MINNEAPOLIS – Florida’s got the South Beach diet. Now Minnesota’s got the “Northwoods Diet.”
That’s what University of Minnesota professor David Bernlohr came up with as the solution when he noticed his waistline expanding. After all, he’s an obesity researcher.
|Minnesota Obesity Center: www1.umn.edu/mnoc|
Bernlohr said he’d fallen into the traditional American habits of skipping breakfast, eating too much and eating too late at night.
So he put himself on his own diet – what he jokingly dubbed the “Northwoods Diet,” poking fun at the fad diet industry and the popular South Beach diet.
“I said if the beautiful people in south Florida can have South Beach, the hardworking people of Minnesota can have Northwoods,” the professor said.
His eating plan: Three meals a day with smaller portions and no food after 7:30 p.m. He starts with a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast such as cold cereal or oatmeal. He said the carbs stimulate production of insulin, a hormone that helps cells convert blood sugar to energy.
Lunch is a transitional meal with both carbs and protein, often pizza. Dinner is heavier on protein, including meat, vegetables and salads.
His rule against eating later in the evening adds to the time the body is naturally fasting – when he’s sleeping. As for exercise, he said, he didn’t change his normal pattern. He’s always walked a lot.
The approach “is just common sense to people who study nutrition or metabolism,” said Bernlohr, who heads the university’s department of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics and leads a research team at the Minnesota Obesity Center.
Bernlohr said he’s lost 40 pounds over the last year and he looks trim. But he declines to disclose his weight, and says he’s a little chagrined that his diet has attracted media attention.
“This is not a scientific study. It’s simply a catchy name,” he said, adding that the principles he’s following aren’t new.
It may not be new information, but people apparently aren’t paying attention to what already is known about good diet habits.
The federal government estimates about 65 percent of the adults in the United States – nearly 119 million people – are overweight or obese, which can lead to major health problems.
The key to losing weight and staying trim?
“Don’t put as much on your plate. Park as far away from the mall as you can, not as close as you can. Walk more. Exercise more,” Bernlohr said.
And don’t expect quick results.
Allen Levine, director of the obesity center and head of the university’s department of food science and nutrition, uses the analogy of the automobile to make that point. It takes minutes to fill the tank with gas, but hours to burn off the fuel.
People have to balance the calories eaten with calories burned, he said. And people have to police themselves.
“You can’t have sex at your desk and you can’t drink booze at your desk and you can’t inject drugs at your desk, but you can eat a doughnut. Nobody’s going to stop you,” he said.