Thursday, August 27, 2009

The "Pistachio Principle" of Weight Loss

James Painter, PhD, RD, has come up with a new, non-dieting approach to weight loss that he calls the "Pistachio Principle." He says his experiments have shown that people can consume fewer calories without consciously restricting themselves, and yet finish a meal feeling as satisfied and full as does the average American who consumes more calories.

Long-term failure of diets

As justification for the new direction he is taking, he cites the fact that all forms of dieting, including the Pritikin Principle®, the Atkins Diet®, and Weight Watchers®, have yielded poor long-term weight-loss results, and he points to rebound eating in response to feelings of deprivation as one probable reason for their failure.

To address weight issues from another direction, Painter, a professor and chair of the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern Illinois University, advocates a behavioral and environmental approach that he's developed.

How, you ask, can you have calorie reduction without a feeling of restriction or deprivation?

Why increase those feelings of deprivation?

According to Painter, Americans over the past decades haven't consciously set out to increase the amounts of fat, carbohydrates, or calories they eat--there's no grand plan afoot to gain lots of weight. And so, he questions why we would do an about-face and consciously restrict extra calories, thereby igniting feelings of deprivation.

In one of Painter's behavioral studies, subjects self-selected helpings of either shelled pistachios or those still in their shells. Since pistachios in shells take more effort and time to eat, the actual calories these subjects consumed were 50 percent less than those eaten by the shelled-nut group. And the upshot was, both groups felt equally satisfied with their portions, and equally full.

How you might put the Pistachio Principle to the test:

  • Instead of drinking juices, where calories are quickly consumed, eat fresh fruit instead--a whole orange or tangerine, for example, eaten slowly and section-by-section after peeling it, takes longer to consume and has fiber you don't find in the juice.
  • If you have a hankering for peanuts, go with shelled vs. unshelled.
  • Try cutting up fresh fruits and veggies into much smaller pieces than you normally would and see how slowly you can eat them.

The bottom line is that it takes your brain 20 minutes to get the signal that you're full. The Pistachio Principle may slow your eating down to the point where you can feel that the stomach is full before you tuck into that second helping.

What do you think about the "Pistachio Principle"?

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