The “Starbucks Diet”: Mixing Fast Food & Weight Loss
Pumpkin-flavored treats are my favorite part of the fall, and I’m looking forward to enjoying my favorite fall-inspired drink from Starbucks: the pumpkin spice latte. I classify it as a treat because of the 38 grams of sugar that I drink when I order a Tall. But apparently, not all Starbucks fare is laden with sugar, because recently a Virginia librarian, Christine Hall, lost 76 lbs. by eating exclusively at Starbucks for two years.
We are a society infatuated with weight-loss stories (maybe because a recent study predicted that by 2030 over half of all Americans could be obese). But weight-loss stories that involve fast food restaurants seem to be especially interesting to us ever since Jared lost 250 lbs. eating at Subway. Since then, I’ve also read about a man who lost 80 lbs. by eating mainly at McDonald’s and a woman who lost 54 lbs. by eating primarily at Taco Bell.
These types of diets are not without their critics. In the article describing Hall’s Starbucks diet, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics cites the lack of variety and the difficulty of sustaining such a limited diet as problems, which can lead to malnourishment or regaining the weight. Aside from these issues, I think that these diets send the wrong message about what a healthy relationship with food looks like.
We tend to think of unhealthy relationships with food by the extremes: overeating or starving ourselves. But just like maintaining a healthy diet is about more than the amount of food we consume, so is maintaining a healthy relationship with food. It is not just about how much food we eat, but also about how eating makes us feel. I am a firm believer that we need to enjoy eating to have a healthy relationship with food. Eating shouldn’t be associated with negative emotions like anxiety, guilt, or shame. When we restrict our choices to the menu of a single restaurant, eating becomes an exercise in control and counting calories instead of a moment to savor the food that fuels us. We need to eat every day whether we fear food or enjoy it, so we might as well enjoy it.
We need to redefine the word ‘diet.’ When we say it, we normally mean adopting restrictive eating patterns. But there is a second definition that is a lot more conducive to enjoying our food: a diet is simply the kinds of foods a person normally eats. The first version means that we deprive ourselves of certain foods for a short amount of time, and the other means we develop sustainable eating habits that incorporate both the nutrients we need and the treats we occasionally crave. One means we constantly worry about what we eat, and the other frees us to enjoy eating. We need to focus on the meaning of diet that has room for a healthy lunch and the occasional pumpkin spice latte, instead of the meaning that makes us obsessively count calories at lunch and feel guilty if we have a pumpkin spice latte.
When I read Hall’s weight-loss story, I was happy she felt healthier, but I had to wonder, what happens when she stops eating only at Starbucks? What will her diet look like? If we want to remain healthy, sooner or later we have to come to terms with the fact that we can only restrict our eating patterns for so long, and we’ll need to establish a long-term diet. But if our relationship with food has been tainted with feelings of guilt or anxiety as a result of calorie-counting and deprivation, I feel it will be much harder to settle on a diet we can enjoy and sustain.
How do you feel about these fast food diets? How do you define a healthy relationship with food? Share with us in the comments below!
Written by Sully Moreno