As most of you know already, I’m currently in the process of losing weight to get back to what I was pre-baby. A little-known fact is that I’ve done this once before, about 6-7 years ago. Before John and I were married, we worked at McDonalds (It’s where we met!). He found another job and I stayed until 2011. During that time, we ended up eating out a LOT, partially because we didn’t have our own kitchen, and partially because it was just fun! After awhile that took its toll, and suddenly I found myself quite a few pounds overweight but still eating out. Working at McDonalds certainly didn’t help, because I was able to get free/discounted food while I worked. John and I decided together that we would lose weight, and thus started our year-long plus journey.
Can you lose weight while eating fast food? YES! John lost 50 pounds, and I lost 15-20 during that time, while eating out 3+ times a week. Now obviously we didn’t eat JUST fast food, but we didn’t exclude it. While stopping the fast food runs altogether is the ideal situation, I know that there are some people who are in situations where they just can’t cook or aren’t able to have homemade food wherever they are. I want to show you all that it IS possible to eat healthy-ish with fast food, and can even lose weight from it!
The single most important thing to do when losing weight:
Track what you eat. Seriously, track everything. Every calorie you put in your mouth counts, and if you don’t keep track, it will hurt your weight loss. It is SO hard to do at first, especially for those who have trouble committing to things (Me!). But if you’re serious about losing weight, you need to force yourself to look at what you’re eating and write it down, whether it’s on pen and paper or on a website/app like MyFitnessPal. I prefer MyFitnessPal over anything else because of its absolutely huge food database; just type in anything and it’ll pop up. You can even enter a URL of the recipe you’re making and it’ll enter all the ingredients and calculate the calorie info!
You have to do your own homework to see how many calories you need to eat to lose weight. It’s all about calories in, calories out; you have to burn more than you eat! There are other factors involved in losing weight with the food you eat, like sugar and fat content, etc. But in my personal experience, I only focus on the calories. I ate whatever I wanted while losing weight. Seriously! Whatever I wanted. I just had to make sure I had enough calories to cover it.
I had actually forgotten how much we had eaten out back then. John was doing Weight Watchers, and I found out he actually kept records of everything he ate on a spreadsheet, along with the Points value. I was recently looking through it and laughed so hard at how much we actually ate out. It was seriously 3-4 times a week! Sometimes twice a day! I saw quite a few times where we had eaten at a certain burrito place for dinner and then went across the street to McDonalds for dessert. Here’s an example of one of John’s days:
Yep, that was McDonalds twice in one day. But do you see that little zero on the bottom right column? He ate exactly as much as he was supposed to, Point-wise. This man is amazing; every time we went out, he calculated the Point value and added them to another spreadsheet, so that if we went back to the same place again later, he already had the nutrition info conveniently ready for him.
Research the food before you go eat.
Along with tracking your food, you have to know where you’re going first! I like planning out my day in the mornings and figuring out where we’re going and what I’m going to eat. I know it’s not always possible, but do your best, even if it means using your phone to do the research on the way to the restaurant. John’s told me that there were times we were at McDonalds and the Angus burger looked absolutely amazing, but at 700-ish calories for just the burger, that would blow his calorie budget for the whole day. And you know you can’t go to McDonalds and just get a sandwich. Those fries are to die for, as calorie-laden as they are! Add in a Coke, and you’ve got a full day’s worth of calories in one meal! A typical meal is between 400-600 calories, so it’s best to find a meal around there. Well, you can always do more, as long as it’s in your budget!
Cut corners, cut calories.
Along with doing your research, do as much as you can to cut calories in your meal. Here is a list of things John and I did that really helped:
- Instead of having fries with a meal, we had a side salad. A medium order of fries at McDonalds has 340 calories, while a side salad with the balsamic vinaigrette dressing has only 50 calories.
- If we had a chicken sandwich, we’d order grilled chicken instead of crispy, which was a difference of about 180 calories.
- We ate our sandwiches without the creamy condiments. Mayo and ranch were right out! If we had nuggets, we used the lower calorie sauces like the buffalo sauce. The ranch had about 140 calories in the little container, and the buffalo sauce had 35 calories. And to think I used at least a couple ranch packets for my nuggets!
- We drank diet soda or water. Diet soda isn’t the best, but neither is regular soda, and it was zero calories, so we drank it!
- When we ate a salad, we sometimes only used half of the dressing packet to see if we’d be okay without the whole packet. Most of the time it worked out great, and we saved calories that way.
I can’t let this post go by without giving you examples of a “reasonable” meal at a fast food place. All of the info was taken from the restaurants’ websites, and you can visit them yourself if you want to do more research! It’s a real eye-opener to see how many calories some of this is; it doesn’t seem like a lot of food! But it’s important to see what you’re eating. You can probably find a few more healthier options than what I’ve listed, but these are things that we typically ordered while out. I left out the drinks because I assume you’ll be drinking a diet drink or water.
- 2 cheeseburgers 600 calories
- Side salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing: 50 calories
- Total: 650 calories
- Chicken fries (10 count?): 290 calories
- BBQ sauce: 40 calories
- Value size fries: 240 calories
- Total: 570 calories
- Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, half size: 350 calories
- Small chili: 170 calories
- Total: 520 calories
- 2 crunchy tacos: 340 calories
- Pintos and cheese: 190 calories
- Total: 530 calories
- Classic roast beef sandwich: 360 calories
- Potato cakes: 250 calories
- Total: 610 calories
- Grilled chicken cool wrap (No dressing packet!): 340 calories
- Packet of light mayo: 35 calories
- Medium fruit cup: 50 calories
- Total: 425 calories
- Burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, chicken, tomato salsa, hot salsa, cheese, and lettuce
- Total: 670 calories
All in all, these options are fairly good! Like I said before, while fast food isn’t the best way to lose weight, there are times and situations where you just can’t get anything else, so you have to make the best decisions for yourself. I hope this has encouraged you that it IS possible to lose weight while eating fast food! As proof, here is the chart of John’s weight loss during that year:
Yes, that is a 50 pound weight loss in about 7 months. With no exercise. And yes, we ate fast food while doing it! Just remember that it wasn’t the fast food itself that made us lose weight; it was the careful tracking and planning that did it. The food is just a tool! You can do this!
(Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or health professional; I’m just sharing my experiences with weight loss. Please use your best judgement or consult your healthcare professional before starting a weight loss routine!)
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.