After seeing the media portray several "McDieters," I had to respond as a fellow fast-food "veteran!" I am a 32 year-old wellness consultant, mother and nutrition student from Huntersville, North Carolina, and encountered surprising results during my month of "McMaintenance" in July 2004.
My decision to embark on this project resulted from the movie, "Supersize Me," in which Morgan Spurlock ate his way into a 25-pound weight gain in 30 days. While I was intrigued by his message - fast food can make you fat - I challenged myself to design a better approach.
Even though I am a fan of a more moderate approach to diet and exercise, I felt compelled to commit to this challenge for 30 days, too. I wanted to prove that fast food doesn't necessarily make us fat; rather, it's the choices we make over time that impact our health! We need to accept personal responsibility for those choices.
So I designed my own version of the McDiet: eat McDonald's foods only for an entire month AND fall within the Recommended Daily Allowances for fat, protein, carbohydrates, calories, sodium and cholesterol. I used the "Bag-A-McMeal" section of McDonald's website to write a plan and stay within these guidelines each day. As a result, I ate healthfully for 30 days and actually lost weight!
Planning And Exercise
I kept detailed records on the specific foods I ate, along with portion sizes and nutritional content. Physicians calculated my weight, blood profile and body fat percentage, plus performed a complete physical, at both the beginning and end of the diet.
Along with the eating plan, I kept my workout regime the same as the previous month (I ate my "regular" foods in June). I exercised six days a week for no more than an hour each day, splitting the time into 30 minutes of cardio (running, walking or elliptical trainer) and 20 minutes of resistance training (weights).
This exercise plan continues to be my usual routine most months of the year. I called my plan, "McMaintenance," since I hoped to at least maintain my good physical shape.
After thirty days of my eating endeavor, I dropped six pounds from my 5'6" frame (118 lbs. to 112 lbs.)!
My body fat decreased from 11.1% to 10%. Also, my triglyceride levels fell. My total cholesterol rose, although largely due to an increase in HDL cholesterol.
| What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are the main components of vegetable oil and animal fats, and form much of the fat stored by the human body. They consist of glycerin (a sweet, syrupy liquid) plus 3 individual fatty acids all mixed together.
Triglycerides play an important role in metabolism as energy sources. They contain twice as much energy (8000 kcal/kg) as carbohydrates.
In the human body, high levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream, however, have been linked to atherosclerosis, pancreatitis, and, by extension, the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cardiovascular exercise and low-moderate carbohydrate diets containing essential fatty acids are recommended for reducing triglyceride levels. When these fail, statin drugs are used to reduce triglyceride levels.
At the end of the diet, I also took photos, sharing them with family, friends and acquaintances. A manager from a Gold's Gym was astounded and has been showing the photos to his clients to show that yes, we can maintain a healthy body, even on fast food, if we make the right choices!
Area media and even McDonald's Corporation took an interest. I was featured in The Charlotte Observer on October 31, 2004 and since then, the interest in this subject has been tremendous: radio talk shows interviewed me, and I participated in nationwide media calls.
The most recent interview with an Associated Press reporter, Valerie Baumann, appeared on August 12, 2005. Also, I have written several response articles to Morgan Spurlock's book and movie efforts.
Judging from the response I have already received from Charlotte-area residents and nationally, this issue is worthy of further discussion for several reasons:
- the overall explosion of obesity in the US;
- the need for us to pay attention to and take responsibility for our dietary choices;
- how our actions today are affect and will affect our children;
...to name a few.
The bottom line of my experiment was not the "McButt" that I feared would result. Instead, I was able to demonstrate that we don't have to fall victim to fried foods and sugar-laden drinks in gross quantities. Through creative ordering, we can find a healthy, balanced meal on our fast food tray.
Please let me emphasize once more that I am all about moderation, not extreme diets. But I did follow an extreme example for a month, simply to show that it can be done. Through my month of "McMaintenance," I demonstrated that one can maintain a healthy body, even on fast food for an entire month!
While news of "McDonald's Dieters" continues to be popular in this region and nationwide, most stories are characterized by several missing pieces. First, many deprive themselves of major food pyramid categories, like fruits and vegetables - a sure recipe for a weak immune system.
Second, and equally as important, it's about movement! For a healthier body to evolve, one needs regular physical exercise to complement a sound nutrition plan. So a total picture exists, and I feel an obligation to promote it. It's a scenic, endless environment of possibilities that lies beyond the drive-thru lanes!
Given the variety of health-related news you publish, many of your readers are interested in this "total picture" for better health, too. While I don't endorse eating fast food, it's a must for many of us at one time or another, given our hectic schedules. So I feel we have an obligation to educate the public on how to fit this "necessary evil," as a friend recently put it, into their lives.
As I mentioned, I am a student and mother of a traveling hockey and baseball player, and my days are as hectic as many others. Many feel the pressures associated with throwing a fast food meal in our child's direction in the backseat to fuel our complicated lifestyles.
I would like the opportunity to motivate others to improve their lives. Our lifestyles have changed over the past decades; now if we can shift our perspectives to include moderation and balance into these fast-forward lives, we'll be on the right track to combating obesity in America.
P.S. By the way, I am not an employee of McDonald's Corporation!