Recently he completed an all-fast-food diet for 30 days. Once again he lost 2 pounds a week and got shredded.
Is he nuts, or making an important point?
People who care enough to argue about nutrition generally fall into two camps. There are those who believe that your body weight rises and falls based on the amount of food you eat and the amount of energy you expend. This camp is sometimes derided as “CICO,” for calories-in, calories-out.
The other side argues that what you eat—and what you avoid—matters far more than your total calories. Within this second camp, you’ll find any number of stakeholders supporting any number of diets, but one faction gets more attention than the rest combined.
They’re the ones who believe that carbohydrates cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and just about all human misery that isn’t directly linked to smoking or sectarian warfare.
Anthony Howard-Crow, a 32-year-old photographer and serial stunt dieter in Loveland, Colorado, is in the CICO camp.
As he explains, he started a YouTube channel called Abs & Ice Cream back in 2011. His original stunt was a 30-day diet in which he got 50 percent of his daily calories from ice cream. A new job forced him to cut the plan short, but he felt he proved his point by losing 2 pounds a week and finishing the experiment with impressive abs.
More recently he completed an all-fast-food diet for 30 days. Once again he lost 2 pounds a week and got shredded.
“The whole point of these demonstrations,” he says in the video, “is to show you—basically prove, in the best way I can—that you can eat anything you want and still lose weight.”
That doesn’t mean he can eat as much as he wants. He plans to keep a tight leash on his calories, eating a strict 2,500 a day, which he says is less food than he needs for maintenance. By the basic principles of energy balance—calories-in, calories-out—he’ll lose weight.
He says it doesn’t matter if the calories come from chicken breasts and brown rice or what he’ll actually eat: 2,000 calories a day of ice cream, combined with 500 calories from protein powder and/or alcohol. (Why alcohol? “A lot of people think you can’t drink while you’re losing weight,” he explains in the video. “Also not true.”)
I wouldn’t have heard of Howard-Crow or his experiment if not for Alan Aragon, a Men’s Health nutrition advisor and my coauthor on The Lean Muscle Diet. Aragon posted a link to the video on Facebook with this endorsement: “Whatever helps to debunk the popular idea of magical weight-loss foods (as opposed to the caloric deficit itself) gets a thumbs up from me.”
Within hours Aragon’s post got more than a thousand likes and hundreds of shares. Most were on Aragon’s side, cheering Howard-Crow’s project. But to answer serious questions about the potential health risks of eating so much sugar every day for three months, Aragon added this:
“The message here is not that this is an ideal diet to permanently sustain, the message is specifically to show how an energy deficit overrides specific food sources when it comes to weight/fat loss.”
Now we just need to see if it’ll work. You can follow the experiment on Howard-Crow’s website, or just check back here in three months for the final results.
Lou Schuler is an award-winning journalist and contributing editor to Men’s Health.