “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, dropped 20 percent
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’s body fat dropped from 33.4 to 24.9 percent.
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.
Some information from Dr. Haub’s Facebook page and basic math gives us the following numbers.
- Haub stands 5 ft 10″ tall. (Calculated using his weight and BMI)
- He started this 2 month journey at 201 lbs.
- He lost 27 lbs in 10 weeks which equals a weight loss of 2.7 lbs per week.
- 23.8 lbs of the 27 lbs he lost was fat mass. (Calculated using total weight lost and corresponding drop in body fat %)
Now for my thoughts.
1. The respect
First things first. Among the thousands of people who claim a diet does work or does not work without actually trying it, he decided to self-experiment which is commendable.
2. The craziness
Mark Haub is a 41 yr old nutrition professor with great educational credentials (MS in Exercise Science & PhD in Exercise Physiology) and respectable experience. But he started this 10 week ‘convenience store’ diet at 201 lbs and 33.4% body fat at a BMI of 28.8? Are you kiddin me? Why would anyone listen to this guy? Would you get financial advice from a guy who has a $ 100,000.00 debt? Then why would you get nutritional advice from a guy who is a fat ass himself? Craziness!
For those who can’t picture this.
3. The calorie conundrum
The article states that he ate less than 1,800 calories per day and that a man his size generally eats ~ 2600 calories to maintain his weight. If that is accurate then Haub was on a daily deficit of 800 calories at least. If we assume that he ate 1,800 calories/day, that would add up to a weekly deficit of 5,600 calories. A pound of fat is 3,500 calories and so he should have lost 1.6 lbs every week. But the article says he lost 27 lbs in 10 weeks. This works out to 2.7 lbs of weight loss per week. Considering that 23.8 lbs of of the 27 lbs lost was fat, there was little to no water loss. Also, there is no information available about any form of exercise that might have burnt any considerable amount of calories.
Hence clearly he was on a daily deficit of much more than 800 calories. As a matter of fact, in order to lose 2.7 lbs per week he had to be on a calorie deficit of ~ 1,350 calories. Assuming the 2,600 calorie number is accurate, Haub should have eaten ~ 1250 calories per day for 10 weeks in order to lose the 27 lbs!
For those who are not able to picture 1250 calories that is equivalent of one McDonald’s Chicken Club Sandwich with medium Fries and a medium Soda. So yea.. 1250 calories isn’t much and this proves that Haub went on an extreme low calorie diet which is definitely not sustainable for most people.
4. The results
His “bad cholesterol” or LDL dropped by 20% – His LDL dropped from 153 to 123 which isn’t much at all considering he lost a whopping 27 lbs. Also, judgement on this is reserved until the particle size of his LDLs have been measured. A high (processed) carb low calorie diet reduces your LDL but converts them into small dense particles which are lethal.
His “good cholesterol” or HDL increased by 20% – Once again this is not much at all. His HDL went from 37 to 46 which is not remarkable by any standards. I compared my blood work from the days of low-fat grain based eating to my blood work after starting to eat a low-carb, real food based diet (paleo/primal) per diet guidelines from Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, Richard Nikoley and Martin Berkhan (IF). My HDL increased by a whopping 85% (39 to 72) for a weight gain of ~ 5 lbs!
He reduced the level of triglycerides, which are a form of fat, by 39 percent (120 to 75). – When you consume a surplus of calories (fat or carbs or protein), the body uses what it needs to fuel your activities and converts the rest to triglycerides (and subsequently stores it as fat). But when you are at a calorie deficit you are consuming lesser calories than is required by your body. This means that the body has no surplus calories to convert to triglycerides. As a matter of fact, your body taps into the body fat stores for energy resulting in fat loss.
So, once again, a 39% drop in triglycerides for a 27 lbs weight loss is shameful. I, once again, compared my blood work from the days of low-fat grain based eating to my blood work after starting to eat a low-carb, real food based diet (paleo/primal). My triglycerides dropped by a whopping 83% (170 to 29) for a weight gain of ~ 5 lbs!
The point I’m trying to make is that any time you lose weight your blood work improves. Period. The reason for this is that your body is at a calorie restricted state and there is little to no inflammation at any point of time. All the calories that are ingested are used up to fuel different activities and no surplus calories are available to cause any damage so to speak. This explains why Haub’s blood work improved but my beef here is that the improvement observed is extremely low considering the amount of weight loss (27 lbs out of which 24 lbs were fat!).
5. The media stunt
Now I obviously don’t know Dr. Haub personally and he’s probably a good guy and he probably meant well when he started this 2 month nonsense. He says his goal was to emphasize the importance of portion control and wanted to test if food quantity mattered more than food quality when it comes to fat loss. That’s awesome Mr. Phd but you need to use your head before you do such a public stunt. You need to think deeply about the effect this will have on the lay person before you embark on a journey to junktown. Whether you like it or not, whether you intended it or not most people seem to have taken home this message – “Eating junk food is not bad for me! I can eat twinkies and kit kats and sugary cereals and still get healthier by the day!”.
6. The concern
I’m obviously not worried about the health conscious folks out there who will take this with a grain of salt but I’m definitely petrified for the average fat diabetic who reads the title “Junk food diet that works” while he mindlessly browses the internet at about 3 pm on a Wednesday afternoon. The guy may be won’t take the article or it’s contents at face value but headlines like “Twinkie diet helps nutrition professor lose 27 lbs – CNN.com” and “Mark Haub’s twinkies diet amazes with results” stick and they appear as newsflashes in front of his eyes every time he is tempted to eat junk food (which we all know is an everyday happening these days!). This results in him convincing himself that it is OK to eat junk which results in, well, disaster!
7. The truth
- The junk food diet works. But only when the consumer remains at a calorie deficit (an extremely high deficit in Haub’s case). Any calorie restricted diet, for that matter, works. There is a reason why “calories in should be less than calories out” is called the golden rule of fat loss.
- Junk food (sugary treats and highly processed foods) have an addictive effect on the consumer that is even higher than cocaine.
- A diet dominated by junk food does not nourish the body with the required vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants which might result in long term internal damages which might prove to be irreversible and even fatal (cancer etc.).
- Calorie restriction while on a diet which is high in empty calories is extremely hard to stick to and most people will fall off the wagon very quickly (at least when they are not the center of media attention!)
- A diet built around high quality ingredients is extremely satiating in addition to adequately nourishing the body and hence sustainable in the long run.
8. The verdict
- Food quantity (portion control) is an integral part of fat loss but in no way more important than food quality, especially when it comes to keeping the weight off and staying far away from the diseases of civilization.
- High quality foods (even in a maintenance diet) reign supremacy over junk food (in a fat loss or maintenance or mass gain diet).
- The take home from this study – “If junk food is all that is available, exercise extreme portion control.”