Losing Weight Eating Junk Food

Losing Weight Eating Junk Food

On the surface, the theory that one can lose weight by eating junk food is quite absurd. For many individuals who are overweight, obese, or simply not in their preferred shape, many of their problems stem from the overconsumption of junk food.

If this is the case, then how could continuing to eat junk food solve any of these problems?

First off, we need to identify what constitutes “junk food” in the first place. We know, of course, that food items like candy, chips, and soda are primary examples of junk food. Simply put, junk food is essentially a pejorative term for food that contains little or no vitamins, minerals or protein, while simultaneously containing excessive amounts of calories from either the sugar or fat in the food product that you are consuming.

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If you plan on consuming junk food, make sure to read the nutritional label on the side; it really does serve a good purpose. With all of these negatives surrounding junk food and its unhealthy nature, it seems impossible to fathom someone potentially losing weight by consuming junk food.

Has anyone ever done it before?

If you’ve been following the news closely for the past several months or years, chances are you’ve heard of John Cisna. For those of you who haven’t, or need a refresher on what was significant about that name, Cisna is a science teacher in the Colo-Nesco Community School District in Iowa.

Back in January, Cisna announced that he dropped nearly 40 pounds in 90 days by only eating at McDonalds. The experiment was actually quite simple: he had his students design a daily diet plan at McDonald’s that stayed under the 2,000 calorie daily limit (as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration dictates as a “healthy daily caloric intake”).

losing weight eating fast food

Cisna then proceeded to follow these guidelines for 90 days, adding in 45 minutes of daily walking. He noted that his typical daily meals consisted of two breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal for breakfast; for lunch: a salad and fruit parfait, and some sort of value meal for dinner (typically a cheeseburger or chicken sandwich), and french fries. He also noted, however, that he would interchange some items, and would go for an ice cream cone or sundae at times.

This was the most intriguing part of the experiment; he didn’t side more towards McDonald’s “healthier options”; he didn’t shy away from the burgers, chicken sandwiches or desserts, generally considered the most “unhealthy” of McDonald’s menu items, and yet he still obtained considerable success in his experiment.

His results were so good that he elongated his experiment, and he ended up losing 61 pounds in 6 months, and his cholesterol level dropped significantly! This, of course, landed him national attention, including a position as an ambassador for McDonald’s, and he wrote a novel, entitled “My McDonald’s Diet”.

Cisna also noted that the point of this experiment was about learning portion control, and that it doesn’t matter what you eat, so long as you balance it out and stay within a reasonable caloric intake level.

This is a good and hopeful story, of course, but it’s simply one out of millions of people who struggled with weight and hoped to fix it through such means. On the opposite side of the scale was the story of Morgan Spurlock, the author of the book and documentary “Supersize Me”.

Morgan Spurlock
Morgan Spurlock

Spurlock gained almost 25 pounds and his cholesterol skyrocketed in only 30 days of conducting the experiment, and he also noted a severe draining of energy, multiple bouts with nausea and overall sickness, and a loss of sexual energy, as both he and his girlfriend note in the documentary.

It took him 14 months to lose all that weight and lower his cholesterol. Spurlock’s experiment proved to be part of a rapidly growing movement to help prompt fast food companies everywhere shift the focus off of “super sizing” and more towards providing healthier options. This experiment, for many, is more accurate of one’s experiences with both fast food and junk food in general that Cisna’s experiment is.

Ultimately, it appears that this “debate” boils down to one’s will power and strength. Junk food in and of itself is not necessarily a very bad thing. If you work out and generally eat healthy, a Snickers bar or a Mountain Dew isn’t going to make any sizable impact on your overall health.

The big issue is convenience. For today’s “on-the-go” individual, which is more convenient to travel with: a cheeseburger or homemade salad? Maybe for some people, it isn’t a problem to bring a salad with them, but most people have neither the time, patience, or in some cases, money to make that decision.

That 99 cent cheeseburger and bottle of Coke won’t ruin your health, but what if you travel a lot and stay dormant, unable to get exercise? All those trips and cheeseburger-Coke combos add up, causing an increase in weight and an increase in health issues.

Burgers And Fries

Given these preexisting issues – and I’m fairly certain that we have all had encounters with them at some point – Cisna’s success certainly gives everyone hope. The notion that maintaining or attaining a state of good health comes down to control has its merit, and has been proven before.

It seems that exercise plays a pivotal role in good health as well; even Cisna walked 45 minutes per day in addition to his food consumption. Also, some protein bars have a chocolate coating, which adds to the caloric content of the protein bar, but adds taste. That doesn’t necessarily make the protein bar unhealthy for you.

Overall, the debate on whether one can potentially lose weight by consuming junk food is intriguing. No one is arguing that tearing into a bag of Doritos with reckless abandon and sitting around all day is good for you; finding a key balance is essential to losing weight.

As mentioned earlier, will power and strength are key. How badly do you want to lose the weight? It is amazing what the human mind is capable of when it is set on something, and if you dedicate yourself to finding that perfect balance, eating a cheeseburger or two shouldn’t prevent you from shedding away those pounds!

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36 thoughts on “Losing Weight Eating Junk Food

  1. It was interesting to read the two very different experiments placed side by side. Do you think ‘all calories are created equal’? I take your point about controlling portions, as in the first experiment. Surely better to do this if junk food was the only option.

    Also take your point about not ‘demonising’ junk food, everyone enjoys a little pleasure eating – just not to be confused with nutrition!

    Will power is not especially successful for weight control, although as a hypnotherapist I have to admit bias on that point!

    It’s a good article and the title engaged my interest and then led to the contrast of the two experiments. I won’t be off for a big mac though!

    1. Yes the two experiments resulted in drastically different outcomes didn’t they Rich? They allowed me to show both sides of the ‘junk food coin’ within the article 🙂

  2. I can’t believed I hadn’t heard of this until now? It’s definitely true isn’t it? It isn’t a hoax? Well if it is true then it just goes to show – as your article discusses – that keeping within your recommended calories per day and some exercise works wonders – regardless of what you are eating! Portion control definitely plays a part in loosing weight or even maintaining weight. What a great article! I have every excuse to eat fast food now! Sammi

  3. Hi Chris. I must say it is very difficult to accept what you write here. I do not think this is the mater of ‘will power and strength’. You gave an example of somebody who lost weight after eating at McDonalds. I could give you quite different examples. There was some series on National Geographic, with much more profound research on this issue. Nothing to do with will power. Junk food is what its name says.

    1. Hi Jovo,
      You’ve obviously not read the whole article before commenting. I actually cover two separate cases of McDonald’s diets that bore VERY different results. This article is certainly NOT promoting weight loss through fast food – it’s merely covering two case studies.

  4. As someone with a lifelong dislike of McDonalds food I found your explanations here quite fascinating.

    I couldn’t agree more that calorific intake and calorie burning exercise in balance, combined with an understanding of ones metabolic rate, are the true answer to controlling body mass.

    Learning about and developing an understanding of ones bodily requirements is the best starting point for anyone wishing to retain a good physical and healthy constitution.

    Thanks for bringing this concept to public attention in such an appealing manner.

    1. You’re very welcome mate – I enjoyed researching and writing the article so I’m glad the readers are finding worth in it!

  5. That was a great post and I like what Cisna did. He made the healthy diet available for every one by his actions. Most of people thought that healthy food is expensive, but Cisna broke this thought and shifted the thought to the balance. The balance of the intake and effort is the key, not just the type of food.
    And it was realistic and applicable too. It was thought to be difficult to balance your diets. Cisna’s way helps having a healthy diet whatever your work is.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Mahmood – it’s actually one of my favorite site articles! Don’t forget to share it and spread the word 🙂

  6. Wow, that’s very interesting.
    I think to a point a calorie is a calorie but I just know from experience that it’s easier to stick to a calorie limit when you get a bit more bang for your buck as you do with less calorie dense foods.
    I’ve also noticed I’ve gone many years without “junk” food but when I have had a burger from either McDonalds or Burger King I have craved junk again the next day…I’m convinced it’s the additives.
    Anyway, for that reason I would think sticking to a calorie limit on fast food would be more difficult.and the sodium! When I put too much salt on foods I tend to overeat, I have to limit it.
    Maybe I’m just a salt addict 😉
    Anyway, really great post, I like your site!

    1. Cheers Alison – thanks for saying so!
      When I eat fast food ( not that often ) I usually end up with a bad belly because I am not really used to the additives. It really makes you wonder what is actually inside some of these options…

  7. Interesting article for sure and it still leaves me with the question, “Can you loose weight eating at Micky D’s”. I think anything done inmoderation is OK. I personally don’t eat at fast food places often because of all the hype on how bad the food is for your calorie intake etc.

    For those on the road a lot, I imagine it could be wuite a struggle to eat healthy. Obviously given the experiment of Cisna it is possible to not only eat healthy, but also loose weight.

    1. I think you hit the nail on the head there Debra – moderation! But of course, staying away from fast food will always be the best choice ( in my book anyway! )

  8. Great post! I have heard of this experiment. Wasn’t it in opposition to that film Supersize me? I appreciate people trying to prove their points, one way or the other, but do you think it’s all just about losing weight? I think you are want you eat. Sure you can loose weight eating junk-food, when counting calories and carbs, but I think you will still be unhealthy, and malnourished, and get sick more often, etc.

  9. Isn’t what that Cisna guy did also called a tv dinner diet?

    Anyway, I don’t think he’s smart. Ha, you could lose weight by starving yourself too. Loosing weight is not necessarily synonomous with healthy.

    Obviously, a little indulging in junk food now and then won’t be the end of the world.

    But the main thing is to be healthy. A starvation diet isnt good either. Just eat balanced, nutritious meals with protien and fiber, stay away from processed foods, and excersize a lot. There’s no way you will gain weight by doing that, unless you have a medical condition.

  10. Once again Your post is very detailed to your topic and I remember the super size me movie. The information about John Cisna is new to me.

    I do know that you can eat junk food and still be slim as I know some other people with fast metabolisms that eat that way and gain no weight. there over health is not the greatest.

    If you stick with what you usually write about eating healthy for the most part you can eat junk food and at restaurants on occasions, just don’t live on them.

    1. Yes that’s right Travis – there’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself every now and again ( we all have to live life don’t we! ). 🙂

  11. Hi Chris!
    Omg, now I don’t have to feel so bad about eating junk food lol.. I do read nutrition labels, mainly for calories. But for a long time, even if I read it and make sure I don’t consume too much, I feel dirty inside as if all I have is fat. But after reading your blog, it certainly gets the steam off and I can now cautiously eat junk food without feeling so…..you know. Thanks for creating this, it’s something I never thought could be true. In fact, I’ve always believed that junk food could ultimately kill you but your take on it proves me wrong. Thanks again!

    1. Well I’m not quite sure you took the overall meaning of the article Grin!

      Try reading it again and you’ll see we are certainly not promoting junk food in any way – this is simply two separate cases being highlighted. Junk food CAN and WILL eventually kill you unless it is eaten in moderation.

  12. I think that you hit the nail on the head with your emphasis on portion control. It is so important to control our portions regardless of what you eat. Moderation is necessary and yes, we all need a little treat every now and then. I’d never heard of a man losing weight by eating McDonalds before! But he was doing it in a very different way than the supersize me man.
    Yeah, moderation and portion control, with a little treat and fun in our eating lives. I think that we can all agree on that!

  13. Hi Chris,
    I gave up junk food for the most part. It was hard to do and I still crave it like crazy. I had no idea people where loosing weight on that stuff. I stopped eating McDonald’s because of the unhealthiness of their food. Do you think loosing weight on unhealthy food is good for people?

    Thanks for writing an informational article.

    1. Well the article above covers both sides of the argument Merceadez but personally I don’t feel it’s a good choice. Junk food is junk food at the end of the day – not exactly heart-healthy! 🙂

  14. Not really sure what to think about this one. Have you seen Super Size me? It’s an experiment the director does on himself by eating daily fast foods during a month i think ( i don’t remember quite well its been a lot since i saw it ) the results showed how unhealthy and perjudicial is this food. Does it taste good? Absolutely but is something at least i may want to avoid , there are some long term health issues one could get by eating junk food.

  15. I’m actually just about to re-commence calorie counting, having been successful in my weight loss goal 3 years ago but then relaxing and getting fat again.

    It was really great that I came across this article, because this time around I’m in a non-English speaking country and I’m limited for options that I can actually understand in terms of nutritional value!

    Being that I can understand the nutritional info on a lot of American fast food labels over here, can you recommend any resources to help me calculate diets and workouts that incorporate junk food calorie intake?

    1. Hi,

      Over at caloriecount(dot)com they have a free Weight Loss Calculator for this sort of thing – have you given it a try yet?

  16. Hey there,
    Thank you for the interesting article. I have heard about Morgan Spurlock before but not the other guy. I was not surprised about the health deterioration of Morgan Spurlock in super size me at all.
    I haven’t eaten fast food in years and don’t plan to eat it much if ever again. Using fast food to lose weight is very misleading and could lead to some very poor health choices.
    Very interesting none the less however.

  17. I have never heard of the story about Cisna and it gives great insight what we can still enjoy our food.

    A few years ago I would stay away from all junk food and soda, and was also working out very regularly, but now I don’t tend to shy away from the “junk food” and still work out regularly and see that there isn’t much difference in my weight or appearance.

    Like you stated, it is all about will power and burning up the calories you consume in a day.

    I like your article because it really can show someone that they don’t have to give up there favorite cheeseburger just because they want to lose weight.

    I enjoyed reading this! Keep up the good work!

  18. Hi, it’s me again. I know you said to not bother commenting on your website again, but I couldn’t help myself. I read your article here and I must say, I agree with a lot of your content. I definitely believe that indulging in some “unhealthy” food every so often is not going to produce negative health effects. I personally have a cheat meal once or twice a week. As far as the McDonald’s thing, I know that they have tried to add healthier options to their menu within the past few years, however i’m certain these foods are still not as nutritionally sound as raw home cooked food. I like the layout of the content in this article too. Take care!

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