Can you lose weight on the marijuana diet?

Author says light smoking and healthy eating make winning combination

October 23, 2013

The Marijuana Diet
Book cover for the The Marijuana Diet.

The "marijuana diet" may sound like something you'd read about in The Onion. But for its creator, the diet is no joke.

Art Glass, 66, whose background is in marketing and advertising, says he ballooned up to 345 pounds years ago but returned to a healthy weight by following the tenets of his self-styled strategy, which includes light to moderate smoking but also a healthy diet. He talked about it on WBEZ’s Morning Shift Wednesday.

Glass’ e-book “The Marijuana Diet”  went up on Amazon this week and prescribes lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouts and nuts along with occasional fasting and superfood smoothies. It further recommends modest amounts of high-quality pastured and grass-fed animal protein, and the elimination of processed foods, white sugar and flour.

This alone might be enough to improve a dieter's health, but Glass also suggests regular exercises--mostly long-held poses that can be done on a chair, a couch or standing.

So is the marijuana aspect of the diet really that crucial?  Maybe not for some.

But for those whose unhealthy eating habits stem from psychological or emotional issues, Glass believes smoking can help them explore the triggers or experiences that have led to their self-destructive behavior.

“Losing weight is one of the most challenging things there is,” Glass said on the Morning Shift Wednesday.  “Marijuana helps you get in touch with yourself and let go of the crap you don’t need and when you let go of that psychological crap, you will let go of your weight.”

Glass uses his own experience as evidence and, in his book, catalogues more than 100 testimonials from Internet users who also report pot-induced weight loss. Their screen names include “stonerchick609” or “smotpoker”.

But he also cites peer reviewed studies that show correlations between pot smoking (among adults) and better metabolic health.

One 2011 study that appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology looked at two large populations of American adults and found obesity rates of 22 percent and 25.3 percent among non-marijuana smokers but only 14.3 percent and 17.2 percent among marijuana smokers, even when researchers controlled for other factors.

Another 2013 study that appeared in the American Journal of Medicine showed lower insulin levels and waist circumference (an indicator of dangerous visceral fat) among regular pot smokers.

Still, for Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite, who is the Acting Medical Director at Rush University and a researcher of  cannabinoids, these studies show association not causation. In other words, she thinks that the better health could be linked to other factors.

She also points out what munchie sufferers know well: that marijuana has been traditionally associated with appetite stimulation and increased food consumption rather than appetite suppression. She points to the drug rimonabant that aided weight loss by blocking human cannabinoid (marijuana) receptors--it was later withdrawn from the market due to dangerous side effects.

Glass says that he’s no stranger to the munchies but suggests combating them by taking no more than three tokes per smoking session, smoking alone and never eating while under the influence.  He recommends using that time for exercise and self-guided reflections on the root causes of one’s unhealthy behavior.

“It sounds like the author is recommending self-treatment, being your own psychologist,” Kazlauskaite said. “For some people it might work but others might benefit from guidance. I would recommend meeting with a behavioral specialist who specializes in therapy for obesity.”

Kazlauskaite, however, agrees with some of Glass’ nutritional advice, especially his emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables and the removal of sugar and processed foods.

“Some of these recommendations are really desirable changes for people who want to lose weight or maintain a lighter weight,” she said. “So if someone smokes marijuana but also makes better meal and snack choices then that is better than not making healthy nutritional decisions at all. But it might be that without smoking marijuana people might lose more weight. If someone wants to test this hypothesis the ideal study would be to compare diet alone with diet and marijuana.”   

Monica Eng  is a WBEZ producer. Follow her @monicaeng.