The McDiet Weight Loss Program: Not a Good Plan.

The Chief Executive Officer of McDonalds has been on a public relations campaign about his recent weight loss.  CEO Don Thompson attributes his 20 pound loss to getting up and going to the gym everyday and eating from the McDonalds menu at least once a day.

The McDiet:  Not a good plan.

The McDiet: Not a good plan.    (Flickr photo by Simon Miller)

No one would expect Mr. Thompson to say that to lose weight he had to give up eating at McD’s. Besides, we all know that if you burn more calories than you consume you can lose weight no matter what the content of the calories are. With the regular visits to the gym, Thompson was able to create a calorie deficit despite eating Big Macs and other fast food favorites.

The McDonald’s CEO told the Associated Press that some days he has a Southwest Salad, other days a Big Mac.  “Some days I have fries.  I can’t give up the fries.  I’ll go the extra mile on the treadmill.  It’s calories in, calories out.  You have to watch what you’re putting in.”  Thompson said.

But that’s not true.  There’s more to it than calories in/calories out. When you decide you want to lose weight without giving up burgers and fries you can drop pounds.  But, at some point the question has to be more about what you’re doing to decrease your risk of chronic disease and less about the number on scale.

If you’re on a weight-loss program that includes regular trips to the fast-food counter there’s an obvious disconnect about how the foods you eat impact your overall health.

Diet and Chronic Disease

Poor diet is a major contributor to chronic disease including coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and stroke.  An analysis of more than 50 thousand Singaporeans of Chinese descent, showed that those who ate fast food twice a week or more increased the risk of diabetes by 27 percent and had a 56 percent risk of death from coronary heart disease.

The trans-fats, high fructose corn sugar, large amounts of sodium, and super-sized portions that are typical of fast food meals are all contributing factors.  Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that more than 30% of adults in the U.S. are obese and that the prevalence of overweight and obesity combined is approximately 70%.  The Centers for Disease Control report that less than 25% of Americans consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.

What’s In That Meal?

Developing a hyper awareness of what ingredients are in the foods you’re eating is the best way to eliminate highly processed foods that lead to disease. When a food contains numerous ingredients with names that you can’t pronounce, that’s a bad sign.

Here’s a run- down of the ingredients found in the bun and sauce of a McDonald’s Big Mac:

  • The Bun:  Enriched wheat flour, water, sugar and/or glucose-fructose, yeast, vegetable oil (soybean and/or canola), salt, sesame seeds, calcium sulphate, calcium propionate, monoglycerides, enzymes, azodicarbonamide,and may contain any or all of the following in varying proportions: diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides, BHT, sodium stearoyl-2-lactylate, wheat starch, calcium peroxide, wheat gluten, sorbitol, dextrin,malted barley flour, ascorbic acid, citric acid, calcium stearate, calcium iodate, silicon dioxide. Contains wheat, barley, sesame seeds.
  •  The Sauce:  Soybean oil, relish (pickles, sugar, glucose-fructose, vinegar, glucose, salt, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate , spice extractives), prepared mustard [water, vinegar, mustard seed, salt, sugar, colour (caramel, turmeric), spices], water, frozen egg yolk, vinegar, onion powder, salt, mustard flour, xanthan gum,potassium sorbate , spices, garlic powder, hydrolyzed plant protein (corn, soy, wheat gluten), colour (paprika,caramel), calcium disodium EDTA. Contains wheat, egg, soy, mustard.

The Big Mac comes in at a total of 540 calories of which 260 (about half) are from fat, 1040 mg of sodium, and 9 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of sugar.

And now the fries:

  • McDonald’s French Fries – Potatoes, Canola oil, hydrogenated soybean oil, safflower oil, natural flavor, dextrose (a type of sugar),  sodium acid pyrophosphate (for color),citric acid, dimethylpolysiloxane, vegetable oil for frying, TBHQ.

While you may be able to continue to indulge in a Big Mac and fries and still lose weight  because of  more frequent trips to the gym, you’re not doing yourself any favors.  You’re getting too much fat, sugar sodium, and preservatives, along with a bunch of other stuff – like dimethylpolysiloxane – which is an anti-foaming agent that is typically used in caulking and sealants – that your body has no clue what to do with.

Like most fast-food chains, McDonalds at least appears to be offering more healthy choice menu options.  At the recent Clinton Global Initiative McDonald’s CEO said that they are making some changes in the way McD’s promotes the Happy Meals. They are only going to promote water, milk, or juice as the beverage.

That’s a start.  But giving a child milk to wash down their Chicken McNugget Happy Meal is like an adult ordering a diet soda to go with their Big Mac and fries. It might make you feel better, but the meal is a weak choice nutrition wise.

Getting in the habit of shopping for groceries on a weekly basis so that you have whole foods on hand to make quick nutritious breakfasts, healthy brown bag lunches and wholesome dinners, is where the focus should be.  This will keep you out of the fast-food drive through.  And that’s the best thing you can do for your health.

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