this was in my college paper yesterday. interesting.
(p.s. the dietician mentioned i did not have a good experience with. so i take it with a grain of salt.)
Trimming down, shaping up
UC Davis personnel weigh pros, cons of consuming fast food
By Nadine Elsibai
Aggie Staff Writer
February 10, 2003 - Hunger, for most college students, often results in a rendezvous with the microwave or a quick trip for some fast food. With little or no time to prepare meals and a tight budget, unhealthy eating habits quickly develop.
As general views about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet are present in most Americans’ minds, plans to make accomplishing this task easier appear regularly. Although such a mindset exists, society seems to endorse larger than necessary portions. According to Dr. Judith Stern, a professor in UC Davis’ nutrition department, the average circumference of a dinner plate has increased approximately 2 inches since the 1960s.
In an effort to combat these subtle changes and help people lose weight, Tracy Jones, a former graduate student at UCD, developed a dietary plan with eating smaller portions of fast food as its starting point.
“I know a lot of people overeat,” Jones said. “The diet teaches you the right, moderate portions to eat. Even if people think that fast food isn’t healthy and they don’t like it or they’re vegetarian, just know that what this really is about is moderation. If you use it as a teaching tool for that, it’s really good.”
Based on Barry Sears’ Zone Diet, the breakdown of how and what to eat centers around a 40-30-30 plan: Forty percent of food consumed each day comes from carbohydrates, 30 percent comes from protein and 30 percent comes from fat. The idea is to consume balanced meals and thus lose weight by stimulating the correct hormones.
After going on the Zone Diet herself almost two years ago and experiencing satisfying results, Jones wanted to make the task of losing weight simpler for others. She decided to put her own twist on the diet, writing and publishing the book Losing Fast in three months.
By merely applying the same calculations Sears uses to portions of fast food, Jones came up with over 600 options of what to eat at 16 different fast food restaurants, including Jack in the Box and In-N-Out Burger. Along with these suggestions, Jones said she also encourages people to exercise regularly and supplement the diet with fruits and vegetables to ensure the body receives enough vitamins and fiber.
When observing plans for weight loss, Stern looks at three key factors: Does it cause weight loss? Will you maintain weight on it? And is it a low-fat diet?
“For Tracy Jones’ diet, it’s anecdotal — meaning research hasn’t been done on it,” Stern said. “She talks about herself and some other people that have lost weight on it, but there’s no research to back it up. But, it’s reasonable…it regulates portion size so you eat less. Nothing magical.”
Eating fewer calories per day is only part of the equation to losing weight and keeping it off. Stern cites statistics from the national Weight Loss Registry — a registry of over 5,000 adults who have lost weight and kept it off — that 90 percent of the participants stated exercise part of their routine.
While losing weight may be the end result most people hope to attain, Stern said that the more important measure of success lies in not gaining the extra pounds back.
“The average person between [the ages of] 20 and 60 in the United States gains 30 to 40 pounds,” she said. “That’s 10 pounds a decade or so. If you’re 20-ish, you really want to try and prevent weight gain.”
As a dietician for the Cowell Student Health Center, Lorna Belden sees about 25 to 30 students weekly who either self-refer or are referred by physicians for counseling on weight or eating concerns. Fiber is the most frequent nutrient missing from a student’s diet, and Belden noted that a greater inclusion of fruits and vegetables is the most common advice given.
“Of those students who have the best diets that I’ve seen, almost always [it’s] those students [who] eat with other people on a regular basis in a sit-down meal,” Belden said. “It kind of mimics the family meal table. If they’re sharing their eating, there’s a tendency to present a little more balanced meal. Maybe there’s a little group pressure.”
Although she never gives any two students the same advice, certain tools — such as analyzing someone’s eating habits — point her to the areas that need the most work. Having seen the repercussions when people gain the weight back after dieting, she strongly discourages a person to restrict their caloric intake.
Instead, Belden advocates what Ellen Satter, a writer of parenting books, defines as “normal eating” — eating when hungry and continue until satisfied. A person’s eating style varies in response to emotions, schedules, hunger and the food available.
If seeing a dietician is not a possibility, measuring one’s Body Mass Index is a self-test method that anyone can do to determine the status of his or her weight. By dividing weight in kilograms by one’s height, which is squared in meters, the result fits on the BMI with a number 18.5 to 24.9 equaling a normal weight. Any number from 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and if one’s BMI is above that, he or she is obese. The National Obesity Association offers a quick calculation of BMI on its website at obesity.org.
Stern said that people could sometimes be placed in the wrong category since muscle can weigh more without actually being overweight.
A greater trend for more Americans to fall into the latter two categories can be connected to the idea that people view larger portions as a bargain. Stern used the term “portion distortion,” to refer to this idea meaning that when people have more food in front of them, they will consequently eat more.
“When you go to these places you’re always asked, ‘do you want a value meal?’” she said. “’Do you want to super size?’ When you think about body weight, that’s not a value meal. That’s a bad value meal.”
With regards to Jones’ Losing Fast diet and eating at fast food restaurants, Stern maintains that the smaller portion sizes she offers serve as a viable alternative when someone decides to eat out. A slight modification might lie in someone adding a salad to go along with a hamburger, as well as a piece of fruit and glass of low-fat milk.
“If you say ‘hold the Thousand Island dressing’ and [Jones] is saying ‘hold the mayo on the Big N’ Tasty with cheese,’ that saves calories,” Stern said. “If you routinely do that and get ketchup and/or mustard instead, that’s a sort of change you’re making in your life as a strategy to keep weight off and take weight off.”
While Jones’ book does offer seven-day diet plans that include mainly fast food, she also mentioned plans of an upcoming cookbook to give people recipes to prepare at home as well. Benefits from being on the diet she said that she and her friends have noticed include the need for less amounts of sleep each night and health benefits like lower cholesterol.
Although she was four years into her graduate studies program in plant biology, Jones said she will not continue with it in order to promote the release of her book. Instead, she will receive a master’s in plant biology and she hopes to continue work in the nutrition education field.
As far as helping keep people more aware of their portions, Stern wishes that fast food restaurants would make the actual calories in their foods more known to the general public.
“I think it’s great that Tracy is doing this,” she said. “I think it’d be wonderful if fast food places would label the calories on everything that they sell. We don’t have to ask for these handouts. I think that would help because if you saw that a 64-ounce soft drink was over 600 calories, maybe you wouldn’t order it.”
© 2003 by The California Aggie. All rights reserved.