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‘Stuffed Nation’ author ponders hazards of junk food withdrawal

February 23, 2009

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Some people say that eating small amounts of junk food might actually be good for your diet — but others say the opposite.

Some people say that eating small amounts of junk food might actually be good for your diet — but others say the opposite.

Hank Cardello doesn’t think you have to stop eating junk food in order to lose weight.

As a matter of fact, Cardello, an author from Chapel Hill, N.C., believes the very opposite.

“I see nothing wrong with a can of Coke as long as it doesn’t morph into a weapon of mass consumption,” says Cardello, who recently penned his first book, “Stuffed Nation: An Insider’s Look at Who’s Really Making America Fat.” “It’s an issue when it becomes the 64-ounce double big gulp.”

Before Cardello put his thoughts in print, he was an executive at some of the nation’s largest food and beverage companies, including General Mills and Coca-Cola.

“I’m a former corporate executive gone anti-obesity activist,” he says.

Inside his book, Cardello argues that dietitians and nutritionists expect unrealistic progress from patients.

“The goal is to cut the calories down without asking people to change what they normally do,” he says. “People won’t change overnight.”

Gina Fisch doesn’t exactly buy Cardello’s theory. Fisch, who owns and operates Lawrence Perfect Balance Weight Management Center, 935 Iowa, says diets aren’t just about losing weight.

“The question is, ‘Are you interested in losing weight, or are you interested in becoming a more healthy person?’” she says. “If you just want to lose weight, cut your calories and eat junk.”

Without putting nutrients back into the body, Fisch says a person can’t be healthy — especially on a junk food diet.

“Junk food does not have the nutrients you need,” she says.

Cardello wouldn’t disagree that junk foods aren’t the best foods to eat.

“I wouldn’t call them healthy foods, but if you take in less calories, you automatically take in less fat and sugars,” he says. “But clearly you are improving your diet.”

Cardello acknowledges that his plan might not work for everyone — it’s geared toward people who are, for lack of a better word, dependent upon foods like cheeseburgers, pop and cookies.

“If you have a healthy diet, I’m not suggesting that you start cranking down cookies and pounding down soft drinks,” he says. “But the reality is that if you ask Americans who are inundated with burgers and cokes to quit cold turkey, it’s not pragmatic.”

In order to maintain a healthy body, Fisch suggests substituting fruits and vegetables for junk food.

“My job is to teach people how to eat,” she says. “Junk food is not going to build a strong, healthy body because it’s nutrient-void.”

Without the nutrients your body needs, Fisch says a person is more likely to have health problems — like heart disease or liver failure.

“Junk food makes your body weaker,” she says. “There are no magic pills or programs. You have to take care of your body.”

Still, Cardello suggests starting slowly — having a Coke Zero instead of regular Coke.

“I see clearly that it can work if it’s executed well,” he says. “I’d say just go for the low- or no-cal version or junior sizes of burgers.”

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