Shedding pounds by the burrito

Taco Bell’s commercial gives off the wrong impression, despite the fine print.

Taco Bell’s commercial gives off the wrong impression, despite the fine print.

Fast food is hardly synonymous with diet. Instead, fast food is generally the food that any dieter, or health-conscious person, stays away from. Grace-Dickinson

But Christie Dougherty, the 27-year-old star of Taco Bell’s newest commercial, contributes her two-year, 54-pound weight loss largely to eating food items from Taco Bell’s Fresco Menu five to eight times per week. As Dougherty boasts about the “fantastic results” in before and after photos, a disclaimer – “Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet is not a weight loss program” – flashes across the screen. Considering the commercial revolves around Dougherty’s success with the Drive-Thru Diet, the fine print is worthless.

On Feb. 1, Philadelphia law went into effect requiring chain restaurants with at least 15 locations nationwide to list the calorie count for foods on their menus. I am afraid to see how fast food companies will distract consumers from their high-calorie intake. Fast food restaurants may abuse the concept of dieting by grouping together their lowest-calorie menu options, as Taco Bell has done, and simply slapping on a “diet” label.

Therefore, it’s important for consumers to realize “diet” is no longer a loaded word, especially when fast food companies are trying to sell unhealthy food in an increasingly health-conscious market. Dougherty didn’t lose weight because of the Drive-Thru Diet – she drastically cut the amount of calories she consumed. She ate as few as 1,250 calories per day and increased regular exercise time.

The Drive-Thru Diet is, like many other weight-loss mechanisms, an unhealthy way to slash calories. Like most fad diets, the Drive-Thru Diet also causes dieters to miss out on essential nutrients and quality foods.

“For some people, the act of cognitively restricting their intake for a period of time can trigger a compensatory binge response when the restriction is lifted,” Alison Ventura, Ph.D., an adjunct public health instructor, said.

Not only is the Drive-Thru Diet fairly restrictive, but it also lacks key ingredients.  Besides some chopped tomatoes and a few measly slivers of iceberg lettuce, Taco Bell’s menu items do not include the real food you should be eating on a diet – vegetables.

Instead, menu choices are high in sodium, which the Dietary Guidelines for America recommends limiting to 2,300 milligrams per day. Excess intake is linked to increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

“Hypertension is a problem because it places unnecessary stress on your arteries and causes your heart to work harder than if you had lower blood pressure,” Ventura said. “High blood pressure can also cause your heart and other vital organs, such as brain and kidneys, to become damaged and fail.”

Ruth Carey, registered dietician in Portland, Ore., and a consultant for Taco Bell on the Drive-Thru Diet menu, told the New York Times that “not everyone is sodium sensitive and has high blood pressure.”

One may not have high blood pressure going into the Drive-Thru Diet, but after enough Fresco Burrito Supreme Chickens – each containing 1,410 milligrams of sodium – one might see his or her blood pressure skyrocket.

Considering Taco Bell is supposedly not a diet for weight loss but does include components that actually diminish health, the Drive-Thru Diet is pointless.

It’s obvious that Taco Bell and most other fast food restaurants are not the places to turn to healthily lose weight. While it is great that Taco Bell does offer some lighter options on its menu, it’s absurd to turn the menu into a diet plan. What’s next, the Crown Fried Chicken Diet?

Grace Dickinson can be reached at

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