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QSR Feature
The 30-Day Challenge
Sharon Olson, president of Olson Communications, tests her will and waistline in a month-long experiment in which she only eats food from the top quick serves in the nation.
Sharon Olson's month-long diet of only fast food turned up some interesting insights.

Five years ago, Supersize Me was becoming a mini cult classic based on what I thought was a ridiculous premise. Why would someone change their lifestyle to eliminate exercise, eat at only one restaurant, unequivocally take instructions from an order taker, and intentionally damage their health? So at the time, I invited one of my colleagues to join me eating at only quick-serve restaurants for a month, not changing either of our lifestyles in any way other than where we dined.

It was an enlightening and not unpleasant experiment. For my younger colleague, it was not much of a change in her convenience-driven lifestyle that included a lot of quick-service food. For me, it was terrifying. I remember on Day Zero before we began, I started to panic at the thought of no dark chocolate, no colorful vegetables, no wine with my meals, and, worst of all, eating from disposable tableware. Using the QSR 50 list gave us a lot more variety and at the end of the month, our follow-up health tests showed absolutely no changes in our general health. I was also six pounds thinner, probably a result of the portion control and lack of variety, but felt generally invigorated from the experience.

The experiment left me with a more enlightened perspective and some new favorite restaurants. Now, fast forward five years to present day.

When I chose to repeat the experiment five years later, I looked at this year’s QSR 50 list with some enthusiasm and the satisfaction of knowing that my five favorites were still on the list. I decided to ease into the culinary adventure by starting with my favorites: Chipotle, Einstein Bros., Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Panera.

Lots of things had changed, but some of my favorite menu items had not. Chipotle’s carnitas had not changed and they never should. I had traveled all over Mexico in the last five years and never found any better. And the menu had not become complicated, nor had the company branched out to other items that did not fit its focus. The food was authentic and the service never failed.

Einstein had branched out with new offerings, but all in the same context that never disappointed. In my first experiment, I became a creature of habit, always ordering the lox and bagel for breakfast, but I have to admit the new egg white breakfast wrap tasted so great, I had to add it to my morning repertoire during my second try this summer.

Starbucks had always been a mainstay for my favorite beverage and I knew the lingo, so ordering was easy. Five years ago the food failed again and again, but now I found some simple, delicious choices. The oatmeal with premium toppings is healthful and absolutely craveable.

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