We’re still a few weeks away from the Super Bowl, but I still heard plenty of buzz over the weekend about a television commercial. If you missed it, it appears that pseudo-Mexican fast food chain Taco Bell has thrown their sombrero into the ring and is fighting for recognition as a contender in the weight loss business. They have introduced a major advertising campaign trumpeting the low-fat “Fresco” items on their menu, just in time for those January resolutions.
Like many of the other fast food chains, Taco Bell has some added a few low-calorie options to their menu in recent years. That’s a good thing, because some of their healthier sounding products are an absolute nutrition disaster. Take their Chicken Ranch Taco Salad…it weighs in at a whopping 910 calories!
The commercial in question introduces us to an attractive young women named Christine Dougherty. If you’ve seen Subway’s “Jared Campaign” you know what happens next…overweight person chooses low-fat fast food option and loses lots of weight. The only twist here is that instead of Jared’s “fat pants”, we get to see Christine in an unflattering bathing suit photograph.
We don’t get a lot of details from the commercials or the website. Christine says that she lost 54 pounds by choosing items off the Drive Thru Diet (DTD) menu– a nickname for the seven items that the chain serves with less than 9 grams of fat. By doing this and making “other sensible choices” she claims that she cut 500 calories per day out of her diet. This brought her energy intake down to 1250 calories daily, and she followed this plan for a period of two years.
So exactly how much of her success can we contribute to the Fresco menu items? First a little background. The primary difference between the DTD menu items and those on the regular menu is that they substitute salsa for cheese as a topping. This results in a 50 calorie reduction, which drops the tacos down to 170 calories on average and the burritos to about twice that amount.
Now let’s do the math. She claims to have reduced her calorie intake from 1750 down to 1250 per day. At 50 calories per item, it would take 10 tacos per day to achieve this reduction. Her favorite taco has 170 calories…but eat ten of those and guess what…1700 calories-right back to almost where she started! Obviously an all-taco diet isn’t going to work.
So let’s look at a more reasonable scenario…she eats one meal per day at Taco Bell. She has her favorite two tacos…340 calories…a fairly typical meal if you’re looking to maintain a daily total of 1250 calories. Assuming she switched from two regular tacos to two Fresco tacos, that would translate to a reduction of 100 calories per day. If this was the case, it means that 80% of her 500 calorie reduction came from the “other sensible choices” category.
This being the case, it’s pretty hard for Taco Bell to take much of the credit. And to back this up, disclaimers abound…the DTD is “not a weight loss program” and “these results aren’t typical, but for me they were fantastic!” says Christine. And in smaller print we learn that Fresco items are “not a low-calorie food.”
So despite the inferences, it’s pretty clear that eating fast food isn’t going to help you lose weight. There is no magic taco, no secret diet, no miracle pill. The real lesson here is that anyone who is disciplined enough to stick to a 1250 calorie per day diet for two years is going to have success, regardless of where they choose to eat.
Armed with the proper nutritional information (and that elusive self-control), it can be a fairly simple process to trim hundreds of calories out of your diet, even if you’re a junk food junkie. Yes it means sacrifice…no cheese, no sour cream, no soda to wash it all down. Yes it can be frustratingly slow…Christine lost about a half pound per week. Are you ready to make those little sacrifices every day, month after month, at most of your meals? Is it worth it to you to develop that kind of will power?
Obviously it was worth it to Christine…she got the body she wanted–and a cushy job as a celebrity spokesperson!
Despite the fact that the taco isn’t really magical, for a limited time you can get one free by printing this coupon.