As rewarding as it is to lose weight and get in shape, it is equally challenging to avoid fast food items that are too difficult to resist. But, what if we tell you that you don’t have to completely shun your favourite junk foods in order to get healthy? Graeme Tomlinson, a nutritionist and fitness coach, recently took to Instagram to say that “eating food from McDonald’s is not a nutritional disaster”, “consumption of food from Burger King will not make you overweight”, “indulging in food from KFC should not result in self-loathing and failure”, and that “chomping down a subway on the go does not require subsequent punishment”.
According to the expert, “If you enjoy it (fast food), eating it is a triumph”. But how? Tomlinson emphasised that our understanding of what we eat can serve to educate us regardings its viability in our diet. “While fast food is often thought of as unsupportive (no matter what is selected), as I’ve shown in my graphics, items on the menu significantly vary in calories and macros,” he wrote further.
The nutritionist goes on to explain that while fast food items are convenient and hyper-palatable, most of them are usually calorie-dense, “meaning if you regularly consume high amounts, the possibility of gaining body fat increases”. However, according to him, being overweight is not because of calorie-dense fast food. “It is because of our diet management as a whole.”
He said that our dietary intake, including portion selection and energy expenditure, will determine our body composition. “Not whether we include McDonald’s in our diet or not. If you enjoy fast food, you must eat it,” Tomlinson said, sharing how you can cut down on calories by making some simple replacements in your order.
*He suggested replacing the double quarter pounder with cheese, large fries, and a large Coca-Cola (1395 cal) with a quarter pounder with cheese, medium fries, and large coke zero (845 cal).
*He suggested replacing bacon king and large coca cola (1321 cal) with bacon double cheeseburger and large coke zero (443 cal).
*He suggested replacing double sausage, egg McMuffin and large latte (748 cal) with sausage, egg McMuffin, and regular cappuccino (520 cal).
*He suggested replacing KFC mighty bucket for one meal and a large Pepsi (1670 cal) with KFC large popcorn chicken, regular BBQ beans and large Pepsi max (570 cal).
*He suggested replacing big tasty with bacon, large fries and large banana milkshake (1748 cal) with a bacon double cheeseburger, medium fries and small banana milkshake (1009 cal).
*He suggested replacing footlong Subway meatball marinara, Oreo muffin and 500ml Sprite (1711 cal) with 6-inch Subway meatball marinara, chocolate chunk cookie, and 500ml Sprite zero (797 cal).
The nutritionist wrote, “When you select large portion sizes you may want to ask yourself if this is truly required? If the answer is yes, then so be it. But if the answer no, you can select lower calorie equivalents and still enjoy the same palatable tastes and experiences.”
He added that Burger King or KFC may temporarily compromise your desired nutritional goal, but if you consume sufficient nutrients and balance energy elsewhere it absolutely doesn’t need to. “Thus, Burger King, KFC (or any fast food) need not automatically be labelled as a disaster by name alone,” he concluded by saying.
According to functional nutritionist Mugdha Pradhan, CEO and Founder, iThrive, however, the post is based on the overly simplistic calories-in-calories-out or CICO theory for obesity and weight loss which continues to dominate mainstream nutrition science despite vast amounts of data mounting to the contrary. “What the theory basically says is that the amount of weight you gain or lose is directly proportional to the net difference in your caloric consumption and spending(if you eat more calories than you burn, you lose weight and vice versa). While calorie intake is a definite factor in weight loss, it is just one factor among many,” she said.
The expert added that mostly, different conditions like hormonal issues, thyroid dysfunction, gut issues and infections, and toxin overload lie at the root cause of obesity for most people. “Hormonal health and the quality of food consumed, in particular, are much more important factors than the number of calories consumed. This has been demonstrated time and again in isocaloric diet studies(studies where two groups of people ate the same number of calories but with other factors such as the type of food altered between the two groups). The extreme popularity of ketogenic and low-carb diets today demonstrates the significance of hormonal health for fat loss since these diets primarily work by affecting our hormones, particularly insulin,” she explained further.
Pradhan said that while calorie restriction can create weight loss in the short term, starvation for long periods leads to stress. “The stress can even stall further weight loss after some initial success. Because when the body senses a deficiency of food it is stressed and holds on to fat. This is an evolutionary mechanism that helped us survive famines. On the contrary, when we eat to satiety, our bodies release a hormone called human growth hormone or HGH which enables fat-burning and muscle mass growth,” she said.
Shalini Arvind, Chief Dietitian, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru added that it is not necessary for snacks to always be considered unhealthy or ‘junk food’. “One can still enjoy snacks by being more mindful in selecting ingredients and preparing them. For instance, a churmuri can be ordered with less sev and papdi, a sandwich can be made with less butter and cheese. Also, there are many snack options that are rich in fibre and protein and provide us with nutrition and a feeling of fullness, such as usli or sundal, sprouts chat, corn bhel, and so on,” she said.