Hungry Girl Fakes Out the Tastebuds

Hungry Girl

Lisa Lillien, a former Hollywood executive, segued into being a “foodologist” who specializes in making low-calorie foods taste as satisfying as high-calorie foods. Before long, she had turned that talent into what The Huffington Post writer John Rogers describes as:

[…] a multimillion-dollar empire of Hungry Girl cookbooks, low-calorie recipes, specialty products and TV shows, all of them geared to letting people eat the junk food they love and not get fat… Her baked potato skins, for example, are really made out of zucchini stuffed with low-calorie cheese and bacon flavoring. She bakes her chili-cheese fries and uses butternut squash, not potatoes. They clock in at 268 calories, about a quarter the amount in traditional fries.

A realist in the way that only people in the entertainment industry can be, Lillien began with the basic premise that people simply are not going to give up comfort food. They eat to feel good, and in order for that to happen, the food has to taste good, and we might as well accept that fact and find a way to work with it. The idea here is to light up the brain’s reward centers with the least number of calories you can get away with.

Lillien’s desire to share this knowledge led her to start a small home-based operation with a daily newsletter whose audience has grown to more than a million subscribers. Now the business has moved to a big office and has a staff of 12, including a registered dietician, experimenting like “mad scientists” to create new recipes.

Lillien cheerfully admits her own complete lack of certification. Rogers says:

Lillien believes her lack of credentials as a dietitian or a nutritionist actually gives her more credibility with her audience, which realizes she’s one of them, just another foodie who doesn’t want to sacrifice taste for trimness.

As many successful people have pointed out, you don’t need to know everything, you need to know whom to ask. Even when the Hungry Girl enterprise was more or less at the hobby stage, just to satisfy her own curiosity, Lillien spent a lot of money on independent laboratory analysis of various foods.

As a guest on a podcast titled, “Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend,” she revealed that the FDA allows a 20% error margin either way on the calorie counts on packages and menus. So if it says the portion is 80 calories, it might be 60 or it might be 100.

Aside from low-calorie substitutions, she told Rosen, the secret is “avoiding your trigger foods for ever and ever.” Chips are one of Lillien’s particular downfalls, another very relatable characteristic that a huge segment of her audience identifies with. The Hungry Girl website says:

Trigger foods are the things you can’t seem to stop eating once you start — they often leave you feeling hungrier than you felt before you started eating. You can manage your portions with single-serving products, and you can find better-for-you versions of your favorites to keep the calories in check. But if you still get that ‘must have more!’ feeling afterward, you’re probably better off just avoiding them altogether.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Lisa Lillien Of The ‘Hungry Girl’ Empire Reveals How She Stopped Yo-Yo Dieting For Good,” The Huffington Post, 11/17/12
Source: “ARIYNBF 111 with Hungry Girl AKA Lisa,”, 04/22/12
Source: “Ask Hungry Girl,”
Image by Hungry Girl.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources