I have to say, folks here in the Netherlands are in general really friendly to Americans and appreciative of American culture. Wanna know how appreciative they can get? How about a thirty-day diet experiment recently carried out by the former food editor of the Algemeen Dagblad, Wim Meij, in which he ate nothing but what was on the McDonalds menu? Yes, you’re right – the very same schtick around which Morgan Spurlock built the movie that has been in circulation in the US for months now (and which opens here tomorrow, perhaps not so coincidentally), namely Super Size Me. Except that note: Meij turns out to have lost almost 14 pounds during this experience, and to have ended up generally with better health than he started with!

The whole tale is told in an article in Dutch (naturally) in today’s Algemeen Dagblad (also naturally): Thinner After 30-Day Fastfood Diet – free registration required.

As would also follow – and as you would hope – Meij was accompanied in the entire experiment by a specialist in internal medicine from the University of Leiden Medical Center, Jaap Fogteloo, and dietician Kirsten Berk from that same institution. The results: He lost 6,3 kilos of weight (almost 14 pounds), his blood pressure was lower afterwards, his waist dimension 5 cm smaller, and even his blood-quality (bloedwaardes) was better. And yes, his experience was basically the same as Morgan Spurlock’s: only allowed to eat at McDonalds, and he had to eat at some point everything on the menu. But I don’t know whether he followed the rule of acceding to every suggestion from behind-the-counter personnel to “super-size” a given order; perhaps they don’t do that here. (I don’t know; I myself eat at McDonalds here exceedingly rarely.) In any case, on this associated webpage the AD presents a sample daily menu for Meij put together by Ms. Berk. It might be worth checking out; you should be able to understand most of it, especially if you have successfully navigated the AD’s free registration procedures in order to gain access to that webpage in the first place. Ontbijt = “breakfast”; tussendoor = “snack,” and you can see a full three of those listed for that one day! Fristi is actually a locally-produced chocolate milk drink, while Spa blauw is simply mineral water with no bubbles; I know you won’t find those on the American McDonalds menu that Spurlock had to choose from, so that’s why I describe Meij’s experiment as “basically the same.” There’s still plenty of “Cola light” and koffie – you know what that is – there, too.

Our internal medicine specialist Fogteloo was not particularly surprised by the experiment’s results. It’s not the food per se, he opined, it’s what you do with it – and also what you do during other times than when you’re sitting down to eat. In any case, he said, “It’s clear that you don’t get fat by definition at McDonalds.” The company itself supposedly knew nothing about what was going on, but was naturally highly pleased with the results. Said general director of McDonalds Nederland, Paul van der Stoel: “Meij shows that you can eat responsibly at our place by making conscious choices. [On the other hand] Spurlock makes a caricature. The results of his experiment say more about him than about us.”

At this point the article carries on to note that Spurlock did not intend Super Size Me to be an attack on McDonalds per se as on the American eating lifestyle. Quoth he: “We eat too much, get too little exercise, and don’t think about what we’re shoving inside.” And, on the other hand, it’s not as if Dr. Fogteloo is ready to endorse an all-McDonalds diet for anyone. Rather, he recommends the Guidelines for Healthy Eating (a name which is also capitalized in the Dutch, which makes me think that these are some sort of an official government thing; that wouldn’t be surprising here, but a quick Google check revealed nothing). “And move around more,” he added. “Then it’s no problem if you eat a few times per month at McDonalds.”

UPDATE: A reporter from the London Times tries the same stunt, but only for a week, and also ends up losing weight. He writes about his experience day-by-day, in an article that for whatever strange reason is not (yet?) behind the Times’ pay-for-view wall (McDieting but not lovin’ it), in English of course.

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