RALEIGH, N.C. — Inspired by the documentary “Super Size Me,” Merab Morgan decided to give a fast-food-only diet a try. The construction worker and mother of two ate only at McDonald’s for 90 days — and dropped 37 pounds in the process.
It was a vastly different outcome than what happened in the documentary to filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who put on 30 pounds and saw his health deteriorate after 5,000 calories a day of nothing but McDonald’s food.
Morgan, from Henderson, N.C., thought the documentary had unfairly targeted the world’s largest restaurant company, implying that the obese were victims of a careless corporate giant. People are responsible for what they eat, she said, not restaurants. The problem with a McDonald’s-only diet isn’t what’s on the menu, but the choices made from it, she said.
“I thought it’s two birds with one stone — to lose weight and to prove a point for the little fat people,” Morgan said. “Just because they accidentally put an apple pie in my bag instead of my apple dippers doesn’t mean I’m going to say, 'Oh, I can eat the apple pie.'"
'I had to think about what I was eating'
Spurlock, who turned his surprise-hit movie into a TV show on the FX network, isn’t talking about Morgan or the many other McDieters who have criticized his film and found success losing weight by eating healthy foods off the McDonald’s menu, said his publicist, David Magdael.
One person went so far as to make her own independent film about dieting at McDonald’s. “Me and Mickey D” follows Soso Whaley, of Kensington, N.H., as she spends three 30-day periods on the diet. She dropped from 175 to 139 pounds, eating 2,000 calories-a-day at McDonald’s.
“I had to think about what I was eating,” Whaley said. “I couldn’t just walk in there and say 'I’ll take a cinnamon bun and a Diet Coke.’ ... I know a lot of people are really turned off by the whole thought of monitoring what they are eating, but that’s part of the problem.”
As might be expected, McDonald’s also objected to the impressions left by Spurlock’s film. Walt Riker, the company’s vice president of corporate communications, said Oak Brook, Ill.-based company is pleased — but not surprised — that some customers have lost weight eating only at the fast-food giant.
Spurlock’s film “really spurred a backlash based on common sense,” Riker said.
1,400 calories a day
Morgan used nutritional information downloaded from McDonald’s Web site to create meal plans of no more than 1,400 calories a day. She only ate french fries twice, usually choosing burgers and salads. Those choices are a stark contrast with those made by Spurlock, who ate every menu item at least once.
At the end of the 90 days, she had dropped from 227 to 190 pounds.
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“It feels great,” she said. “Because, the truth of the matter is that beauty is power, and if you’re fat, or your overweight, then people don’t really take you seriously.”
Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, agreed that a low-calorie, McDonald’s-only diet can help people lose weight but said it may not offer enough long-term variety. Whatever an individual does to lose weight, they need to do for the rest of their life, she said.
Morgan said she hasn’t decided if she will stick with the McDonald’s-only plan to reach her goal of 150 pounds. But she does have one complaint about McDonald’s.
“If I could suggest anything to McDonald’s, I would suggest the McMargarita,” Morgan said. “Dine-in only, of course.”