3 lessons from the man who lost 4 stone eating only McDonald’s for 6 months

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How can someone who ate only McDonald’s food for 6 months have lost 56 pounds?

The story of John Cisna, a biology teacher from Iowa has hit the press recently. Mr Cisna ate only food from McDonald’s for 6 months and reports having lost 4 stone in the process. He kept to a maximum of 2000 calories per day (an amount which would allow gradual weight loss for a man weighing 20 stone and 6 feet tall) and ate a wide range of McDonald’s foods on offer from salads to burgers with fries to ice creams.

The story has been hot news here and in the USA, with commentary including frequent reminders of the importance of a balanced diet. Mr Cisna said that he ensured that the food he ate each day met the recommended daily requirements for a range of nutrients by consulting the nutritional information provided by McDonald’s.

Mr Cisna himself is quoted as saying that in relation to weight loss he wants to open people’s eyes to the many ways of slimming down.

Although Mr Cisna denied that he had become bored of McDonald’s food, he did say,

“I am craving seafood. In fact, my first night when I am done with this, I’m going to have some shrimp and some scallops and some salmon. Maybe some asparagus on a bed of rice pilaf”.

He walked 45 minutes every day.

Mr Cisna’s experiment has the potential to help many people who so far have found that conventional diets have failed them. I think we can take several things from his experience to consider in relation to our own weight loss:

1. Healthy eating and weight loss are NOT the same thing. You can achieve significant weight loss without following the sorts of diet we have become familiar with.
2. Limiting what you eat (in this case to only food served by a specific fast food chain) puts pressure on you eventually, however much you like the food. The craving for seafood is there even though Mr Cisna has plenty of foods from McDonald’s that he seems to like.
3. The exercise he took was very regular, and it was walking rather than something more strenuous.

Translating these into lessons for anyone who wants to lose weight, as Mr Cisna says, there are many ways of slimming down. You can design your own plan whilst continuing to eat the foods you already love.

1. Find one way of working out how much you need to eat, either by calorie counting as he did, or using your body’s natural hunger and fullness signals to guide how much to eat (see www.theappetitedoctor.co.uk)
2. Don’t feel you have to eliminate any particular food or type of food as this puts pressure on you psychologically and sometimes physiologically.
3. Find a type of exercise that you can do regularly, or look forward to wanting to do regular exercise as you lose weight.

I would add another point of my own, that

You can lose weight eating the same foods you eat and enjoy now if you reduce (perhaps significantly) the amount you eat

In order to lose weight permanently you need to change your eating habits permanently. It is easier to achieve permanent behaviour change if you start where you are now and make one manageable step at a time. This is why diets so often fail: they require a wholesale overhaul of your current eating pattern. Only a small proportion of people successfully make that sort of dramatic change to the way they eat, which is why most people put the weight back on after a diet.

You can download the Appetite Pendulum and the free “Anxiety and how to Manage it” guide.
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