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
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.
Scales picture from Shutterstock