McDiet Conclusion: How Much Weight Did I Lose?

McDiet Conclusion: How Much Weight Did I Lose?

A week ago, I weighed 92.3 kilograms. Since then, I have been on a calorie-controlled diet comprised solely of food available at McDonald’s. I have been consuming no more than 1700 calories a day (around 7200 kilojoules), as well as scheduling 45 minutes of deliberate exercise a day. When I jumped on the scales this morning, I weighed . . .

91.6 kilograms. I have shed 700 grams over the course of seven days.

I can’t pretend I’m not a little disappointed. I’d have liked to cross the one-kilogram mark, if only for the psychological boost. It’s undeniably healthier to lose weight in steady increments than to strip it off as the result of a fast, but 700 grams just doesn’t seem like a very big reward for the extra exercise and the highly-restricted food intake.

The US comparison

[related title=”The McDiet Challenge” tag=”mcdiet” items=”9″] The original reason I undertook this challenge was to see if I could emulate the performance of US teacher John Cisna. Cisna lost 16.7 kilograms over the course of 90 days by taking the same approach, though he actually had a higher limit of 2000 calories. (I had originally planned to aim for that too, but found that in practice that 1700 still left me feeling full.)

Cisna was on the diet for 13 weeks, which meant he lost an average of 1.2 kilograms a week. I’ve managed barely half of that.

It’s often the case when you’re on a diet that you lose more weight at the beginning, before reaching a plateau. But if that happened to Cisna, he would have lost even more weight in the first week. It’s evident that the diet worked a lot better for him than it did for me.

One lesson I should probably draw from this is that I’m obviously a lot closer to my healthy weight already than Cisna was when he began. Looking at the pre-weigh-in photo of him, I can say that I had nowhere near as much excess weight as he did to start with.

The positive lessons learned

Anyone who has spent time reading about nutrition and weight loss knows that there are no easy solutions. If you reduce your energy intake, exercise regularly, and make sure you have a balanced diet, you will lose weight. But it will be a slow and steady process, not one where kilos fall off you, Biggest Loser-style.

The most useful thing I’ve been reminded of on the McDiet is that it is entirely possible to include that kind of takeaway food in a calorie-restricted menu plan. It isn’t the case that you have to cut out the fries and avoid the burgers and eat nothing but salad. What you have to do is make conscious, deliberate choices, and balance your overall daily intake. If you’re doing that, you can absolutely buy a Big Mac and fries for lunch sometimes and still lose (or maintain) your weight.

Again, that shouldn’t be news. But by far the most common reaction I encountered was the notion that takeaway food was entirely incompatible with a weight-losing diet. It isn’t. In one way it’s actually easier: all the nutrition values are on open display.

Why I wouldn’t McDiet again

I don’t object to many of the items on the McDonald’s menu, and so I wouldn’t reject the idea of ever eating McDonald’s again. (That’s your prerogative if you wish.) But I wouldn’t stick with this diet plan going forward, for multiple reasons:

  • There isn’t enough variety. In order to hit that calorie total, I ended up eating essentially the same thing every day: a Bacon & Egg McMuffin at breakfast, a burger meal of some sort for lunch, and a grilled chicken salad for dinner. Sometimes I swapped the lunch and dinner slots. I’m used to repeating the same meal for breakfast, but that level of repetition does pall, even after just seven days.
  • There’s too much sodium. Fast food has a high sodium level. On every single day, I was taking in 2500mg (or more) of sodium, which is well above the recommended level. It’s really hard to recommend as an approach given that.
  • It costs too much. Buying those McMeals cost me between $20 and $25 every single day. That’s a lot more than I would normally spend on food.
  • It isn’t super-convenient. Especially at the end of the day, heading out to buy my dinner was a hassle. I can imagine this being less of an issue for people who drive to and from work and who could use drive-through, but it ended up feeling like an unwanted hassle for me.

I’m going to stick with a careful dietary approach and make sure I exercise regularly, both areas where I slacked off somewhat in 2013. If I lose a few more kilos over the next few months, that will be good. And if I feel like the occasional Big Mac, I’ll enjoy it. But for now, I’m looking forward to some simple pleasures: muesli, pasta, salsa. And a glass of wine. But not too many glasses.

McDiet Conclusion: How Much Weight Did I Lose?

Scales picture from Shutterstock


  • That could be water retention from the extra salt. Go back to your normal diet for a few days then try again.

    • Yeah seriously, weigh yourself three or four times in a single day and you will get 700gms variance. And unless you are the exact same age etc. as the other guy, your kj needs will be different. Calculate it here:

  • IMHO a week is too short a time period. 7 days in your body is only just adjusting to the changes you’ve made. I would have thought 14 days would be the minimum for an experiment like this.

    On top of that, as Drinniol said, the extra salt could have caused water retention. It’s a well known fact that athletes who go on Creatine (essentially a form of salt) put on some weight due to water retention.

    • True — but while the salt levels were high, without knowing the salt content of my previous week’s diet, we can’t automatically assume I had no water retention when I did the initial weigh-in, can we?

      • Maybe weigh yourself again later in the week, when you’ve been back on your normal diet for a few days? It’s not hard science but it could indicate whether water retention is a big factor.

      • No, we can’t, but based on that statement I think 7 days is definitely too short. There’s not enough time to rule out variables like water retention.

  • I weigh myself twice a day, once at night before bed, and once in the morning, and always naked to negate the effects of any clothing, this is important, as different types of clothes, jeans v’s shorts for example, can add a few 100 grams.

    I am always lighter in the morning, because I do not drink during the night, but do get up to go to the toilet and pee. I find that the weight difference between night and morning can be up to 1 kg, which makes sense, since water weighs 1kg per litre, and I would imagine urine is approximately the same, therefore if I pee 1 litre of urine during the night, I would be 1 kg lighter.

    I do find however that my night weight is always close to my other night weights, usually a few 100 grams, and my morning wights is also close to my other morning weights, again usually a few 100 grams, so when I compare my weight loss (which I am trying to loose approx 10kg atm to get back to my ideal weight of 60kg), I compare morning with morning, or night with night.

    Anyway, what I am trying to say is that a weight difference of 1kg (or less as in your case) does not really mean anything, it is important to weight yourself at the same time every day, preferable in the morning, when you are likely to be at your most empty in terms of food and water to give a real comparison of your before and after diet weight.

      • Both weigh-ins were at the same time of day (first thing, naked), so while there may well be variation, it’s minimised. This is also why I only weighed myself at the start at end — daily variations really are meaningless.

      • Not really, over 8 hours of sleeping or so, go twice and you could easily hit 1 litre, I drink a lot of water during the day and evening, prob a few litres, so it has to come out some time.

        The normal urine output for an adult is 800 to 2000 millilitres per day, this takes into account drinking 2 ltrs of water a day, if you drink more (I prob drink about 3 ltrs of water a day), then you must urinate more. Some of the water is also lost through breathing.

        So loosing 1 litre of water over 8 hours is entirely possible, I should say that the average weight difference between night and morning is around 800 grams, which is approx 800 millilitres of water.

        I also use a Fitbit Scale, so it tracks my weight quite accurately, and makes it easy to produce these figures. 🙂

        • We must have quite different systems, as I’d be pushing it to hit 1/2L overnight… probably less.

          And yes, I do drink enough liquid.

        • Recently I’ve been drinking about 6l a day and urunating about 1 so with the weather and work I’ve been doing is say I’ve sweated out about 5l a day.

    • If you’re peeing 1L overnight… I’d probably see a doctor. Since the bladder only holds ~600ml when totally full.

      • This is not true. It may be an average of 600ml but not an exact amount. I have filled up a 2L milk bottle on more than one occasion.

        • Assuming you’re male, I assumed aerogirl would be a female name and adjusted my assumptions accordingly. Smaller average bladder size etc.

          • Yes I am female, as the name suggests.

            I should point out that I do not pee 1 ltr at a time, I mean over 2 – 3 trips to the toilet over the night, and yes I guess if I take into account respiration and perspiration, then I probably pee less than 1 ltr over the 8 hours, but looking at my Fitbit log, I see a 1 kg weight loss between before bed, and when I wake in the morning several times a week, so I would assume that that is 1 ltr of water loss by pee, respiration and perspiration.

            Wow, never thought I would be talking about this here, and in such detail, lol.

          • Welcome the internet, where nothing is taboo and the privacy doesn’t matter. Come on down, let’s have some fun.

          • This is a super super late reply and I apologize. Gizmodo keep’s notifying me that I haven’t replied and I am sick of getting the notifications…
            Yes I am male I also have a disability that affects my mobility. My bladder was no different to anyone else, I was just able to make it store more with time and practice.

    • You are also forgetting to account for respiration and perspiration. Your breathing alone can account for up to 500g of water lost overnight. The air that you breath out of your body weighs slightly more than the air that you breath in, so you lose a bit of carbon when you breath out.

    • Actually I’d be interested to see this. Hungry Jacks tends to have higher kj counts for their burgers, so my guess is that it’d be more difficult to stay under a decent daily kj limit when only eating their food.

      • HJ’s is definitely higher in calories and I suspect equally messy on salt. Main reasons I won’t be doing it any time soon:
        * No salads on the menu, so variation, vegetables and satiety would all take a beating
        * Most important: there is no Hungry Jack’s near where I live, so evening meal would be a major pain
        * I want my next challenge to be a travel challenge again

    • I’d like to see one with all of the food groups in one diet. Hungry Jacks, McDonalds, KFC, and Red Rooster. Might not get so boring either (although it would still get boring pretty quick).

      I’d also like to see a diet where someone eats nothing but sundaes.

      • I quite like the first idea (though no-one in that list really has a good breakfast offer). And I still suspect the sodium would be a problem. Sundaes someone else can do (at best, you’d have six small in a day, no fibre, not much protein, massive boredom . . .)

      • The famous one is of course the Subway diet – and I have to admit a Subway six-inch Veggie Delight is a very light lunch when I’m in the mood for takeaway. But it suffers the problem of too much sodium too – between the processed meat, the preserved vegies and the dressings, you can do your whole day’s sodium in one sandwich.

  • That rate of weight loss sounds pretty much right to me ~100g/day given your inputs, and is a good acheivement as far as I’m concerned. 700g of body fat is about 750 mL in volume terms, about the volume of a bottle of wine, doesn’t sound too bad when you think about it that way. I’d be interested to see if you could keep that rate up, regardless of where you were getting your food.

  • should weigh yourself after taking a poo, if you can take one after eating all the junk food
    but you might have lost 1kg then

  • I regularly lose a kg over a night during the week!

    Looking at fitbit, for me it is always the same pattern….decreases alot over the week and slightly increases after the weekend (even though I mountain bike ALOT over the weekend which burns around 3500-4000 calories…probably due to having to hydrate so much and not the best diet), but continually downward (I’m around 81-82kg at 6’3″).

    You really need to try it for more than a week, sample data is no where near enough.

  • Hey Angus, did you live in Wollongong? That’s a Wollongong mall caption that you put there!

    • Correct, but no. I’ll explain that one in a week or two (part of another Lifehacker project).

    • Correct, but no. I’ll explain that one in a week or two (part of another Lifehacker project).

  • I wonder if OP actually took any body measurements before this experiment i.e. base metabolic rate, % muscle in the body, bodyfat % etc. as it’s a pretty hopeless experiment to simply drop your (what i’m assuming would be a varying daily diet) down to 1700 per day…your body will in fact be likely to hold onto as much fat as possible from attempting such a diet as it goes into ‘starvation’ mode from such a sudden drop to such an extreme calorie deficit…seems pointless now that you’ve resumed your normal diet again you are likely to bounce back to even more weight than what you were before as your body adjusts to a calorie surplus yet again…

    It also matters what you ate at Mcdonalds, and the macronutrient breakdown of what you ate i.e. if you bought big mac’s and stripped the bread from them and ate only meat and salads then you will definitely drop bodyfat quicker than eating the equivalent calories including bread, for example. Furthermore, getting rid of fries would probably accelerate it even more. You are what you eat, i guess.

    Also, if you knew how to exercise correctly and efficiently, you would also see a more accelerated fat loss than you’ve experienced. It sounds like OP is not particularly experienced at neither diet nor exercise, so with some guidance (as i’m sure the original person who tried this diet would’ve had), you could’ve achieved better results.

    • Way with the backhanded compliments there. If you read this post, you’d see I had not “resumed my normal diet” for starters. Also: carb paranoia alert for you. Taking the “kill the bread” approach would be possible, but at that point you’re not doing a McDonald’s diet, you’re just extracting ingredients. I wanted to test the regular menu.

    • I’m sorry, but are you aware of how much of a self-important douchebag you sound in that post?

    • sorry but that is not true, your body doesn’t go into starvation mode so quickly with so little variation to your diet; it takes a bit more than that.

      plus you come across a bit of a douche sounding all high and mighty

    • 1700’s not THAT low, but you make a few good points. It’s just hard to point out the negatives without sounding negative.

      From your pic I’m guessing you’re into working out? I don’t think anyone from a gym background could be impressed with this kind of stunt. Just not enough data and not run for long enough. And it’s stupid. Like I said in another post (and got resoundly neg’d for it) it just doen’t achieve anything meaningful.

      Complete waste of time. At least Macca’s made some money. Lord knows they’re hard up right now and need a few $.

    • Ah no!

      Your one of those medieval knight trainers stuck in prehistoric thinking when it comes to nutrition.

      • sorry for reviving an old thread, only just bothered re-logging onto Giz recently…

        To address some people’s points: just because i talk specific terminology and in a non-debatable fashion in my comment and use of language does not make me ‘high and mighty’ but rather reflects your level experience and tbh need for a tissue; i’m just being factual and technical. If any of you ‘geeks’ talked about specific issues in context of an IT topic, there would be no flame for such a technically-minded discussion. Grow up.

        I also want to address the point that having been training for about a decade and coming from an obese background of 150kg => 100kg skinny as a flag pole (im pretty tall) => and now back up to 130kg of muscle and maybe 16% bf, I can from personal experience say that I have my fair share of knowledge over various methods of training and means of dieting.

        While I don’t however purport (nor do i particularly care) what you people should or should not do with your specific regime, i Have been a personal trainer and gotten pretty good results with my clients in my PTing years (one of them lost about 18kg in 12 weeks during a Goodlife 12 Week Challenge, and won the State competition) using my methods and instruction. Again, this is not me being high and mighty, just honest and trying to parlay my knowledge and experience to those who may not have as much. I never intended to sound like a dick, but i can certainly see how confident opinions on matters like this can come across as it.

        In regards to the ‘prehistorically’ and ‘medieal knight training’ (which is it? completely different period of Time, lol) methods that i purportedly use: this is bs. Like i said, i have tried a slew of training methods and diets over the years. In a post that is related to trying to lose weight as fast as possible, i find it somewhat stupid to be negged for the reason that my method is some views ‘medieval’ in nature, assuming this means its a rough and difficult strategy for fat loss. Unfortunately, fat loss is hard. And it is rough. Partciularly if you care about lean body mass. But many of you would not even have the faintest clue of the sorts of problems associated with that, hence why i didn’t go into much detail about a range of variables that must be considered for the ‘ultimate’ regime designed at fat loss and muscle gain, in a health fashion. My post was in the context of this experiment, and the suggestions i made were to make such an experiment more effective (not the smartest, not the healthiest, just the quickest), and that all.

        Anyways tl;dr: this reply is about ‘apologising’ to the thimble-minded tech nerds on here that feel obliged to have negged me for essentially being an educated ‘lifter’ and providing my point of view. Seems you guys cant handle it; but like i said, i wasn’t always a 280lbs muscular behemoth, i learnt my way to where i am, trying different approaches. SO i can guarantee, whatever you think is the ‘best’ method(s) is in turn strictly your own subjective opinion, and equally to be taken with a grain of salt. gg

  • Hey Angus,

    Just out of curiosity, did you establish what your current real-world caloric needs are in terms of maint rate and basal metabolic rate (or better yet, BMR + activity level modifier)? One thing to consider is that a 1,000 calorie deficit will equate to a 2lb/week loss, so if you wanted to lose 1kg you’d need to cut approx 1,100 calories from your daily maint rate. The thing to be aware of as you draw near to your target weight is that subtracting that sort of number from your maint rate might put you below your BMR, so you actually need to eat to match your minimum caloric needs for the day, and then if you want to have a larger deficit, you then would add whatever exercise fits your needs.

    • No — as the starter post notes, I just used the 2000 calorie figure as a testing point (and then ended up on 1700 a day in practice). No doubt I could have exercised harder and eaten less. But again, despite my whining in the main post, I did lost weight — something I haven’t deliberately tried to do in more than a decade.

      • Ah fair enough. It’d be worth checking out your projected needs, easy to sign up for an account on mynetdiary or whatever and that’ll tell you based on your individual data.

      • Yeah, you should have checked what your *actual* projected kj needs are based on your gender, age and level of activity. a 40 year old 165cm male sedentry has a totally different kj requirement to a 20 yr old active 183cm male.
        There is a simple government site that has a simple calculator, I’d be interested to see what your target kj is according to that site.

  • Experiments like this can’t be conducted in a week. Ask any dietician or anyone who knows anything about healthy dieting and eating.
    From day 1, this experiment was guaranteed to go nowhere – fast. And the results are in to prove that very point.
    If you want to do something crazy stupid like a McD’s diet, 1 month is going to give you real figures or try 3 months if you’re really mental!!

    • It was never a serious experiment. No blood test. No measurements.

      As I said in another thread, why do this and what do you expect to achieve? Because it achieved nothing. It never could, being run this way. It’s just not enough data.

  • Close to 3kgs a month. 18kg in 6 months – that sounds decent to me. Will be interested to see your results if you continue 1700 calories on regular food at home where you can control sodium/mix of carbs/macronutrients etc.
    Also, the greatest weight losses I have achieved have been when I follow a strict diet, with no exercise. Exercising tends to put on weight for me (probably muscle) unless I do cardio to the tune of 2 x 10km+ runs per week. This tends to shrink my legs a bit, which may in fact be weight loss from muscle atrophy.

  • I read that body weight can fluctuate 1kg due to waste material so factor in a 1 kg uncertainty. More burgers for several weeks eh?

  • I thought this a well worth experiment and very informative, thank you for undertaking this on our behalf

  • If nothing else, this has been an entertaining read. I’ve been slowly losing weight and calorie counting for just over a year, and I’ve cetainly discovered lots of things I was doing that were contributing to weight gain.
    But as so many people have said, it’s a complicated equation, and while a calorie restricted diet will certainly help in weight loss, the *quality* and *quantity* of what you eat can vary wildly. A meal at McDonalds won’t ruin a week’s worth of “hard work” but at the same time, it’s worth checking those numbers on the menu and making a decision based on what’s good for you, not what this week’s special is.

  • I knew a guy who ate nothing but Mickey D’s as a teenager and needed hemarroids cut out at age 17. Be warned. You need to eat fibre. No argument. Enough fibre so that when you take a dump it just slide out, smoothly and quickly, everytime. Great feeling that! The only fibre at the golden arches is in the carpet tiles. I had my body fat measured with a DEXA scan, and even though I was fully 4kg under the BMI cutoff for overweight, my body fat was 25 percent, and needed to be 20 percent to be healthy. Was advised to lose 5kg of fat, making me 75kg and 183cm tall. I was what’s known as skinny fat. I lost 3 kg in a week and kept it lost by eating this: small portion of oat and wheat bran porridge for breakfast, and low fat milk coffee. Lunch 1 tin of fish or sliced ham or eggs etc. Dinner half a supermarket roast chicken, (throw away the skin), and one prepared supermarket garden salad with non creamy dressing and no cheese or fatty bits. Tea or coffee and plain mineral water whenever wanted. Splurge once or twice a week on Nando’s tenderloins with garden salad and diet Coke. Use the non creamy dressing. This is a reasonably balanced and do-able diet for a couple of weeks. Add moderate exercise 6 out of 7 days, and it’s possible to safely get 5 kg off in 2 weeks, plus learn how increasing protein, reducing fats and ditching starchy carbs can work miracles. It’s really a less hellish variation on the Dukan diet. You must totally ban bread, cakes, biscuits, potatoes, rice etc, and cut fats right back for the 1 to 2 week reduction period. Later on , reintroduce complex carbohydrates. fruit and good fats in small quantities and the weight will not go back on. But keep portion sizes moderate, and never go back for second helpings. Also, weigh yourself everyday, and increase the proportion of lean protein (fish, chicken, lean beef, egg white, low fat dairy) in your meals for a day or two whenever you notice half a kilo creeping back on. It really works. You can eventually achieve very fine control over your body fat composition, with occasional take away meals and other treats, and then take it even further by building muscle with resistance training.

    • or you could just eat sensible amounts of chicken, fish, or lean beef, and make sure 3 different coloured veggies are on your plate each night. Have a low sugar cereal for breakfast and grab some fruit for snacks.

      You guys make it all too complicated, eat sensible tasty meals, don’t pig out on snacks or drink sugar water, or have too much salt, and get a reasonable level of exercise.

      If you eat less calories than you burn, you will lose weight. It is simple physics. If you eat a reasonable variety of relatively unprocessed foods, you will be healthy.

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