Informative: Calorie Labeling Law

calorie countsAfter years of intense arguments and deliberation, the US Food & Drug Administration has announced that Chain restaurants, vending machines, grocery stores, coffee shops and pizza joints nation-wide will have to display calorie information on their menus. The rule originates from the Obama administration’s 2010 health-care law, and is a positive step in meeting the needs of an increasingly and appropriately health-conscious nation.

Opponents claim that research suggests that calorie labeling does little to affect consumer behavior. However, results from the first and only long-term prospective study of the effect of calorie labeling were just released in Boston at Obesity Week (combined meeting of The Obesity Society and the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery) suggesting that the labeling, over time, has quite a large impact. In fact, the strategy was found effective for reducing unhealthy weight gain in college students by 50%. Further research shows that a number of restaurants have responded to the law by using lower-calorie ingredients in some of their foods. To put this in context- with everything else remaining equal, a reduction of as few as 50 calories per day would effectively halt unhealthy weight gain in the majority of individuals, including children.


Not surprisingly, groups such as The Food Marketing Institute have expressed disappointment over the ruling, citing concerns about how this ruling will impact food retailers’ bottom lines. Bear that in mind the next time you hear that food manufacturers care about our health. It was, however, good to see that the new regulation is backed by the National Restaurant Association. The Obesity Society just issues a statement commending the FDA for its ruling, and the vast majority of researcher and clinicians are strongly in favor of it, including this one.

Why Diets Don’t Work

A new scientific article explains why even the most state-of-the-art weight loss programs result in only modest short-term weight loss and little to no long-term weight loss. Even of the obese people who are able to be successful in losing weight on a diet (usually 5-10% of initial body weight), about 98% of them put the weight right back on.  This article is a big step in explaining why that happens.  The article, “Biological Mechanisms that Promote Weight Regain Following Weight Loss in Obese Humans” is available online and published in the August 2013 issue of the journal Physiology & Behavior.

yoyo yoMost weight loss programs are based on a restrictive model that tries to use will-power to overcome powerful biological drives, which is a losing proposition.  It’s no wonder so many obese individuals are frustrated and feel like failures when it comes to weight loss dieting.  They’re doing it completely wrong but that’s exactly what we, the supposed experts, keep telling them to do.  Conventional weight loss programs assume that obese individuals lack sufficient willpower and/or knowledge, and assume that providing motivation and knowledge will fix the issue.  This article sharply challenges this notion.

Food scarcity was one of the largest threats to survival for millions of years.  Over time, humans developed multiple biological mechanisms to help prevent starvation.  For example, someone at risk of starvation would experience a shift in their neural responsivity and hormonal profile to encourage caloric intake, as well as a reduction in fat metabolism in order to conserve energy stores.  This article discusses evidence that this happens not only at the brink of starvation but also when a 400lb individual loses 20 lbs.  The body reacts the same way whether you are on the verge of starving to death or a morbidly obese individual trying to lose weight in order to improve health.  Your body- your very own biology- will fight vehemently against weight loss, regardless of how much you weigh.  And, chances are, it’s eventually going to win.

The article explains that the body adopts an individual’s highest sustained body weight and will then defend that weight in the exact same way it would in order to prevent death from starvation. The authors also discuss evidence that these mechanisms cause notable changes in biological functioning within hours of caloric restriction.  The article goes on to explain that even the best “lifestyle change” diets do nothing to address these biological changes and are, therefore, doomed for failure.  The authors note that bariatric surgery, particularly Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, has been shown to reverse some of these changes, which may help explain why it is currently the only obesity treatment with long-term effectiveness.  Overall, the evidence presented in this article suggests that the approach taken by current weight loss diet programs is fundamentally flawed and that a more biological approach is required to achieve sustainable weight loss.

For a free PDF copy of the article, email Dr. Ochner at

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!

Informative: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Looking for a minimal effort way to live longer and better?  New study shows that fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids really are THAT good for you.

Click the image to watch the ABC video:fish pic

What exactly are Omega-3s?  Omega-3’s are an unsaturated fatty acid.  Unsaturated fats are the good fats (as opposed to trans fats and most saturated fats, which are bad).  Unsaturated fats raise your HDL (good) cholesterol, which helps your clear the bad fats and LDL (bad) cholesterol from your body.  This helps prevent those precious arteries from getting clogged up- that’s why our cholesterol ratio (HDL:LDL) is actually more important than total cholesterol.

Older individuals with higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids had over a 25% reduced risk of death and lived an average of 2.2 years longer than individuals with low levels of Omega-3s!

Click the image to read the full story by ABC: body pic

The largest benefit was at low levels, so that means that if you’re eating NO fish, start eating a LITTLE fish for a BIG benefit!!  If you don’t like fish, find a good supplement high in the Omega-3s DHA & EPA.

Fish highest in the most beneficial Omega-3s (DHA & EPA): herring, mackerel, lake trout, wild salmon and albacore tuna.