By Pete Williams
In 2003, Morgan Spurlock ate every meal for a month at McDonald’s. He consumed nothing else and did not work out or train. He gained 25 pounds and by the end of the month suffered from liver dysfunction and depression.
Spurlock’s journey, chronicled in the documentary Supersize Me, demonstrated what happens when you consume nothing but high-fat, processed food for a month.
For the last few years, I’ve eaten at Chipotle Mexican Grill roughly 15 to 20 times a month. Chipotle should never be compared to McDonald’s. Yes, the food is served fast and McDonald’s once invested a ton of money in Chipotle. But the Golden Arches did not create Chipotle. Steve Ells did in 1993 and though the Colorado chef took money from McDonald’s, he never took direction from the company. When Chipotle went public in 2006, McDonald’s cashed out and walked away.
Unlike the processed McDonald’s food, Chipotle operates under a “Food with Integrity” philosophy, using whenever possible meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones, dairy from cows raised without the use of synthetic hormones, and sourcing organic and local produce when practical.
I’ve dropped 20 pounds since starting to eat regularly at Chipotle in 2005, going from 175 to 155, a large shirt to a small, a 33-inch waist to a 30, and while there are multiple reasons (obstacle racing, triathlon, stand-up paddleboarding, green smoothies, and writing Core Performance fitness books with Mark Verstegen), the common thread has been eating roughly four times a week at Chipotle.
In July, I wrote about my experience eating at Chipotle, which began in 2002 when Verstegen introduced me to the chain in Phoenix. (Chipotle did not arrive in the Tampa Bay area where I live until 2005). Mark and I have eaten at Chipotle frequently when working on books, including our sixth (Every Day is Game Day), which comes out in January.
I wondered what might happen if I pulled a semi-Spurlock and ate at Chipotle at least once every day for a month. Would I gain weight? Lose more weight? Get sick of the food?
Last night, Halloween, I completed my 31-day, everyday Chipotle Diet. I lost four pounds, going from 155 to 151. I ate at Chipotle at least once a day and on four occasions consumed both lunch and dinner there. (Rumor has it Chipotle is considering offering breakfast and hopefully it will expand its Asian-themed Shophouse Southeast Asian Kitchen concept to Florida soon.)
I picked October to add to the degree of difficulty. It’s 31 days and includes Halloween, which now consists of two party weekends before the actual event itself. The month also includes my birthday and that of my nephew, who celebrated with a chocolate mousse-filled cake from Costco. October also includes two triathlons on my calendar with incredible post-race spreads. (I only worked the events this year, instead of racing them, adding to the challenge.)
You can’t order just anything at Chipotle and lose weight. My typical burrito, according to ChipotleCalorieCalculator.com, weighs in at 650 calories, with 46 grams of protein and 66 grams of carbs. That’s relatively modest, certainly right for a 155-pound – make that 151-pound – endurance athlete.
Here’s my usual order: burrito bowl with one scoop of brown rice, fajita peppers, black beans, half chicken and half carnitas, mild and medium salsas, guacamole and lettuce. Sometimes I substitute hot salsa for medium. Sometimes I’ll go with no meat. Sometimes I just order a bowl of chicken.
Here’s what I don’t order: tortilla (290 calories and 44 grams of empty carbs), white rice, pinto beans, steak, barbacoa, corn salsa, or dairy products (cheese, sour cream).
Were I to put the same burrito on a tortilla with cheese and sour cream, however, I would end up with an 1,160-calorie, foil-wrapped, 112-carb bomb with a whopping 2,710 mg of sodium – more than the 2,300 mg daily allowance recommended by the U.S. Health and Human Services.
My burrito has 1,920 mg of sodium, still a concern but at least lower.
Last night, in between rounds of trick-or-treating with the kids, we ate dinner at Chipotle, which offered $3 burritos to those in costume as part of an annual Halloween charity fundraiser. I ordered my usual. The place was so jammed with teenagers in costume that the server behind the glass knocked out my burrito – as well as those of our sons – before I got to the counter.
You know you eat at Chipotle a lot when you can order without pointing or speaking. (My wife, who eats there occasionally, had to order conventionally.)
So my 31 days at Chipotle is over. Unlike Spurlock, I don’t need medical attention. I feel great, ready to tackle work challenges and the next races on the calendar.
And I still love the food. Heck, I’ll probably have lunch there today.