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July 10, 2009

Being hungry for the rest of your life

LizaMay.jpgI was interested in the story about the latest studies on the calorie restriction diet that appeared in today's paper because I wrote about the diet three years ago for the Taste section. (Which seems an odd place for it, now that I think about it.)

I talked to so many people who were so enthusiastic about the diet's benefits that I had the weird urge to try it, but the idea of being slightly hungry for the rest of my life was unappealing.

Equally unappealing was the descriptions I got of people thinking about food all the time. I'm obsessive enough about food without that.

I'm republishing my story below. When you read about some of these people's daily intakes of calories, just remember that a milkshake alone can have 1,500 calories.

The photo is of (at the time) 53-year-old Liza May in the story. ...

Small bites, long life?

By eating carefully chosen portions of nutritious foods, believers in calorie restriction hope to extend their years

Whoever said hunger is the best sauce should talk to Brian Delaney.

Delaney, who is 5 feet 11 inches tall and physically active, has two meals a day. His morning meal consists of whole-grain cereal, nonfat yogurt, berries, sliced fruit and soy milk.Dinner is usually whole-grain pasta or rice; a legume dish, such as lentil soup; and a large vegetable salad with ingredients like lightly steamed broccoli, red pepper, arugula, sesame seeds and pieces of fruit.

For a treat, Delaney sometimes allows himself a small piece of chocolate or a glass of wine.

That's it.

For years Delaney, who is 42 but says he feels like he's in his late 20s, has followed an extremely low-calorie diet known as calorie restriction, or CR, in the hopes of extending his lifespan - perhaps by a decade or two. Hunger is a fact of life.

"I like eating fewer meals but having more food per meal," he says. "The hunger is concentrated in one period. Late afternoon I'm hungry, but it's manageable. With grazing, there's a tiny bit of hunger all the time. You're thinking about food all the time."

Scientific studies in the 1930s showed that mice on an extremely low-calorie but healthful diet lived 30 percent longer and also seemed to age more slowly. Ever since, researchers have been trying to figure out whether a semi-starvation diet that was also rich in nutrients would extend human life.

Further animal studies and research on small groups of humans have been encouraging, and this month scientists at Louisiana State University reported an extremely low-calorie diet can reduce the DNA damage of aging. But there are negative side effects, depending on how severely calories are restricted, such as crankiness and lack of interest in sex.

The challenge for Delaney and others on the calorie-restriction diet is to get maximum nutrients and maximum volume - so they feel full - while taking in very few calories.

Proponents say the diet as a way of life isn't as grim as it sounds. Delaney, who lives in Sweden, is president of the Calorie Restriction Society, a sort of support group for a lot of very hungry people. He's written a how-to book, The Longevity Diet, with Lisa Walford, whose father pioneered much of the research.

Eventually, people who eat this way say, your body adjusts to even the most extreme version of the diet.

Liza May, 53, a clinical nutritionist who lives in Crofton and calls herself the "Martha Stewart of the Calorie Restriction Society," has been on the diet since the 1970s. "After so many years of eating reasonably" - by which she means being on a low-calorie, high-nutrition diet - "I don't have those crazy cravings," she says.

The mother of four and grandmother of three, May considers herself a gourmet cook and has a restaurant-quality kitchen, but she cooks for others. She estimates she consumes less than 1,000 calories a day, concentrating on fresh vegetables, leafy greens and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to be good for the heart. She avoids bread and other baked goods.

May is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 114 pounds. She says the diet leaves her with plenty of energy. She and her husband are competitive dancers, and she exercises every day at the gym. She thinks her eating habits might be responsible for the fact that she hasn't been sick since 1973.

"Every calorie matters," she says. "The more you restrict, the more you have to pay attention to [the nutritional content of] every calorie you put in your mouth."

Anyone who might be pregnant shouldn't consider the diet, and research indicates it could stunt children's growth. It also would be dangerous for someone with eating-disorder tendencies.

It is possible to eat a very low-calorie but healthful diet by making calculated selections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture food pyramid, says Christine Gerbstadt, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. In about 1,100 calories, she estimates, you can get 80 percent of your requirements. (You would have to meet the rest with supplements.)

"They can't get everything they need through food alone," she says, "but they can come pretty darn close. Face it. They're still doing better than 70 percent of Americans. The lesson is that we can all make healthier food choices."

For the past 20 years, Dr. Mark Mattson has. Mattson is a neuroscientist who is studying calorie restriction at the National Institute on Aging laboratory in Baltimore. He eats the same sort of highly nutritious, food-as-fuel diet as those on calorie restriction. But he doesn't routinely count calories or try to limit them, even though he's seen that the mild stress of a very low-calorie diet seems to protect lab animals at the cellular level.

"I skip breakfast, eat a relatively light lunch and a good-size dinner," he says. "I estimate that my calorie intake is about 1,800 to 2,200 per day. ... I eat mostly whole grains, vegetables and fruits, nuts and fish."

The research isn't clear-cut, Mattson says, that people who aren't overweight will benefit much from severely restricting calories. He also stresses the importance of regular physical exercise and keeping sharp mentally as well as diet to stave off the effects of aging.

In his book, Delaney recommends seeing your doctor before you start the diet. But he believes most Americans could benefit from taking in fewer calories, even if they don't diet as drastically as he does.

Delaney limits his calories to about 1,900 a day. "It's not that different from a mostly vegetarian, health-food diet except that I skip lunch," he says. For a man his size, about 2,500 calories would be more normal, especially because he runs and lifts weights several times a week.

An ex-girlfriend once described Delaney as resembling "a hockey player on a two-day fast." After almost 14 years on the diet, he weighs 140 pounds. He's skinnier than he wants to be but, he says, he looks muscular.

At a restaurant, he usually can find something on the menu that fits his diet. When he's invited to someone's house, he eats whatever the host is serving but in very small amounts.

"If someone fed me [fried] fish and chips," he says, "I wouldn't like it, but I'd eat a little of it."

He wasn't always so disciplined. "I was a junk-food junkie," he says. "The first year [on the diet] I craved really fatty foods. I could smell McDonald's a block away, but not so much anymore."

News stories about the science of calorie restriction often focus on practitioners who eat almost nothing and whose weight is dramatically lower than what's considered normal. But many people who believe it will extend life practice calorie restriction to a lesser degree. It's the only way they can follow the regimen long term.

Those who have a scientific view of food, primarily as fuel, probably have the easiest time with the diet.

David Dorsey, 67, says he's done a lot of thinking about the role of food in our society since he started restricting calories. "You need to look at eating almost exclusively as nutrition," says Dorsey, who is the chief financial officer of a nonprofit organization. "If someone else wants to spend a lot of time making a Boston cream pie and then they are hurt because I just want a very small piece, well, so be it."

    Dorsey, who lives in Silver Spring, is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 144 pounds, 20 less than he did when he started the diet a year and a half ago. He's up from 131, his lowest weight. "I used to keep track of everything I ate, but it got too burdensome," he says.

He consumes plenty of vegetables and whole grains and keeps fresh fruit in his office in case he gets too hungry. Breakfast is oatmeal and fruit. Lunch is entirely vegetables. He'll microwave a bag of mixed frozen vegetables and eat them with a Diet Dr Pepper.

Dinner is smaller portions of what he used to eat (he and his wife were always healthy eaters) and no second helpings. His reward, he says, is 2 or 3 teaspoons of Healthy Choice chocolate ice cream before bed.

Dorsey is lucky that his wife is on board with his decision to live a calorie-restricted life. One of the big problems with the diet is that it affects the people around you.

"My girlfriend hates it," says Ray Hinish, 30, who has been eating this way for a couple of years. "She likes to try a lot of different foods, and I just won't."

Hinish, a pharmacist specializing in holistic medicines, recommends starting by simply substituting vegetables for more calorie-dense food. He also believes in getting extra protein through supplements.

The Columbia resident is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. Since he began restricting calories he's lost 25 pounds. Hinish estimates he gets about 2,000 calories daily, higher than the usual person on calorie restriction, but he exercises vigorously every day.

"A regular weight-watching diet leaves you almost malnourished," he says, "but CR makes you almost supernourished."

Another difference is that a low-calorie weight-loss diet has an end in sight: When you reach your goal, you can start eating more again, even if not as much as you used to. It takes a particular mind-set to be able to voluntarily live on a restricted-calorie diet for the rest of your life.

That's why Bob Hammer, 49, an engineer who also lives in Columbia, no longer practices CR, even though it made him feel "really good" and he still believes in its long-term benefits.

He says he just got tired of being hungry all the time. The fact that he couldn't eat what other people ate was also a problem. He and his wife are divorced, and his daughter lives with him. He had to cook one meal for her and a different one for himself.

Now he's hoping to live a healthier if not a longer life by eating the same nutritious foods he ate on the diet - just more of them.

    "I improved my habits quite a bit trying to get everything you need [nutritionally] but still eating less," he says.

Hammer first heard of calorie restriction in the '80s but didn't start seriously restricting calories until 1998. After about a year his weight dropped to 128 pounds, low for his 5-foot-8-inch frame.

At first "the motivation made me see beyond the hunger," he says. "But the urge to eat was very strong. Your view of food changes. You're thinking about food all the time. Man, you're looking forward to that next meal."

There was one good thing about it, he says. "It's hard to be hungry and depressed at the same time."

A day's menu

Lisa Walford, co-author with Brian Delaney of The Longevity Diet, is a vegan and a serious practitioner of calorie restriction. Here is a day's meals from her food journal in the book. In addition to these foods, she also takes calcium and B-12 supplements.

Breakfast: 4 walnuts, 6 almonds, 10 peanuts, black tea

Morning snack: 1-inch avocado slice, 1/2 slice whole-wheat toast, 2 tablespoons hummus spread (chickpeas)

Midafternoon snack: 16 ounces apple/beet/carrot juice

Dinner: Steamed broccoli, red pepper, kale, tomato, squash, sweet potato, onions and cauliflower; 1/2 cup tomato sauce; 2 ounces baked tofu; 1 teaspoon olive oil; 1 teaspoon flax oil; black pepper; marjoram

Evening snack: 10 toasted almonds

Chicken and tomato

Serves 1

This recipe is from Robert Cavanaugh, a member of the Calorie Restriction Society who posted it at He wrote: "Typically, my wife and I have this chicken with 5 ounces of broccoli and a medium baked sweet potato, a large green salad and dressing, and a glass of red wine. I also have a 6-inch whole-wheat pita bread. Total calories for my dinner are 933. My wife skips the pita bread, which saves her 170 calories."

10 sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 chicken breast (100 grams), boneless and skinless

1/2 can (100 grams) diced tomatoes

2 whole oysters, boiled and minced

Make a pesto by processing the first 3 ingredients. Pound out the chicken breast to 1/2 inch thickness. Coat both sides of the breast with pesto. Broil 20 minutes in a foil-lined pan, turning once.

Combine tomatoes and oysters. Spoon over chicken and broil 10 minutes more.

Per serving: 191 calories, 23 grams protein, 7 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 8 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 62 milligrams cholesterol, 231 milligrams sodium

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:46 PM | | Comments (79)


I read this post while having my afternoon tea with a ginger cookie. CR sounds like the ideal diet for someone who has OCD.
No so great for people who don't want to be cranky or lose interest in sex.

Does it really make you live longer, or does it just seem like it?

could you run a picture of barbie hargrave just to counter-act the affects of that picture?

I totally have OCD.

CoW to Hal.

I second OMs motion.

Almonds again?!

I couldn't read the article. All I could think about was a milkshake. Then I saw the food items and got even hungrier. Now I want something with whipped cream. I don't even care what. I had a dream last night that I was drinking Bailey's for breakfast at my parents' house in New York. Now I want some Bailey's with whipped cream. And a Stinger. Come on five o'clock

VoodooPork ■|:o), I hope you have done your estate planning.

Notice that no one interviewed is over 70? Where are all the really healthy 100 year olds that use this diet?

I said I wanted to do all those things.

Isn't there an old saw...don't smoke, don't drink, don't chase women or men, and don't eat too much....
You might not live to an old age but it sure as hell will feel like you had....

Quote of the week:
"It's hard to be hungry and depressed at the same time."

That is a very long post. Would someone give me the Cliff's Notes version of it.

RoCK the cliffs notes version: you don't have to actually be an anorexic to look like one.

Anyway, moderation in all things especially moderation.

There was a report on this on the news tonight, and one of the women who was shown briefly talked about how wonderful she felt, but she looked cadaverous. Not exactly a good advertisement for the approach.

MrRational--I'm with you!

HA! I read the one of the comments as MCRational. Now I'm jonesing for some salty fries w/ hot fudge sundae.

Lick Life

make you tiny
hunger yearn
can't die
living dust
angry dust
dust to dust
not yet
not yet

Diet---pishtosh! I have always stated my epitaph would be "she died young, she died full" until a friend just said I think you can leave the young out of that now.

Quality over quantity people, quality over quantity.

Quality over quantity people, quality over quantity.

Matt, I'm not totally sure which side you're taking here, but whether the reduced-calorie people are reallly going for quality depends on how you define "quality". And I"m pretty darn sure my definition is different from theirs.

Aside from Dahlink's comment, Where. Are. They. Now? Perhaps a follow-up with the same people, to see if they have continued the CR diet and what the results are. Maybe someone could do a documentary on this way of (not) eating and call it "Undersize Me."

I can die thin or I can die happy.

If one eats a diet that includes lots of vegetables and whole grains, along with lean meats and not a lot of saturated fat, sodium, or processed foods, they will live a long time, especially if they combine it with exercise.

One doesn't need to obsess over what they intake like this CR diet prescribes.

The CR diet sounds like way too much work, and sucks a lot of enjoyment out of life.

I don't want to be mean or rude, but that pic is stressing me out everytime I load the blog. Dear lord how many days is it going to show up before it is eclipsed by more recent posts? Couldn't there have been a pic of some of the diet food instead?



Hal, I was trying my desire to lead a good, fulfilling life, not necessarily a long one.


The guy in the article said he microwaves a bag of frozer vegetables and drinks a diet Dr. Pepper. This is not my definition of quality.

EEL, I'm pretty sure that you and Matt (and myself) are in agreement on that.

This coming from the woman whose father basically invented calorie restriction and who died early of ALS.

I've always wondered if he wished he had eaten a Meatnormous.

Delaney? He is nutritionally retarded!
I am twice as old. 84, 3 times as food happy, 4 times as sexy--------

Hart Oldenburg? Now that's an implausible name.

This is a RIDONCULOUS magnet for shills. Get rid of this crap.

Gone now. Let's not use the c word before breakfast. EL

The 9:47 posts and the 9:49 posts are spam and shilling.

Yes the multiple comments that Paulette (her friends call her "Paulette")posted are shills for her pyramis scheme. But it is a chocolate pyramid scheme. So...

Mmmmmmmm.....Chocolate Pyramid Scheme.

Now how will Homer and I get into the chocolate business and realize all of our dreams?

Wow - that recipe would be good if everything were deep fried. And if he used some SALT.

This is too ghastly for comment except to say that the woman in the picture's head is about 3 times to large for her shoulders.

That's right, why don't we all pile negativity on those who can restrict their eating? I don't practice CR, but I also eat a lot less than the average American. The fact that I am well within the average BMI numbers is no accident. We could all use a bit less food if you ask me. Just look at the average size of people today! I think it's disgraceful.

Eating less than the average American is one thing (I'm fairly sure I eat less than the average Americain).

Deliberately making yourself feel hungry is quite another thing.

I'm not really sure what "life is not for the living" means.

I can also teach you how to make a macrame cilice if hunger isn't sufficient.

Ex dolore fortitudo

Anecdotal evidence always favors the teller. It's a well-documented fact that underweight people have a higher incidence of cancer and live shorter lives. Those are research data, not cult testimonials.

See the recent study:

Study: Overweight People Live Longer
But Extreme Underweight, Obesity Linked to Earlier Death
By Salynn Boyles
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 25, 2009 -- There is more evidence that people who are overweight tend to live longer than people who are underweight, normal weight, or obese.

In a newly published study, people who were underweight and those who were extremely obese died the earliest.

People who were overweight, but not obese, actually lived longer than people whose weight was considered normal, based on body mass index (BMI).

The research is not the first to suggest that those who carry a little, but not too much, extra weight tend to survive longer than people who don't.

CDC researchers found the same thing in a widely reported study published in 2005, and last month a separate group of investigators reported that overweight heart patients live longer than lean ones.

"The research is not the first to suggest that those who carry a little, but not too much, extra weight tend to survive longer than people who don't."

And we're probably getting more action too.

"Overweight" is an arbitrary label and clearly not a good one. "Normal" BP has changed over the years too. Labels are often assigned without proper evidence and "overweight" clearly is judgemental. BMI is inferior to the Quetelet index anyway. BMI assumes that people are two dimensional

There was also a study that compared identical twins, where one carried a few more pounds than the other. People looking at photos generally judged that the heavier twin looked several years younger than the other one.

As for weight loss, I kinda like the idea behind the television show "Dance Your Ass Off" (disclaimer--I haven't actually watched this--just like the idea!)

I am on a Calorie restricted diet ( Indian food), though I am still to reach my ideal weight, I am quite pleased that my neck Cervical pain is reduced by 80%, maybe due to the fact that I use treamill now ( though I used to run outside earlier and it didn't have any affect on my pain). The goal shouldn't be to prolong life ( that's silly) but really to avoid seeing the doctor for diseases that you COULD have controlled.

"Anyone who might be pregnant shouldn't consider the diet, and research indicates it could stunt children's growth. It also would be dangerous for someone with eating-disorder tendencies."

What's described in this article IS an eating disorder. CR is an attempt to legitimate anorexia. I could barely finish reading this article it was so disturbing.

Been there, I was just about to post something similar--not that I have ever suffered from an eating disorder, but I have known people who have. It often seems to involve a distorted self-image as well. Women especially perceive themselves as fat when they are actually rail-thin. It can also take the form of exercising too much. One woman was asked to leave my gym because of this.

Whenever I look at that picture of Liza May, I can't help but thinking that she's a cross between Susan Powter (of those infamous "Stop the Insanity!" diet infomercials) and Fire Marshal Bill from In Living Color.

Oooooh, thank you hmpstd! Just thinking about Fire Marshal Bill makes me laugh. I think I can make it through this day now.

A few deadly combinations were making it a slog.

Hal Laurent: I didn't know one had to "deliberately" make yourself hungry. I always thought that what happened after a finite amount of time has passed since your previous meal and your body is telling you it need more.

"I'm not really sure what "life is not for the living" means."

Ah, the killer blow! Did you visit the site?Such sadness! Sounds like you need to know life is not for the living Oh, you sent the arrow through my heart! You didn't go to the About section! Could it be? Do I have *gasp* "poor website design!!!"

Thank you for summing up in your comment replying back to me. If these people want to restrict what they eat, how does this hurt you or anyone else? Calling them crazy, or OCD is uncalled for. Offer your opinion, but try not to let it cross over into personal attacks. It's bad etiquette.

oops, forgot to add my info with it, here I am. So silly, I was in such a rush. :)

Pavlina, I went to your About page. I'm not sure what you were trying to say, but whatever it was I didn't understand it.

Pavlina, I also read your About page and I didn't understand it either--and I don't think my lack of understanding can be blamed on website design.

Simple question: what do you mean when you write "Life is not for the living"--?

Do anorexics have an illness or are they just more goal oriented than the rest of us?

Pavlina, do put me in with Hal and Dahlink, as having no clue what "Life is not for the living" means.

Logically - and I would suggest that a lack of nutrients would cause a dimunition of brain cells - what else would life be for? Are there enough semi-reasonable responses to even create a multple choice question?

Maybe she's just trying to be ironical.

Now RayRay, don't be ignorant.

Laura Lee - I think RayRay was speaking literally.

Thanks, Trixie. I tend to take everything too figuratively.

Hmm, I suppose I'm in luck that a few hundred people think otherwise. Now that I really think on it, Life is Not for the Living is ironic, in a way. I prefer to think about it as being a better way to live one's life just remember that it's not for the living. Well, it makes sense to me, maybe it is silly like so much on the internet these days. You either like it or not. . I find one of the best ways to live a good life is not to spread vitriol around the internet. I try my best not to, but sometimes the internal edit doesn't click in until well after the "post" button has been clicked. I am human, after all. I never mean to offend. If I have, then all apologies are due.

Back to the original thread, I don't think these people are sick or crazy. I think they are living the way they want. The "diet" is not for everyone, for sure.

I finally have a good self image and a healthy relationship worth food, but I do find it annoying when people accuse me of starving myself or tell me I need to eat some cake or anything! It's hard to disconnect your personal feelings clouding your comments. I'm sure many of the previous commenters are like me, who have finally resolved their issues with their self image and relationship of food, and they are also annoyed when comments are made of their body types.

I suppose it's good that we are all so different, that way it doesn't make a whole lot of sense when someone does call one out for being different.

So are you saying that life is for the dead?

Life is Not for the Living is ironic, in a way.

So, RayRay was right. What were the odds....

What were the odds that someone would show up here, who makes me long for springs1?

Ironical, no?

Why do I think that Pavlina has a lot of scarves and maybe some bead curtains. She is like a cat in the dark and then she is your darkness. She rules her life like a fine skylark and when the sky is starless ...

You do realize that ironical is an actual word in the English language? I realize you are using it as an insult. Thank you.

Hal: If you don't "get" my blog, fine. Don't read it. It's a free country. I don't write anything hateful or vile. Personally, I don't get that you don't get it, get it?

Last time I checked, I didn't own any scarves, and bead curtains, any mysterious globes, I don't burn incense, and I don't dress like a hippie.

Don't attack my intelligence, you don't know me.

What I am is someone who believes we should all treat each other with respect. I know I would not be ashamed if my grandmother were to read what I have written. I don't think all here can say the same.

I do find it amusing I seem to be one of the few here who is not an "anonymous" poster, meaning no blog, site, etc.

I thought this is my blog, site, etc.

There's no hating here Pavlina. We welcome you and enjoy your participation. People are just playing. I think it's something about your name that conjures up a Stevie Nicks video.

I assume that I didn't offend you since you just tweeted this:
About me :"she is like a cat in the dark and then she is your darkness. She rules her life like a fine skylark and when the sky is starless"

I have the feeling something is getting lost in translation. Which character in "Alice in Wonderland" said that words meant whatever he or she wanted them to mean?

"Then you should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.
"I do, " Alice hastily replied; "at least I mean what I say, that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "Why, you might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see!"

"When I use a word" Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

Thank you, Eve and Laura Lee!

Did you both memorize the entire "Walrus and the Carpenter" as I did long ago?

For sure, Dahlink.

"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said, "Is what we chiefly need: Pepper and vinegar besides are very good indeed"

Never let it be said we don't talk about food here.

In fact, Dahlink, I did although since The Beatles all I can remember is koo kooka choo.

"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

"...there is nothing that needs reforming more then(or than..never sure) other peoples habits..."

Link Spam @ 9:33

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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