McDiet Day 1: Proving People Rarely Check Calorie Counts

Day 1: When you tell people that you’re going on a McDonald’s-only diet, they’re more than willing to offer advice, suggesting which items you should skip and which foods are a good choice. The problem is that a lot of it is misinformed.

Unsolicited advice that has been offered to me since I announced this diet plan:

  • You should skip the fries at all times.
  • You can’t have any dressing on the salad.
  • You’ll have to remove the buns and just eat the meat from the burgers.
  • You won’t possibly feel full even after eating all that food.
  • You’re going to feel extremely ill really quickly.

The reality is rather different.

What I Ate: Day 1

Here’s my day 1 menu, complete with calorie count. (I’d normally favour using kilojoules, but the original US experiment used calories so I’m sticking with that.)

Food Calories
Breakfast: Bacon & Egg McMuffin 297
Hash Brown 153
Small orange juice 135
Lunch: Big Mac 493
Small Fries 255
Garden Salad 16
Italian dressing 12
Dinner: Crispy Noodle Grilled Chicken Salad 255
Total 1616

For many people, the big source of shock in this menu would be that I wasn’t automatically heading for nothing but salads and water. I had a hash brown and a McMuffin at breakfast. I ate fries and a big Mac for lunch. I even had an orange juice. (Yes, I know, fruit juice isn’t as good as fruit. But hey, vitamin C and variety.)

We’re so used to the idea of fast food being loaded with calories that we constantly forget the key thing: it’s the total that you consume each day that matters. You can indulge in more calorie-laden stuff as long as you strike a balance with other elements and keep track. With all those selections, I still only consumed 1616 calories — well below my target of 2000 for the day.

When I made the meal plan, I actually allowed for the possibility that I might want to eat something else — a cheeseburger, say — at my evening meal if I still felt hungry. But I didn’t. That dinner-time salad filled me up entirely, even after my 45-minute exercise session for the day. (I did go for the lower-calorie grilled option, but I didn’t skip the noodles. And again, I didn’t need to.)

So Day 1 went fine, but I know it will get harder. There will be less novelty in the whole experience on Day 2, and quite a few of the same foods will recur. I’ll take it as it comes.

Random observations from the first day:

Super-sizing is still a thing. When I ordered my breakfast, my server immediately asked: “Would you like to make that a large orange juice?” No thanks.

I need to allow time for lunch queues. Our office is in Circular Quay, it’s school holidays, everyone is out enjoying the sunshine. So this was the lunchtime queue I encountered (and this is only half the counter area):

I’ll try and get down there earlier today to avoid the hassle.

Hints? Thoughts? Food recommendations? Share them in the comments.

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