Professor Mark Haub has just finished his convenience store diet, and he has some great news for all of the unhealthy eaters out there. Haub lost 27 pounds in two months! His good cholesterol went up, and his bad cholesterol went down. He reduced his level of triglycerides and lowered his BMI from an unhealthy 28.8 to the much healthier 24.9.
In other words, Haub did much better on his junk food diet than I did on my vegetarian diet.
I'm pretty sure I gained weight in my last week without meat; furthermore a mid-month blood test showed that I had high cholesterol -- for the first time in my life.
So here's what I did wrong, and Haub did right.
What happens on the Twinkie diet:
Even while two thirds of Haub's meals came from packaged, sugary foods, Haub cut out meat, whole grains, and fruit. He also snacked on Doritos, but tried to counteract the damage by taking a multivitamin and having a protein shake daily.
While Haub isn't ready to call his experiment "healthy," he's intrigued by the results that surprised even him. By restricting his caloric intake to 1,800 per day, and adding in one serving of vegetables (but from a can, so he could stick to what most people have available to them), Haub wound up in a much healthier place after his two-month experiment that seemed destined for disaster.
What happened on my vegetarian diet:
I focused on whole grains, veggies, and fruit for my first three weeks of going veg, which I'm thinking led me to a place of deprivation by the final week. However, my husband had to go on a restrictive diet a week into our veg experiment, so there were suddenly fewer options available to us. Those multi-cultural dishes often had too much fat for his diet, so we quinoa'd ourselves to death.
Additionally, I thought eating out would be helpful in maintaining my meat-free diet, but quickly discovered that mac and cheese is the go-to vegetarian dish at many a restaurant. After getting sick of salads and grains, I found myself grabbing a slice of pizza or cheesy pasta for lunch instead of a turkey sandwich, which would have been much healthier. It also didn't help that our busy schedules only allowed us to cook once or twice a week so we did have to rely on take-out, and in our neighborhood, take-out without meat means cheese. And after burning out on grains and veggies, I found myself with melted cheese options -- only. (Incidentally, when we were finishing up our month of veg, we discovered some amazing restaurants -- but not in our neighborhood.).
I'm not dismissing my vegetarian diet. In fact, when we do cook, we now have a load of recipes where we can substitute tofu or skip the meat altogether for incredibly satisfying dinners. We will keep doing that ... when we cook. But for busy people who work full-time and chase two small people, cooking every day isn't an option. Throwing a piece of lean meat on the grill, however, is a better choice than ordering the cheese enchiladas when you know if you eat one more salad you're going to lose it.
Giving up meat was refreshing, and we will definitely be cutting down our consumption, but until we have a private chef, or an extra 24 hours in a day, we won't be able to prepare three meals daily -- and restaurants, in the middle of an organic, farm-to-table renaissance (which I love, by the way) just don't have enough healthy options that are meat-free. Or at least restaurants or take-out we can reasonably depend on in our neighborhood. If I had the time, I would make more of the effort. But right now meat-free requires more effort and time than simply healthy.
Professor Haub isn't willing to give a "bottom line." But my bottom line is this: calorie restriction, lower fat, and high taste is the way to go. Which, for me, means as many options as possible.
For now. I'm sure I'll try this again, when I'm able to prepare food instead of eating and running. Unless, of course, we figure out Twinkies truly are the way to go when you want to lose weight, and stay healthy. They're meat-free, right?
Image via Like_the_Grand_Canyon/Flickr