It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since Super Size Me was released. As you may recall, this documentary followed filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s journey from good health to bad because of his decision to dine only at McDonald’s three times a day for thirty days. The results were staggering as this once healthy 32-year-old watched his cholesterol levels rise, his mood plummet, and his waistline expand due to a 24-pound weight gain. Pretty compelling argument for never grazing at the golden arches again, right?
Not so fast … let’s look at the other side of the coin, which received much less publicity.
In the midst of all the hoopla associated with Super Size Me’s release, a registered dietitian in New York embarked on a journey of her own. She too vowed to dine only at McDonald’s three times a day for thirty days, while training for the New York City Marathon. The result? At the end of thirty days, instead of seeing weight gain, worsening labs, or other negative impact on health or mood, she completed the New York City Marathon in a personal best time for her. The difference was she, an avid runner, continued with her rigorous training regimen during this time, and only selected healthier choices from McDonald’s menu.
So does this mean that I, also a registered dietitian, am promoting daily fast food dining as your ticket to health and wellness? Absolutely not, but neither do I think that fast food restaurants alone are responsible for the downfall of civilization. It really comes down to CHOICE. I can walk into a fast food restaurant and order the super deluxe sandwich with extra large fries and a sugary soft drink, On the other hand, I can order a small sandwich heavy on veggie toppings, and ask for the apple slices, a side salad, or child-size fries to go with it. And once I go home, I can choose to go for a walk instead of sitting on the couch.
CHOICE is one important concept in the world of health, but BALANCE is another. Picture that teeter-totter from when you were a kid. On one side is the calories we choose to bring in, which must be BALANCED against what we choose to burn up in the course of the day. If your goal is to see a decrease in the numbers on the scale, you must choose to bring in fewer calories, and balance this with an increase in calories you burn.
I juggle working full-time with the busy schedules of my three kids. I understand that time is our greatest luxury, and shortcuts – not diamonds – are a girl’s best friend. It is possible you might run into me and my family in a restaurant, even one of the fast variety, from time to time. I try not to make this a regular occurrence, and when I do, I try to choose healthier items based on basic food groups. I keep moving, because I am ever reminded of the old adage, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” I work on making my output BALANCE with the intake I CHOOSE.
If you are looking for suggestions for how to make healthier restaurant choices, feel free to get in touch with the Hendricks Regional Health registered dietitians at (317) 745-3470. There is also a wealth of tips online, including the nutrition facts for almost every chain restaurant. Happy National Nutrition Month!