BEEF Editors' Blog

Moderation And Choices, Not Hysteria, Will Fight Obesity


Nanny-staters will tell you fast food is inherently bad, but one Iowa teacher demonstrated to his students that personal choices rule their health outcomes, not scare tactics and food menus.  

Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, “Supersize Me,” was quite a hit a decade ago. It was a 98-minute video that chronicled the physiological changes this particular Manhattan filmmaker underwent by eating at McDonald’s restaurants three times daily, every day, for a month. Spurlock didn’t exercise during the project, other than normal city walking, opted for “supersized” meals when offered, and ended up gaining 25 lbs., and experiencing depression, lethargy, loss of sex drive, etc.

I thought the whole concept was sort of anticlimactic. Just about anything in excess can be toxic, after all; drinking too much water can kill you. Nor is an all McDonald’s diet illustrative of most folks’ diet. While many folks aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables, and processed foods and snacks are overdone due to their convenience, very few folks eat only fast-food.

Nonetheless, the video was an interesting visual study – sort of like the thrill of watching a car accident. And it was a huge hit with the “nanny” folks who seek to regulate how, where and what we eat. It even was nominated for an Oscar, and Spurlock was able to parlay his notoriety into a more steady-paying gig for CNN.

I got to thinking about this Spurlock documentary recently upon seeing a report on an Ankeny, IA, science teacher named John Cisna who recreated the Spurlock exercise, but with one big difference – moderation and logic. In Cisna’s case, however, he ate nothing but McDonald’s offerings for three months and lost 37 lbs., and his cholesterol readings fell to 170 from 249.


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Cisna utilized his experience as a teaching moment for his students. His students helped him plan out a 2,000-calorie daily diet plan that consisted of only McDonald’s offerings. The report says their planning also strived to stay within the recommended daily allowances for carbohydrates, proteins, fat calories and cholesterol.

Typically, a McDonald’s breakfast for Cisna was two egg white delights, a bowl of maple oatmeal and 1% milk. He generally opted for salad for lunch, and dined on more traditional value meal for dinner, including items like Big Macs, ice creams and sundaes, the reports says.

I heard him interviewed on the radio recently and he said that he knew he would lose weight by making good food choices and employing moderation and regular exercise. “It’s our choices that make us fat,” Cisna told KCCI, “not McDonald’s.”

This piece isn't to defend one commercial outfit's menu over another, but to illustrate how important personal choice and responsibility are to our health profiles.  

Consider the lessons that Cisna has imparted to his charges during this project – critical thinking, planning, moderation, physical exercise and personal responsibility. Cisna is one heck of a teacher in my book.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Anonymous (not verified)
on Jan 16, 2014

Joe, A GREAT article!! Your closing comment, especially, was "spot on"!!

on Jan 17, 2014

Thanks, Anonymous. What a valuable life lesson John Cisna imparted to his students. Rather than baying at the moon about good foods and bad foods, he gave them the perspective to think and reason critically, and act for themselves. Cisna stated in the radio interview I heard that he knew that he would lose weight on his regime. He gave his students an imporant and lifelong gift -- not about eating at McDonald's, but about personal responsibility.

Ray Moses (not verified)
on Jan 17, 2014

Stupid articles like this make me want to finally unsubscribe to this publication. Seems like the beef industry is in denial about proper nutrition - high lighting McDonalds as a source of proper nutrition - good lord!

on Jan 17, 2014

I think you missed the point of the article. It wasn't to promote McDonald's menu but to illustrate the importance of personal responsibility and choice. Instead of hysteria about good foods and bad foods, isn't better to teach our kids about personal responsibility and moderation, etc.?

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What's BEEF Editors' Blog?

Everyday musings from BEEF Editors on the latest beef industry news and events.


Burt Rutherford

Burt has more than 35 years of experience communicating about beef industry issues. A Colorado native and graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in agricultural journalism, he now works...

Wes Ishmael

Among the industry’s most insightful thinkers, Wes Ishmael concentrates on industry price and market perspectives for BEEF magazine. Along with his monthly “Cattle Economics” column...

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