In a study by Yanovski et al of holiday weight gain, the typical American gained about 1.3 pounds (0.6 kg) per year, about half of it during the holiday season. The subjects in the study were selected from among those on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD — likely a more health-conscious group than say, a random selection from the Wal-Mart checkout lines. On the other hand, living near NIH has its inherent risk of weight gain because one of my favorite restaurants is right down the street. Suppose we suspend our disbelief momentarily and ponder what it means if this study is representative of the larger population (no pun intended).

Weight gain of 1.3 pounds per year equates to a calorie excess of at least 4,550 per year; that’s about 12 calories too much per day. Twelve calories too much isn’t much. Evolutionarily speaking, if our appetite is going to err on too much or too little, chances of survival were probably better with too much fuel intake versus too little. But what’s 12 calories a day?

Suppose every overweight adult American were to cut his/her calorie intake by twelve calories a day, and that the calories cut were in the form of a cheap food such as pasta. Twelve calories worth of pasta is about 3.5 grams – a couple of strands of spaghetti. At retail prices, the 3.5 grams of spaghetti costs the consumer about a penny. Cheaper than dirt. The adult overweight population numbers about 130 million (306 million x 72% over age 20 x 60% overweight).

If every overweight person in the USA cut out that one cent worth of pasta every day ($.01 x 130,000,000 x 365 ) those 12 calories not eaten means 474 million dollars lost to the food industry. Do you see why they’d much rather you exercise more than eat less? And why they want you to “Eat Right” rather than just not eat? If those same 130 million people actually wanted to lose weight instead of just maintaining their current weight, they’d have to cut more — maybe two to three cents’ worth — and the food industry would be hit with a loss of about a billion dollars or more. The fitness, pharmaceutical and bariatric surgery industries wouldn’t be fond of the plan either, and we’re only counting the USA population.

Now, what if the worldwide overweight population were to adopt the Fast-5 way of eating, which cuts about 150-500 calories from the typical appetite (that’s a ballpark figure — we’re working on building a research fund, but we’re not there yet, so there’s no study to cite)… What would you spend your share of the $6,000,000,000 in savings on?