Can you lose weight eating fast food?


An Iowa science teacher has lost close to 40 pounds after eating nothing but McDonald’s for 90 days. Though that sounds crazy enough, there was a method to John Cisna’s madness. The educator, who went from weighing 280 pounds to 243 pounds, followed a diet especially designed by his students, who allotted him 2,000 calories a day, and strived to remain within recommended quotas of carbohydrates, proteins, sugar, and fat calories. Furthermore, Cisna walked 45 minutes every day while the experiment lasted. In addition to the lost weight, the teacher’s cholesterol levels also dropped considerably, from 249 to 170, which included a 34% reduction in his LDL cholesterol.

Cisna’s students made sure to pick the healthiest items in the menu, for instance an Egg White Delight, a sausage burrito, and oatmeal for breakfast; a Southwest salad, and a Fruit and Yogurt Parfait for lunch; and a grilled chicken sandwich, and a Caesar salad with grilled chicken and small fries for dinner. Back when the experiment started, Cisna was considered obese based on his Body Mass Index (BMI) of 38, and he found it difficult to walk the daily 45 minutes at first.

However, Cisna’s routine was not foolproof, according to nutrition expert Joy Bauer. For example, he would often drink Diet Coke, and his salt intake was more than twice the recommended amount. Nevertheless, he will have plenty of time to correct those mistakes, since he plans to continue until March 15, while at the same time adding more exercise and eventually learning how to consume those same 2,000 calories without fast food at all, instead resorting to healthy alternatives like vegetable omelets, lentil soups, fish with broccoli and sweet potato. Though Bauer has said that few people would have the discipline to go for the lighter options in a full menu, she and Cisna agree that it’s not fast food joints that makes us fat, but the choices that we make.


The experiment is bound to raise comparisons to Morgan Spurlock’s pseudo-documentary Super Size Me, which Cisna calls ‘irresponsible journalism’ (we disagree; we don’t even consider it journalism at all). Just for the record let’s remember that Spurlock ingested about 5,000 a day while intentionally refraining from doing any exercise. The consensus is that he would have gotten fat regardless of where he ate. Plus, Spurlock’s refusal to publish the Super Size Me food log among other things is what makes his film an example of ‘how the ignorance of, or willful distortion of, basic scientific methods is used to manipulate public opinion,’ in the words of Paste magazine’s Robert Davis.

On the other hand, Cisna neither had a vendetta against McDonald’s nor was sponsored by the restaurant chain, although local franchises did donate his food. In fact, he is not the first person to take offense with Super Size Me and show others that it’s all about choices. An independent film producer made a YouTube documentary which followed Spurlock’s own meal requirements more closely only she actually lost weight by ingesting less calories and exercising –and she save the receipts to document her meals. Another documentarian, Tom Naughton, also made a reply film and did Spurlock one better by listing every item he ate along with nutritional information on his website. The takeaway here, pun intended by the way, is that the healthy choices for losing weight this New Year are out there, but no one is going to make them for us, and also that losing weight is not just an aesthetic decision, but can also bring cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides down, among many other benefits.

Related Read: Where does sugar hide?