How to Lose Weight While Eating Nothing but McDonald's

If you eat a balanced diet, it's not impossible to do.

Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor. He has written for The Awl, The New Inquiry, and elsewhere.

Eating nothing but McDonald’s will make you gain weight and ruin your health.

That’s the lasting impression many got from the documentary Super Size Me. But if you re-watch the 2004 film, you’ll be reminded of the people Morgan Spurlock interviews who eat McDonald’s regularly, with no obvious detriment to their well-being.

John Cisna, a science teacher from Ankeny, Iowa, joined the ranks of those seemingly healthy McDonald’s eaters when he took on the role of test subject for a class experiment in which, for 90 days, he only ate at the chain restaurant. The results? Cisna lost 37 pounds, and his cholesterol dropped from 249 to 170.

The point of the experiment wasn’t to prove that living off McDonald’s is healthy, per se, but rather that sticking to a balanced diet, even at a fast-food joint, can have a big impact. See, Cisna ate his fair share of burgers, but he didn’t exceed the recommended daily allowance for carbs, sodium, sugar, etc., in the meals his students helped him plan. In an interview with a local news station he says that in a given day he might have two Egg White Delights, a bowl of maple oatmeal, and 1 percent milk for breakfast, salad for lunch, and a Value Meal for dinner.

“I can eat any food at McDonald's that I want as long as I’m smart with the rest of the day with what I balance it out with,” Cisna says. He also started walking 45 minutes a day during the three months he was eating at McDonald’s (free of charge, thanks to the interest of a local franchise owner).

So really, the comparison to Supersize Me, in which Spurlock always went for the supersize menu option when it was offered, is something of a stretch. Cisna’s showing that a balanced diet can lead to improved health regardless of where the food is coming from.

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