I wonder what Morgan Spurlock would say about Rick Bower's new diet.
Spurlock is the “Supersize Me” filmmaker who famously ruined his health, at least in the short term, by documenting what happened when he ate a month's worth of meals at McDonald's.
But at our daughter's graduation party last weekend, Uncle Rick told me he's dropped a pants size by tweaking — but not giving up — his workday habit of eating both breakfast and lunch at McDonald's.
His motivation came from a video in which Dr. Terry Wahls describes how she reversed her increasingly debilitating multiple sclerosis with a serious nutrition upgrade.
I still haven't watched all of “Minding My Mitochondria,” Wahls' TED Talk from last fall. But the photos on her website are compelling: In 2007, she's using a motorized cart; a year later, the former national Tae Kwon Do champion's on an 18-mile cycling tour.
Rick's unorthodox method of ramping up his veggie intake by eating two McDonald's side salads for breakfast and two more at lunch surely wasn't quite what Wahls had in mind. But it's a major component of a dietary makeover that's worked for him — and it's a good example of how it's possible to take personal responsibility for your health no matter what kind of obstacles our gluttonous, fast-paced society presents.
It's not like Rick, who is 6-feet tall and has never weighed over 190, was looking to go on a diet. But after developing both high blood pressure and diabetes a few years ago, he's definitely paying more attention to his health.
Even before he saw Wahls' video, Rick wasn't pigging out at the McDonald's drive-thru. Breakfast was an unadorned biscuit and iced tea; lunch was McChicken and a small order of fries.
As he's entered his early 60s, he's eating less even though he and Aunt Jenny continue to eat many meals out. His most frequent order at Cracker Barrel these days is chicken over rice with baby carrots and green beans.
“Sometimes we split a meal,” he says. “I don't like to pay for food I'm not going to eat.”
Cost and convenience were factors as he considered how to revamp his workday fuel intake to include more vegetables. Salads were an obvious choice. As he puts it, “Food's food, whether you eat it for breakfast or lunch.”
But after getting frustrated by the cost and ingredients of most fast food salads (he doesn't like cheese or tomatoes), “I realized that two McDonald's side salads were enough to satisfy me for two bucks — and I like them just the way they are.” He splits one packet of French dressing between each pair of salads.
The crew at the Bluffton McDonald's had gotten used to his quirky drive-thru orders — no egg, bacon or cheese on his biscuit, for instance — but the breakfast salads required a whole new layer of adaptation, since they aren't on the morning menu.
“At first, they'd have me pull ahead while they made them up,” he said. “But after about 10 days or so, they'd know what to expect and they'd have it ready for me.”
This led me to joke about him “training” the staff at McDonald's, but Rick refuses to allow me to ridicule his fast-food servers.
“They've gone out of their way to accommodate me, and I appreciate it,” he said. “They're helpful.”
He claims he doesn't miss burgers, fries or chicken. Compared with what he eats now — dinners include more fish and veggies and much less red meat — he realizes even limited amounts of fast food were making him feel sluggish.
He's even gotten to the point where he enjoys eating salad for breakfast, though, if he's really hungry, he'll order an apple pie with his lunch “for dessert.”
He hasn't actually lost any weight, though he notes that was never really his goal when he made the switch about three months ago.
“I was just trying to eat healthier,” he says. “I weighed 170 when I started, and I still weigh 170. But I went down a pants size, from 36 to 34.”
He also reports he feels better than he has in a long time, though that may be partly due to the fact he had successful neck surgery a few months ago.
As for his diabetes, he notes that his blood sugar swings aren't as drastic now, but he hesitates to attribute that to his diet.
“I don't know if I've been doing this long enough for it to have had that much of an effect,” he explains.