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Day Two Childhood Obesity Conference

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Not quite as exciting as yesterday but still some good workshops at the conference today. The one that particularly stuck out to me was a presentation by registered dietitian and doctor of nutrition, Marcia Herrin, who has kind of gone against the grain in her approach to weight loss.

To my delight she is a big supporter of having dessert. (I personally have a sweet tooth that won't quit). She instructs her weight loss clients to make dessert a part of their daily diet. Not at every meal but at lunch or dinner. (This isn't the only component of her prescribed eating plan but potentially a controversial one). I think that's good advice to combat feelings of deprivation and ergo circumvent bingeing later. But beyond the deprivation avoidance, Dr. Herrin claims eating dessert prevents one from overeating. Hmm... Her motto is "dessert before seconds". The theory is that if you have dessert instead of a second helping of the main meal your appetite for more diminishes and you eat less overall.

Dr. Herrin goes so far as to claim that dessert is a necessary part of losing weight. She related a story of a client who wasn't losing weight until she incorporated dessert into her eating plan. Outside of her own clients' successes, she didn't present any research to support her theory, but if you think about it it may make some sense. Do sweet foods inhibit your appetite for the main meal? Would you feel like eating more beef stew after you have a piece of apple pie?

However, if this theory does have teeth, it would really only work at home where you're in control of how much you serve yourself. At a restaurant you just get one big plate of food. They don't serve you a reasonable portion and then ask you if you want seconds.

So what if you eat dessert first when you go out to eat? Would you still want dinner? Maybe, but would you eat less of it and therefore fewer calories overall? I'd like to see some data on that! I do have to confess that from time to time I have ordered my dessert before my entree when I am feeling particularly decadent(hey, I'm human!). Maybe it did stop me from eating more. I don't usually finish my main meal anyway (or the dessert) and I really never binge eat. I'll have to perform my own self-experiment. Is this a new area of research that needs to be explored? (Hey maybe I'll go back to grad school again and make this my doctorate thesis....).

I like this theory but I fear it also. My fear is that if we tell people to start eating dessert they may exaggerate the message and overeat sweet foods. I still firmly believe in moderation and portion control. I have always preached "healthy pleasures" but within reason.

As usual I'd like to bounce this idea off of you. What are your personal experiences? Would you be able to keep dessert portion sizes under control? Or would this just give you a license to eat them at will?

Unfortunately Dr. Herrin doesn't have a website but if you're interested in learning more about her approach she has written a couple of books on eating disorders that touch on it; The Parents Guide to Eating Disorders and Nutrition Counseling in the Treatment of Eating Disorders.

More to report tomorrow.. stay tuned.
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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