The Drive-Thru Diet: Just Another Get-Slim-Quick Scheme
It's the New Year, which means websites, stores, and late-night infomercials are bombarding you with the tools you must have to meet your weight loss and fitness goals. And although I can overlook a lot of gimmicky diets, I just can't ignore this
It's reminiscent of the Subway commercials starring Jared Fogle (the man who lost 245 pounds eating Subway sandwiches twice a day for a year), but something is off. Perhaps it's the misleading term Drive-Thru Diet or the "exceptional experience" disclaimer at the bottom of the screen, but I'm not buying it, and here's why you shouldn't either.
Although the infomercial appeals to dieters with newly made resolutions, Taco Bell states the Drive Thru Diet is not a weight-loss program—it's simply a menu of healthier options. Christine Dougherty, the spokeswoman, lost 54 pounds over two years by cutting her daily calorie intake down to about 1,250 calories a day and replacing her typical fast food choices with items off Taco Bell's Drive-Thru Diet menu.
Although the Subway Diet gave specific details as to what Jared Fogle ate each day, we don't know how often (or how much) Christine ate off of Taco Bell's menu. It could have been every day or once a week for all we know. And what's more important, the Drive-Thru Diet menu's calorie and fat counts aren't drastically different.
A steak burrito supreme on the regular menu contains 380 calories and 12 grams of fat (5 grams saturated) while the Drive-Thru Diet menu steak burrito supreme contains 330 calories and 8 grams of fat (3 grams saturated). The only noticeable change of ingredients is a lack of cheese and sour cream.
Cutting 50 calories a day alone won't result in the 2 pounds a month weight loss she experienced. One pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, so to lose 2 pounds a month, Christine would have had to cut more than 230 calories out of her diet each day, or burn that off through exercise. Since she claimed to have cut about 500 calories a day, the fact that she ate the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet menu items seems to be more coincidence than cause.
And although I applaud fast-food restaurants like McDonald's, which is now offering apple slices with kids' meals, and Burger King, which offers low-fat veggie burgers, having healthy menu options isn't going to result in Christine Dougherty–like weight loss for most of the overweight and obese population.
In fact, research is also stacked against fast food. Calorie counts in fast food (as well as sit-down) restaurants averaged 18% more than their listed amount, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. And although a 2008 study discovered that eating out doesn't necessarily cause weight gain, people who live in neighborhoods with more fast-food restaurants have a higher risk of obesity than individuals who have a higher per capita of sit-down options.
The bottom line is that there's no quick fix for weight gain. The easiest way to lose weight is to cook at home, measure your portions, and buy fresh (not packaged) foods. It's not as fun or convenient as takeout but, then again, neither is gaining weight.