I’m in a fowl mood.
There’s a hot “diet” that’s making waves on the Web. No, it doesn’t involve kale, and there’s no juice, either. It’s just chicken — specifically, from New York City’s newest clucking chain: Chick-fil-A. And I decided to take it as far as I could in its most literal sense. The details of what’s being billed as the “Chick-fil-A diet” and “the chicken nugget cleanse” by media outlets come printed right on the chain’s takeout bags.
“Kick off the New Year by adding one healthy habit to your routine,” they read. “Here’s a good one: Eat smaller meals (like an 8-count pack of grilled chicken nuggets) every three to four hours.”
Chick-Fil-A suggests adding "one healthy habit" to your day, like eating chicken nuggets every three hours pic.twitter.com/PO3ADjyWUZ
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger_sherman) January 27, 2016
So I went for it. Specifically, I aimed to eat a 140-calorie serving of eight grilled chicken nuggets every three hours for a full 24-hour span. Like any die-hard American, I love fast food. And like most people, I also love quick-and-dirty solutions to feeling healthy while still being able to eat junk. Honestly, my loafers couldn’t carry me to the Chick-fil-A location on 37th Street and Sixth Avenue fast enough.
The news of this dietary regimen broke this weekend, and obviously, the Internet completely exploded.
“The future is fast-food cleanses!” announced Cosmopolitan. “The future isn’t so bad! (But most people are dead. R.I.P. humanity.)”
“With 530 grams of sodium, they’re well under the daily limit of 2,300 grams recommended in US dietary guidelines,” wrote the Huffington Post. “And they have less than one-third of the daily cholesterol limit for healthy people.”
Here’s how my “cleanse” went down.
1:45 p.m.: “Can I get 10 eight-piece grilled chicken nuggets?” I asked with cheer when I arrived at the Chick-fil-A counter. It was more than I needed, but if the chicken-only diet treated me kindly, I wouldn’t have minded expanding the 24-hour period into something greater. As advertised, the diet doesn’t specify anything about the use of side sauces or beverages. So I also picked up a variety of the chain’s dips — including everything from 45-calorie packs of barbecue sauce to a 140-calorie container of Chick-fil-A sauce — and a diet lemonade (healthy, right?). The 10 boxes of nuggets alone cost $50.90, not including tax.
2:30 p.m.: I arrived back at my desk feeling hungry and immediately opened my first pack of nuggets. Bite-sized and bearing grill marks, the pieces were bathed in a puddle of oil (hopefully vegetable) and came lightly seasoned (with what specifically, I’m not sure). Though a very strong scent of grilled chicken quickly permeated my cubicle area, they actually tasted pretty good. Suddenly, 24 hours of chicken nuggets didn’t seem so daunting.
5 p.m.: Waiting until 5:30 for my next dose of tender chicken bites was challenging. Turns out I was hungrier than I thought at 2:30, and those eight nuggets hardly made a dent in my appetite. All I could focus on was more food — to the point where it distracted me from a deadline. By 5, I couldn’t take it any longer. I microwaved the second eight-piece serving, dipped it into some honey mustard (only an extra 45 calories per container!) and felt much better.
7:30 p.m.: I was next due to eat at 8:30 — dinner, I guess? — but I still felt fine at the gym while doing a high-intensity 40-minute session on the elliptical machine. Actually, I felt terrific. I ran with more vigor than usual and ended up burning 515 calories — easily metabolizing those two eight-piece servings from earlier. For a second, I thought about staying until 9 to do weights, but then reconsidered so I could arrive home for the next batch of nuggets. “Maybe there is something to this ‘cleanse,’ ” I thought to myself.
8:25 p.m.: Things started to get hairy on my three-block walk home from the gym. My energy completely vanished, hunger pangs set in and I began to feel lightheaded. With few calories consumed since 2:30, coupled with a workout, I was like a car running on a low tank of fuel. I burst through my door and immediately microwaved another eight nuggets. Just for the sake of more calories — 110, to be precise — I ate them with Chick-fil-A’s tangy Polynesian dipping sauce. I was so hungry that, even after I inhaled the chicken, I ate the leftover sauce with a spoon. Good thing I live alone. Thirsty, and simply in need of something else in my belly, I chugged a large glass of milk. And that’s just gross.
9:30 p.m.: It still wasn’t enough. I spent the next hour on my couch feeling sluggish, asking myself if I really had to wait another two hours to eat the next batch at 11:30 before bed. It obviously didn’t happen: In a fit, I heated up another eight and perked right up. My apartment double-reeked of chicken.
8:15 a.m.: On any normal day, I eat a breakfast of fruit and oatmeal, then wash it all down with a mug of coffee. But after a full night of sleep, I microwaved more nuggets, dipped them into a 110-calorie container of Chick-fil-A ranch dressing, then chased it with my normal cup of joe. It was my fifth serving of eight grilled nuggets in 18 hours, and I began to feel some heartburn coming on. The lingering smell of chicken, plus the mere chicken-and-coffee combo so early in the morning, also made me feel a bit nauseated on top of it. “Mind over matter,” I encouraged myself.
9:20 a.m.: Convinced the oily smell was seeping through my skin, I sprayed on some extra cologne before heading out to work. I felt sluggish, still a bit sick, and missed my train. The next one came — it was packed — and I boarded. One stop later, I got a cold sweat, and I felt a rising feeling in my esophagus. For a second, it was difficult to swallow. Something was about to get nasty on a subway full of people. Yes, I really thought I was about to blow chunks in front of everyone. Is that the key to a “cleansing” diet? Luckily, I deep-breathed myself through it and managed to keep it together the remaining 30 minutes.
11:30 a.m.: “Do I have to?” I asked myself when I looked at the next round of freshly nuked grilled nuggets. My tummy had since settled, and I didn’t want to have another close call. Needless to say, I took my time to get to them. I ate them without any condiments. I felt fine after eating them, and that feeling lasted a while. The next — and last — installment was at 2, but I decided to call it off. I had had enough. I took the four remaining boxes out of the fridge and left them out for any co-worker who dared to try the all-chicken regimen. I’m not sure who grabbed them later, but I do hope they’re enjoying those nuggets with some vegetables — that’s a balanced meal.