Relevant Musings: Children on Diets?

FatKidWhy All Children should be on Diets: Response to Backlash over The Heavy by Dara-Lynn Weiss

Listened to radio show this morn where people were freaking out, aghast that a mother (Dara-Lynn Weiss) put her 7-year old daughter on a diet & then wrote book about it (The Heavy).  Over and over parents vehemently defended the position that we shouldn’t restrict our children’s eating.  Really???

When did ‘diet’ become a four letter word?  I was never good at math by the way.  What about ‘proper diet’ or ‘healthy diet’?  Diet does not mean starvation!  It should mean healthy nutrition.  Ever go into McDonald’s and see a morbidly obese person scarfing down a portion sufficient for 3?  Most people have and a lot think something like “and they probably wonder why they’re fat.”  Somehow, these are the same parents that would just as soon push clergy in front of traffic for suggesting that they should restrict what their child eats.

Newsflash: The habits you model and teach your children are likely to be maintained into adulthood, including and especially dietary habits.  If you teach them it’s OK to overeat hamburgers and ice cream at every meal as children, why would you expect them to ‘spontaneously’ adopt healthy eating habits as they advance into adulthood?

Wanna hear something else scary?   Once someone is obese for a while, the body adapts and that becomes the body weight that their biology will defend as necessary for survival.  Physiologically speaking, the body then literally reacts as if the person is starving to death when they try to return to a healthy body weight.  This one of the main reasons why diets typically don’t work and we say ‘don’t just diet.’  Unfortunately, surgery has become the only long term effective option once someone (even a child) is obese for an extended period of time.  Point is, don’t contribute to your kids getting to the point where surgery is the only option they have of being healthy.  Please!!

Causes: Why Even the Best Diets Don’t Work

There are two main reasons why diets fail:

#1: The body has extremely potent anti-starvation mechanisms, developed over millions of years of food scarcity.  The body and brain will do everything they can to slow metabolism, retain fat and get you to eat more.  Thing is, the last 200-300 years have brought worldwide industrialization and the new problem of food excess, which ironically now threatens our health as much as starvation has for the past 6 or 7 million years.

Here’s the rub- true biological adaptation to our environment is a sloooooow process.  300evolution years is nothing in terms of biological adaptation (what some might call ‘evolution’).  Our bodies and brains are still wired to protect against weight loss (starvation), which appears to be regardless of how much we weigh.  This point bears repeating- no matter how much we weigh, our bodies have extremely powerful anti-starvation mechanisms that will kick in immediately when we try to lose weight.

There is a caveat; these anti-starvation mechanisms kick in for obese people immediately (literally minutes) upon restricting caloric intake if and only if the individual has been obese for an extended period of time.  That means that people who gain a lot of weight rapidly (eg, pregnant women) and then lose it rapidly will be able to do so with relative ease.  After a while (likely 1y + but depends on individual), however, these anti-starvation mechanism get “reset” to the higher body weight and are triggered immediately when the individual begins to diet.  Once that happens, weight loss becomes the perpetual struggle that most obese people are familiar with.  It is not impossible but individuals in this situation must be prepared to work very hard and change habits for lifeChanging habits for a little while and losing a little weight in this scenario will not work because the body will do everything it can to assist in regaining that weight.

#2: This brings us to the 2nd reason why diets fail.  Almost all diets have something in common- one way or another, they tell people not to eat certain things and encourage eating more of other things.  The problem is, the certain things most diets tell us not to eat are the really delicious things that we love (pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers, fries, hot fudge sundaes, etc) and the certain things most diets tell us to eat more of are typically not what we scientists would refer to as “hedonically pleasurable.”  Look at some diet recipes.  When was the last time you heard anyone say, “I am dying for some zucchini casserole right now!”?  And who wants to eat quinoa and chia seeds instead of pizza every day for the rest of their lives???

This is the concept behind Don’t Just Diet.  Through cutting edge research on how the Crack_Crackbrain controls food intake, we have learned that palatable (delicious) food can be as rewarding to the brain as drugs and sex.  Go find a crack addict and see if you can get him to substitute kale for crack from now on.  Not going to work!  In order for people to maintain particular dietary habits for the rest of their lives, the diet foods must be as pleasurable to eat as the foods they are replacing.

Our mantra is that if the belly is not happy, the diet won’t last.  Period.  What we actually mean is that if people adopt a diet that doesn’t activate the same pleasure centers in the brain as does eating the foods they love, the diet will not last.  No need to worry about neural activation in response to food- that’s our bag.  All you need to worry about is making the foods you love more healthy and we’re going to help!

Most diets, good or bad, catch on because of some anecdotal evidence (actually an oxymoron).  Like the coconut oil for Alzheimer’s or Jared from Subway or Jennifer Hudson for Weight Watchers, Don’t Just Diet has been followed successfully by it’s creator, Dr. Christopher Ochner.

Dr. Ochner:

Anyone who knows me has said on at least several occasions that they can’t believe I’m not obese with the amount of food that I eat.  Frankly, I’m amazed also.  I have the taste buds of a 5-year old boy.  I eat almost nothing but pizza, fries, burgers, ice cream sundaes, chili dogs, burritos… you get the point.  I developed this diet out of my out-and-out refusal to stop eating these foods that I love but desire to be and look healthy at the same time.  I came to find out years later that there is actually neurological evidence supporting the use of this diet! 

Does it work?  Not only am I not obese but I have maintained about 5% body fat* for the past five years after being heavier all through college and graduate school (10 years worth).  Are both my parents thin so maybe I have ‘thin genes?’  Nope.  Do I work out incessantly?  No, only about 30min per week and taking the stairs to my 3rd floor apt.  Am I one of those people who doesn’t really care about food?  No way, Jose; I loooove food and would consider myself a foodie despite my ‘unsophisticated palate.’  Am I one of those people who can just eat what they want and doesn’t gain weight?  Nope, trust me, my weight fluctuates easily.  Give me $10M for a leading movie role playing an obese person and I’ll be obese in a month, no problem (of course, I’d have to lose it right away otherwise my body would adapt to that weight and then I’d have to work twice as hard).  

So what’s the big secret?  Don’t Just Diet.  Literally, don’t just ‘go on a diet’ to lose weight because it’s not going to work.  In fact, don’t go on any diet where you don’t enjoy eating just as much as you did before because it’s not going to work.  Trick is to turn the foods you love into healthy foods without making them less fun to eat.  In essence, make sure you keep the belly happy while eating foods that help instead of hurt your body.  How?  That’s why we’re doing this.  Our goal over the next several months and years is to help everyone do just that.  Literally everyone and anyone can and should do it- it’s a healthy way to eat whether you’re too skinny, lean, overweight or obese!

*minimum essential amount of body fat for healthy functioning

As you can see throughout the blog, we mix essential information with simple and practical transformations of foods we all love to eat.   Our recipes emphasize taste, time and $- we know people are busy and don’t want to take out a 2nd mortgage to eat a healthy diet.  Most of all, we know people need to enjoy their food!  The Pepperoni and Sweet Pepper Pizza above may quite literally be the best pizza you will ever eat and has less than half the calories and 1/16 the saturated fat of normal pizza!  The Hot Fudge Sundae below tastes just as sinfully indulgent as a normal sundae but has less than half the calories, 0 vs. 26 grams of fat and 12X the protein!  We hope you enjoy, stay tuned and stay healthy!

Myth Busting: Disappearing Chicken in McNuggets

In our first of hopefully many fun segments, we’re going to test the myth that the chicken in McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets disappears when not consumed for 10 days.


click here for the original story


Quick Summary: Mrs. Happy Homemaker claims she put McNuggets in her fridge for 10 days and then examined them to find that they were all completely hollow shells of fried whatever and no remnants of white stuff (chicken or other) inside.

Could be true; could be bogus…


Set up for our experiment:

I purchased a 6-piece Chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s on June 27th at approximately 5pm. Following the methodology in the original story, I simply placed the McNuggets in my refrigerator and waited 10 days. On July 7th at approximately 7pm, I pushed my thumb into one of the McNuggets as described in the original story.



10 d nuggets

McNuggets day 10

Real Chicken 10 days

Real Chicken day 10

Maybe that’s not fair- maybe it happened for Mrs. Happy Homemaker like she said and it just didn’t work for us.  I doubt it, but it’s possible.  Truth be told, I was a little disappointed b/c, if there are two things that I love, they are experiments that work and bashing fast food manufacturers.

As grossed out as I am by Chicken McNuggets, that is more/less what I would expect to happen with real chicken.  This, however, only proves that the white substance in McNuggets doesn’t magically disappear after 10 days in the fridge.


2 wk nugget

McNugget day 14

Real Chicken day 14

Real Chicken day 14


Hopefully the next experiment will turn out better… I am always on the lookout for any reason to warn people off fast food aside from the should-be-obvious it’s terrible for you, will make you fat, give you diabetes and kill you unless consumed in extreme moderation.  However, the idea that the white chicken-like substance in McNuggets magically disappears is not one of them.  Be careful what you believe on the internet. Unfortunately, there is more crap than truth out there.  Stay tuned for a full story on McNuggets on I will update with the link when it’s up.  Enjoy and stay healthy!