Fast Food Is The New Weight Watchers… Or Is It?

Iowa science teacher John Cisna definitely started the new year with some impressive personal health results. He lost 37 pounds and brought his cholesterol level down from a 249 to a 170 in three months. That means he lost roughly 3 pounds per week. His secret? McDonald’s.

Now, before you go and do your embarrassing happy dance in your bedroom and drive to the nearest Mickey D’s for a quarter pounder (ugh, that sounds really good right now), for the sake of health, let’s talk about this.

John Cisna claims he did not just stick to salads (which actually hold more calories than most burgers) throughout this experiment. He and his students formulated a diet plan that consisted of 2,000 calories per day and a balance of carbs, fats and proteins. Cisna states that a typical breakfast would be “two egg white McMuffins and a bowl of maple oatmeal, lunch would be salad, and dinner would be a value meal – like a cheeseburger and fries.” I’m going to assume he stuck to either diet sodas or water to maintain his 2,000 calorie-a-day goal, and it doesn’t look like he snacked much. Additionally, Cisna, who was not very active in his pre-McDonalds lifestyle, began walking 45 minutes a day. The teacher concludes, “We all have choices. It’s our choices that make us fat, not McDonald’s.”

I agree with Cisna to an extent and can testify that I’ve eaten nothing but garbage (Friendly’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds, Taco Bell) for two weeks straight while vacationing, and I didn’t gain any weight. However, I was walking a LOT while I was in Boston, I only ate maybe twice a day, I didn’t stuff myself and for the most part, I made okay-ish decisions. However, I am familiar with my body’s needs. If I eat too many donuts, I feel gross. I understand that a grilled cheese sandwich is not the same as a turkey and Swiss wrap on whole wheat. I can identify empty calories versus foods that take longer to digest and therefore fill us up longer. I honestly believe that if people make smart choices, then there is no reason for junk food to be banned from our existence.

However, this experiment might be sending the world the wrong message. Eating at McDonald’s (or at any fast food restaurant) daily isn’t great for your body in the long run. First of all, you need a variety of food. You need fruits and vegetables, and I don’t think most fast food chains supply much of those. The second problem here is that the food you are getting from McDonald’s or Burger King isn’t of the greatest quality. I don’t think there is much wrong with the occasional Whopper, but you need to balance that with fresh fruit, complex carbs and lean protein like Greek yogurt.  Lastly, while 2,000 calories a day may work for one person, it might not work for another; it depends on your metabolism and BMI.

Another high-profile fast food dieter is the Seattle native Beautiful Existence (yes, that’s her real name). She ate nothing but Starbucks for a full year and she too lost weight. But she also lost sanity and a ton of money. Spending $500 – $600 a month on Starbucks (that’s close to $7,200 a year), Beautiful Existence admits that the last few months were pretty rough. Yeah, I bet. A Starbuck’s parfait or egg plate isn’t exactly the most satisfying meal I can think of.

The bottom line is that unless you are striving to win Internet fandom by restricting yourself to one restaurant for an extended period of time (and let’s face it – it’s been done), you need to have a balanced diet. You should exercise and you should become familiar with what your body requires.  I don’t think there is a universal diet out there, so if you want to start one, I would do some research first. Lastly, if you feel like eating a cheeseburger, eat a cheeseburger. It’s (probably) not going to kill you.

Featured image via, other image via

Filed Under