Why Do People Lose Weight on an All Twinkie, All Potato, All Pizza, All Steak or All Bacon Diet?

by Fahad Ahmad on June 11, 2018

Throughout the dawn of time, humans have done crazy experiments, some out out of necessity, some out of curiosity and some that may be worthy of a Darwin Award. However, these kind of experiments provide interesting insights into human physiology and responses while challenging existing dogma, especially when it comes to the world of food and nutrition. It's fascinating and muddy at the same time. Digression aside, many people have now tried short and long term experiments with various types of foods, including highly processed ones that are condemned as "hyperpalatable", and yet have been able to lose weight:

What's going on? Below is a hypothesis that could be self-tested to see if it works for you and your goals.

MEET SENSORY SPECIFIC SATIETY

The common theme in most of these "diets" is that they are leveraging something called 'Sensory Specific Satiety' which means that while eating a single food item, our body eventually body stops us from consumption. This happens with practically any tasting food item that is either sweet, sour, spicy or salty. Foods that are bitter, sour and spicy as a whole usually have lower ceiling that we hit until sensory satiety is reached but this may depend on previous food consumption and tolerance history that may be further influenced by environmental(eg. cultural upbringing) and genetic factors. The bottom line is, no matter how delicious a food is, eventually people stop eating that specific food item, all the way from highly processed foods such as twinkies to pizzas to steak to fruits.

WHAT HAPPENS OVER TIME?

Overall, such a protocol may lead to fat loss but consuming certain foods that may be devoid of nutrients may not be a good idea and could lead to malnutrition. This is mostly aimed at foods such as twinkies which are a nutritionally poor standalone source of macro and micronutrients. On the other hand, we have plenty of anecdotes that may point to certain single food items such as steak which may not only be healthy but may have some practical applications for combating autoimmune conditions far more effectively than most conventional methods. Point to note: calories matter but what comes with the calories matters a lot too. Additionally, when people lose weight on "mono-food" diets, they could also be losing muscle due to foods that are extremely low in protein. With all said and done, as the novelty aspect of the food item wears off, this usually leads to a caloric deficit and hence, fat loss.

PRACTICAL USE

The concept of Sensory Specific Satiety enables us to understand why many people overconsume foods as it becomes a vicious cycle of chasing novelty through unending products or recipe. This creates the "buffet effect" and can lead to overconsumption. It seems to occur more often with food combinations(not in isolation) that have extreme palate switches such as a happy meal which has the perfect palate heaven with textures of crispy, melty, doughy, sweet, cold and liquidy all in a cyclical form(eg. sip from cold soda, warm crunch on the fries and sink into the juicy burger) which overrides our sensory specific satiety. In other words, if taste and deliciousness is the prime motivator for manufacturing or preparing our foods, we are in for more rude awakenings in human health. Now some may say "blood sugar!!", "genetics!!" or "hormones!!" which may be a solid part of the equation and may also be the effect of causes external to our body(social conditioning) and learned impulses(eg. years of binging on foods or coping mechanism to defend against hostile environment?)

By limiting food diversity and keeping food choices simple, you could potentially invoke sensory specific satiety and limit caloric overload while at the same time focusing on getting calories from extremely high quality foods.

OUR OBSERVATION

We are noticing among our community, personal N=1 studies and customers that our Energy Pods seem to conform to Sensory Specific Satiety as well. Over time, the consumption decreases once the 'novelty' of the food wears off. Another interesting observation is how the texture and temperature plays a huge role in how it can raise(temporarily?) the limit at which satiety kicks in. For instance, freezing the Energy Pod into an ice-cream versus consuming the same Energy Pod(hence, keeping the micronutrients and macronutrients same) at room temeprature as a pudding has a different result. The frozen Energy Pod seems to be more palatable than the one at room temperature which is more palatable than the melted version. However, eventually, sensory specific satiety does kick in and over time leads to a net decrease in caloric load from that food item. BUT, what if the feasting never ends? What if, you're making daily recipes or buying new products or testing new foods at work or with friends/family? You might be constantly resetting and hijacking the sensory specific satiety on a daily basis? Maybe there is something such as 'Learned Satiety Signaling?' (Just thought that term up a few moments ago...)

This insight is significant and may further support how texture, taste and temeprature of the food and how it combines with other foods leads to high caloric overload and drives obesity and chronic conditions. In fact, these features of foods may override the macro and micronutrient composition of the food. 

IT MAKES SENSE

Human beings didn't exactly evolve as a global society with multitiudes of different food types. They focused more on foods that were localized and within their travel distances. With innovation in food science and cheaper raw ingredients, food nutrients have been diluted to become nutrient devoid energy or filler bombs which, in practical terms, is either using energy to reduce energy in products(eg. low fat milk, filler-filled nutrition bars, zero calorie noodles) or pure carb and fat energy bombs(creamy bagels, cakes, pizzas). The concept of sensory specific satiety may also explain why initially many people find a specific diet "boring" as it yields fat loss but at the same time their food options are limited and hence sensory specific satiety may have a strong role to play here. If we look at a Ketogenic or low carb diet, it's an elimination diet in which an entire food macro(carbohydrates) is eliminated. Other diets(eg. high carb vegan) eliminate meats and dairy. Some people eliminite an entire sensory response by not consuming bitter foods(eg. vegetables) or sweet foods(fruits, candies). The common recurring theme in practically all 'well-formulated-real-food' ketogenic diets is that they cut out processed foods and hence eliminate. Soylent and full meal replacement shakes do the opposite and eliminate all the 'real-foods', is moderately sweet and not exactly salty. This is where it's important to note again that even though calories are reduced in these methods, the quality of nutrients coming with these calories is quite important as well as each of these diets may yield different long term results.

Despite globalization, an environment that limits caloric overload can be still fostered by limiting the extreme diversity of foods in our diet. Creating a simple and solid dietary routine using foods that we enjoy can not only help with constantly invoking sensory specific satiety but can maintain adherance to the diet as well. Over time, it seems the body adjusts to this routine and allows appetite control. The bottom line is that in a generation of food abundance, their needs to be some restrictions on the diet whether it's through macro calculators, biomarker tracking or in this case, invoking the natural sensory satiety. This tool or a protocol based on this concept requires far less willpower and seems to work in autopilot in the background while you are focusing on other things in life: relationships, activities, endeavors and being productive. In other words, eat smart, move smart... and strive to be a good human being.

FAHAD AHMAD

Fahad is the founder of Ketogeek and hosts the Ketogeek Podcast, a world class health show about food, nutrition and health. He is into resistance training, Ashtanga yoga, calisthenics and various forms of training styles. Armed with a idealistic goals distilled in a world of realism, his goal is to help the world make a better place. He leads a life of extreme generalism or as he describes it, 'The Renaissance Lifestyle'.

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“It never ceases to amaze me how prosaic, pedestrian, unimaginative people can persistently pontificate about classical grammatical structure as though it's fucking rocket science. These must be the same people who hate Picasso, because he couldn't keep the paint inside the lines and the colors never matched the numbers.”
― Abbe Diaz

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