The BITES Challenge
Wondering who came up with the idea that counting bites would be useful for weight loss?
You probably suspect it was the 80Bites duo, Meredith Luce, RD, MS, LN, and Joan Breibart, but actually Dr. Richard G. Black, a Seattle physician, devised the first bite counting system. His program, “Count Bites, Not Calories.” was published in Family Circle in 1977. Unfortunately, neither Luce, Breibart nor most of America read the article so the bites plan didn’t get any further attention. Meanwhile, every year thereafter, new “miracle” diets came about in the media, each with some weird nutrient or food manipulation promising to melt away the fat.
Finally, ten years later, SELF Magazine publishes our system in “The No-Diet Diet,” written by Candace Bushnell, of Sex & the City fame. And what was the reaction of the public, the press and the diet professionals? The same as it was 10 years earlier. They didn’t bite—pun intended. No one was interested.
Then, in 2004, with obesity being a daily news item, the New York Post publishes our bite program in, “The Bite Stuff—Chew Story.” This time professionals voiced their disagreement with loud and public criticism. Why? Our “failure” to back the accepted dogma: eight glasses of water daily; low-fat eating; and “fat burning” exercise.
What Have We Learned
Twenty seven years later, we know that the 1955 “Water” Directive should have read Fluids– not Water alone! The 70s campaign to vilify fat only encouraged sugar binging. As for exercise, the simplistic calories in calories out is a nice equation, but “fat burning” exercise is really just a good marketing ploy.
While the concept of bites is gaining support—there are even copycats with bite counting gadgets– there is still disbelief because counting bites does not equate with calories ingested. (Even Dr. Black tried to equate bites with caloric intake.) What we are beginning to recognize is that you cannot overload the body. Too much quantity will stretch the stomach and cause a critical digestive hormone to malfunction. The result is leptin resistance—the reason why almost everyone in America is hungry most of the time.
Today we understand that carbo-hydrate, protein and fat calories are absorbed differently by the body. Theoretically, where you get your calories does make a difference, but more importantly, how much and how often are the significant and controllable measures. By starting the process of stimulating your stomach less often and with less quantity, you begin to re-train your weight at the digestive level. Learning how to eat less and drink less, less often, is simplified by using the 80Bites App counting method. The more you use it, the easier it becomes; the less you need to use it, the sooner your stomach takes over and the process becomes so natural that you will be saying, “Thanks, but I can’t eat another bite!”
Eat Healthy / Exercise More
We see that the eat healthy/ exercise more directive isn’t working now. And if you were born after 1970, you probably think that it did… back in the Fifties. You’ve heard about those days long ago when Americans ate home cooked, nutritious meals of lean meats and fresh vegetables and fruits. And we walked everywhere.
Except we didn’t. We ate greasy burgers, fries and full strength soda at White Castle. We drank frozen juice concentrates diluted with tap water. The “fresh” vegetables were canned or frozen, except in summer. And, the Crisco. Every home had a tub of it. That’s why the fried chicken, fried potatoes, grits, pie crusts, and cakes tasted so good.
OK, so the trimmer bodies of the Fifties weren’t due to more wholesome meals. Let’s take on the myth that we were exercising. Well, health clubs didn’t start until the 1970s and even then most women didn’t go. Sweating was unfeminine. So we sat and played Canasta or read a book or wrote letters.
Yet these Moms from the Fifties delivered four kids and still managed to get back into pre-baby wardrobes.
Then why are we fatter than our grandparents?
The simple, unvarnished, scientifically researched answer from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is that we just plain eat more. The CDC reports that women today eat 22 percent more than women did in 1971. Go back to 1958 and the number is 30%! And we’re not talking apples to apples unless we are actually eating apples. Today we have hundreds of calorie-free beverages and reduced-fat foods.
So if over consumption got us into this mess, why didn’t we all just eat less?
Because in the 1980s, legions of fitness gurus and diet experts—some of them physicians– became media savvy and perfected their messages. They convinced us that we needed the magical trifecta: eat only foods that are healthy (translation: eliminate fats then carbs); exercise (beat up your body and “burn” calories) and drink water, at least eight glasses a day.
The result was that eager Americans embraced the “go for the burn/no pain no gain” body-damaging exercise to get rid of the extra calories; sort of our 20th Century version of the Roman vomitoriums.
Bad choice: the Pennington Biomedical Research Center recently determined that exercise is NOT a weight loss solution. A six-month study proved that dieting alone reduces weight just as well as dieting and exercising. People who cut calories 25 % by only dieting and those who cut with half exercise, half diet, lost the same amount of weight. And both groups experienced the same decrease in muscle mass and basal metabolism! Don’t stop moving however; your heart, muscles and bones need exertion.
What about eating?
Well the diet industry convinced us that grazing, formerly known as snacking, was healthier than eating regular meals. This meant that consuming food anywhere at any time wasn’t just acceptable, it was downright medicinal!!! As for quantity, we want to believe that if it’s “good” food, you can’t eat enough. Except that reason tells us that the more often your stomach is stretched, the more you must shovel in to feel sated.
Finally came the glorification of water which led us to believe that we could drink away our hunger or even “wash” away those calories. In 1976, each of us annually drank only a gallon of bottled water. Today we each drink 28 gallons. Now we know there has been some climate change—obviously made worse by the need to dispose of billions of plastic water bottles– but we don’t live in deserts today and we weren’t dying of thirst 30 years ago.
What’s the current word from the experts who gave us all this flawed advice? Well, you better believe they’re distancing themselves from their past weight loss theories. Now, they really know what the problem is and how to fix it. If you’re over weight, it’s not your fault. Blame genetics, set points and stress hormones for your problem.
They don’t exactly say we have mutated in just 50 years, but the implication is that we don’t have control over our bodies because after decades of gaining and losing and then regaining, they aren’t cooperating.
It’s a complicated situation and we’re burnt out from all the talk and failed solutions. And maybe being thin is overrated, now that seven out of 10 of us are not. Yet just when we’ve given up along comes the Recession. We’re closing our purses. Can our mouths be far behind?
The Bites Debate is all Wrong: How WSJ slanted recent article on Counting Bites
“How Many Bites Do You Take a Day? Try for 100,” published today in the Wall Street Journal ignores the fact that this concept was developed almost 30 years ago by Meredith Luce MS, RD LN and Joan Breibart, President of the PhysicalMind Institute and it has been publicized in the New York Post (2004), Self Magazine (1987), Vogue, the Today Show and elsewhere.
See New York Post Coverage here.
In addition, the ‘Bite Watch’ in the article is a direct copy of our 2005 bite watch which is actually referenced in the Bite Technologies/ Clemson patent. We abandoned our prototype in favor of app technology (80Bites app) when we saw the issues: people use their phones and don’t wear watches; bite counting is just a temporary informational tool and not something to be done for months; plus there are accuracy issues with recording hand/mouth activity.
Obesity is a moving target and the copiers who don’t work daily with actual people aren’t able to see the shifts. Overeating while sitting down to three meals a day at home is not really the prevalent pattern of consumption which is why vibrating forks or talking plates aren’t so helpful. For the majority, particularly people under 40, the pattern is grazing on ‘healthy’ well-marketed foods in public and then binging privately or drinking too many calorically dense beverages. With a U.S. population that is over 55% obese, these new bite products will just be more failed solutions leading Americans to just give up.
Meredith Luce MS RD LN is a bariatric dietician who uses 80Bites with actual patients including the morbidly obese. Even though in the past decades, we tried to make our program focus on both quantity and calories, the reality is that they are not really compatible. Bites address volume and stomach size which directly affect hormones. Overeating drives up leptin so much that eventually a resistance develops so that the threshold increases. Thus it takes more and more eating (thus more leptin) to finally get the “stop eating” message. This is why leptin resistance should be the focus of weight loss efforts and why almost everyone in America is hungry all the time.
Since the information in the article is misleading and inaccurate, we and your readership would appreciate a correction indicating who are the true authors of the ‘bites’ concept.
Joan Breibart and Meredith Luce RD MS LN
Water Water Every Where But Not A Drop To Drink
Today we have a population who believes that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water daily. Five decades ago, we used to agree with humorist W.C. Fields’ who when asked if he drank water replied, “Hell No. Fish pee in water.” Today, we live in fear of dehydration while we should worry about the opposite — Hyponatremia: water intoxication.
How did we get to this stage where we worry about drought but think nothing of wasting water? It began in in 1945 when the U.S. Government issued a dietary directive, which said that everyone should drink 64 ounces of water daily. This number was apparently the result of a requirement that we drink 1 milliliter per calorie consumed daily (about 2500 calories a day!) We know that this is at least 600 more calories than what most women should consume if they don’t want to size up. So this directive went forth but omitting a crucial line: that all fluids count — obviously tea and coffee are 99% water—but also fruits, vegetables are mostly water. Even steak has water! So the line omitted should have said total fluids and that these were easily contained in any balanced diet.
So why you ask did this water nonsense take hold? Why did the American public decide to pay for trillions of plastic bottles of water considering that water in the USA is free, easily available and safe? The answer is d-i-e-t-i-n-g became big business — $65 billion at the latest count — and diet gurus figured that everyone needed something to put in their mouths that had no calories and was “healthy.” Even better, spring or purchased water was thought to be purer so it was purifying and holy as in holy water. Now 50 years after dieting started with the founding of Weight Watchers, we face water shortages; plastic bottles will be with us forever, and we are fatter than anyone thought possible. Plus the malady du jour is water intoxication whose symptoms: loss of energy, fatigue, restlessness and irritability may make one think they need to drink more bottled water and eat yet another “healthy” snack for refueling. However, what we really need is a BIG dose of common sense.