A US man has been making headlines by losing weight while eating nothing but McDonald's. Would that be possible with the different menu options offered by Maccas in Australia? I'm going to find out by subjecting myself to the same diet.
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As we reported last week, American teacher John Cisna lost almost 17kg over the course of 90 days on an all-McDonald's diet. He restricted his overall intake to just 2000 calories a day, and exercised for 45 minutes each day.
While this has led to breathless headlines all over the internet, there isn't anything astonishing about this. If you limit your food intake to a sensible number of calories (or kilojoules) and increase your activity level, you will lose weight. That would be true whether you ate nothing but Subway or Oporto's or Domino's pizza.
The issue is that eating at McDonald's doesn't make that easy. You're encouraged to upsize, to bundle extra items into a value meal, and to "indulge" yourself with some seriously calorific desserts. Salads are available, but they're not part of a standard meal.
The options you have also vary widely from country to country. Cisna's diet included egg-white omelettes and oatmeal (which aren't on the regular McDonald's menu in Australia) and an entirely different selection of salads to what we can get here. Hell, even the meat is different.
I love undertaking an idiotic dietary challenge for Lifehacker. Over the years, I've set myself a weekly food budget of $25, eaten all my meals at a single takeaway outlet, and lived on nothing but IKEA food for a week.
So when my colleague Chris Jager suggested I should test out the McDiet, it seemed like McDestiny. And it seemed like an even better idea when I actually stepped on a scale for the first time in years.
Yes, I need to lose weight
To do that, I actually had to purchase some bathroom scales. I've long held the view that obsessively monitoring your weight is not a healthy thing. My Kotaku colleague Mark Serrels weighs himself daily, but as Mark learned when he went on a punitive juice diet last year, all you really learn from that is that you weight varies a lot day to day. Nonetheless, for this challenge, I needed the numbers as a baseline.
As of this morning, I weighed 92.3 kilograms. I'm 186cm tall, so that gives me a body mass index (BMI) of 27 — well above the suggested range of 20 to 25. We've written before about why BMI is only a very approximate indicator of health, but I can't make the excuse that I have unusual muscle density. My arms are wimpy, my pecs are non-existent and my six-pack is hiding under a definite collar of blubber. I don't feel obese, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to lose a little.
I'd be quite content to get my weight back to around 85 kilograms. That's not going to happen in a week, but if I stick to the core elements of Cisni's plan — no more than 2000 calories a day, a varied diet, and 45 minutes of exercise daily — that figure should have fallen by next Monday. (I'm allowing myself as much calorie-free water, black coffee and black tea as I like for liquids, incidentally.)
Unlike Cisni, I'm not going to stick to this for 90 days — it's not practical with my schedule. In many ways, I think the biggest challenge is coming up with a suitably varied and filling diet within the constraints of an all-Maccas menu.
I'm not leaving the experience to chance, mind. I've plotted out a spreadsheet with everything I'm going to eat over the next seven days, right down to which branches of McDonald's I'll be visiting. Throughout this week, I'll be posting daily about the experience: what I've chosen to eat, what the challenges are, and how I'm feeling. This is the McDiet. Let's see how it pans out.