Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Man Loses Weight at McDonald's -- I am conflicted

So years ago I watched the documentary Super Size Me, where a physically fit guy, who I believe was actually a vegetarian, ate at McDonald's for a month, and if the people there offered to super size the meal he would do it. He gained a lot of weight, developed a non-alcoholic fatty-liver and felt miserable.

This makes sense, because McDonald's, although I admit is freakin' delicious in a guilt-ridden-I-know-this-isn't-real-food-saucy-two-patties-with-three-buns-and-sugar-coated-french-fry kinda way, is HORRIBLE for you.

Then this teacher in Ohio decided to debunk this. His premise is that McDonald's (or any other fast food place) doesn't make us fat, but rather our choices make us fat. He did this as an experiment with his students. He and his students figured out how to eat at McDonald's for 2000 kcals a day and keep close to the recommended amount of nutrients (carbs, fats, & proteins -- although I fail to see how he would have gotten the recommended amounts of all minerals and vitamins given the limitation of what is offered). He lost 37 pounds in three months and lowered his cholesterol. He also added 45 minutes of walking a day (which is probably the more important behavioral change). The thing is, he would have lost weight had he limited his kcals to 2000 eating from ANYWHERE and exercised as he was quite a bit over weight and probably had better results, at least healthier results - as health isn't JUST about weight and cholesterol levels. My question is - could he maintain this and/or lose more weight if he continued this? What health concerns, if any, would appear if this was his daily regimen for the rest of the year?

I agree with his premise that we are about our choices (well I agree choices combined with genetics).  But what I hope is that people don't 'run' with this and decide McDonald's is a healthy way to eat.  There is no variety of fruits and vegetables -- yes they offer choices with fruits and vegetables, but you really need a VARIETY. Their lean meat choices are limited to grilled chicken. I do think, and have always thought, that once or twice a month, fast food places like this are okay to partake -- but not daily and CERTAINLY not three times a day.

My kids love fast food -- and why wouldn't they? It's so salty and sweet, it speaks to our very core of our neanderthal brain (salt and sweet kept us alive -- thank you dear ancestors). It is so difficult to temper their wishes with healthy choices and this experiment once the teen ears in my house heard it made for an interesting conversation that involved whining. (THIS they pay attention to, but not say ANYTHING ELSE NEWSWORTHY).

Our conclusion-edict-because-I'm-the-parent-that's-why finish to our conversation was that we will continue to only go to fast food during baseball/basketball/swim/karate tournament type days when we're running around like crazy and even then only a couple times a month. We'll pepper this with Subway/Chipotle/Teriyaki Joe/Garbanzo type places -- which are still fast but have healthier choices.

For instance today, I took Jake to the Orthodontist (one more visit and the braces are off...whoot) and he was going to miss lunch at school so I took him to lunch. He wanted Taco Bell (um, not only no, but hell no) and so I gave him the choice between Subway or Chipotle, he chose the latter.

I had, black beans, chicken, fajita veggies, the fresh tomato salsa, and a little cheese. Jake had a cheese and chicken quesadilla.

My choice totaled:
430 cals, 16g fat, 28g carbs, 48g of protein and 12g of fiber (I only ate half, so half this for me)
Jake's choice totaled:
(not as healthy + he finished my other half -- he's a 6'1" 14 year old boy, what he can eat astounds me especially because he's a stick -- ugh!)
580 kcals, 24g fat, 45g carbs, 2g fiber, 47g protein

If we had gone to McDonald's (oops, should have picked Taco Bell -- where he wanted to go) he would have had the Big Mac and fries
surprisingly the big mac had less calories and more fiber than the quesadilla, but higher in fat and lower in protein
550 kcals, 29g fat, 3 g fiber, 25g protein and 46g of carbs BUT then he would have gotten the fries too which would have added 500 kcals, 25g of fat, 63 carbs, 6g of protein and 6g of fiber -- that's over 1k in calories for one meal.


McDonald's nutritional info found here
Chipotle's nutritional info found here

What do I eat when we are out and about? Well let me tell you.

Grilled chicken sandwich, extra tomato, no mayo and I only eat half the chicken and 1/4 of the bun
I'll order the kids sliced apples with it
small chili, no cheese
feta, egg white, spinach wrap and eat half
no rice bowl with chicken, fajita veggies, black beans and cheese (eat half)
Teriyaki Joes
chicken, veggies, no rice and teriyaki sauce children's bowl
grilled chicken salad, eat half
falafel and hummus

We are a product of our choices (and our genetics) and it's important to feed our bodies the nutrients we need. AND we're busy people and sometimes fast food is something we need to do to get through the day.  I think it's good that this teacher brought to light there can be healthy choices.  I myself have been making those healthy choices.  However, it scares me that his excessive point-making will start a new McDonald's lose weight craze and he's going to be the new Jared (of Subway success).

By the way, what ever happened to Jared?


  1. He still works with Subway doing speeches and such and has a charity to fight childhood obesity. Gotta love google :) I saw that video also and kind of felt the same way you do. I'm not sure people realize how motivating they can be to other people. I think the guy would have had similar results anywhere he went because he cut his calories way down and added exercise to his life. When I even think back to when I could eat a big mac and fries and possibly a milkshake too, it makes me physically ill.

  2. Truth is if the the Supersize Me guy had eaten burgers without the buns and cut out the fries, and gotten diet cokes, he would've lost weight. To your point, it's not all about the weight and cholesterol. That being said, I'm convinced carbs, wheat and sugar are the devil so there ya go. ;)

    1. i agree, refined carbs, wheat and sugar are the devil, they're certainly my personal demons!

    2. I love and hate that this teacher did the experiment. It shows that if you limit your calories, you pretty much CAN eat anything you want.

      But I think too many people will read this and think, "Screw it. If he can eat McD's three squares a day and lose weight, so can I!"


      That being said, there really are healthy choices for fast food, and I think you're teaching your kids that. I try to do the same thing and not eat it so often, and when we do, make better choices... and I really think it teaches them something about nutrition.

      So good job!