Twinkies and the Weight-Loss Blues

January 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm , by

Know any good Twinkie jokes? I just read that Hostess Brands Inc. is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and, as a health editor, I’ll shed no tears for the freefall of its junk-food sales. But I do feel some nostalgia for those sugary (and indestructible) lunchbox treats of my youth.

I grew up in the Midwest when processed and convenience foods were new and a novelty. My mom had been a home economist and food editor at Meredith Corp. in Des Moines, Iowa—the same company I work for now (parent of LHJ and other brands). Mom believed in home-cooked meals, including fresh produce from the garden when possible, and desserts only for special occasions. But sometimes, when my brother or sister and I begged for the sugary cereals we saw on Saturday morning TV commercials (Quisp and Quake!) or those hot-pink gelatinous Hostess Sno Balls others had in their lunchboxes, Mom would give in. But in general, we were all about moderation. We didn’t drink a lot of sodas, didn’t snack much, and we ran around and played outside all year round. We were not overweight and we seldom saw kids who were.

I learned more about food and nutrition as I grew up, and went through every food fad, from the Julia Child classical French experiments of the ’70s to the low-fat, high-carb, pasta- and Snackwell’s-eating ’80s to the high-protein bacon-scented Atkins ’90s to the locavore, whole-foods 2000s. Somehow, through it all, I’ve savored and enjoyed all kinds of foods without much dieting or obsessing. In fact, I’ve pretty much managed to stay within 10 pounds of my high-school weight for several decades. Nothing that virtuous about it: I just never went way overboard—and (here’s the real secret), I never starved myself.

The more we learn about metabolism, the more we know how much dieting screws it up—sometimes for life. Once you gain a lot of weight, it’s really, really hard to lose it and then keep it off. Big weight loss changes your physiology in ways we’re just beginning to understand, and only the most disciplined people seem to be able to maintain it. Tara Parker-Pope wrote a fascinating piece about this called “The Fat Trap”  in The New York Times recently, and it’s worth a read. Maintaining weight loss is possible, not hopeless. But the best bet is never to gain much weight in the first place.

Of course, that advice is much too late for a lot of folks. And the New Year is when they decide to do something about it. That’s why our friends at Yahoo! tell us that online searches for “how to lose weight quickly” are up more than 300 percent, and interest is extremely high right now for “Snooki weight loss.” How did the pint-size Jersey Shore star get down to 98 pounds? I don’t think I want to know. And based on the latest research, sadly, her loss probably won’t last.

Photo by Christian Cable on flickr.com.

14 Responses to “Twinkies and the Weight-Loss Blues”

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