Saturday, July 16, 2005


It's helping a fatty get slim!

There are many reasons Merab Morgan decided in April to eat nothing but McDonald's fast food for 90 days. There's her weakness for the Filet-O-Fish, slathered with tartar sauce and cheese. And there was that documentary, "Super Size Me," which she thought insulted the intelligence of fat people by implying that they couldn't resist the offer of a gargantuan portion for a few cents extra. But mainly, the 35-year-old Henderson, N. C., woman concocted this unorthodox diet for herself -- she's memorized the calories in almost every menu item, and limits herself to 1,400 calories a day -- because it fits her life.

At a cost of $9 to $11 for three meals, the single mother of two can afford it. She travels throughout the Raleigh area working construction jobs, and she has never failed to find a McDonald's somewhere. The whole process of ordering and eating a meal takes maybe 5 minutes, and she mostly eats in her car. Sometimes she hits the drive-through only once, ordering enough food to last the whole day. "It's kind of like the poor man's diet," said Morgan, who has tried Weight Watchers and Atkins but failed because of the time and money those plans required. She logged onto but lied to the computer about her weight, then gave up when a chicken recipe called for ingredients she didn't have at home.

Since April 22, when Morgan launched her diet with a Sausage Burrito and a medium Diet Coke, she's lost 33 pounds, putting her at about 195 pounds. At 5 feet, 9 inches tall, she's dropped from a size 22 or 24 to a size 15. The size 2X and 3X T-shirts she used to wear look like dresses on her. And despite her friends' fears about skyrocketing cholesterol, she feels great.

Barry Popkin, director of the Interdisciplinary Obesity Center at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a professor of nutrition and public health, has studied the relationship between large fast-food portions and the obesity epidemic. Eating only at McDonald's isn't healthy, he said. He worries that Morgan will need more vitamins, minerals, fiber and dairy. But on the plus side, she's doing a good job of limiting her calories and, consequently, she's losing weight. "She's created, for her lifestyle, a very smart diet," Popkin said. "The moral of the story for every person is, you've got to work out a plan that fits your lifestyle. ... I really admire her restraint. The problem is, it's a lifetime issue."

Morgan dreams of becoming the McDonald's Corp.'s Jared Fogle, the Subway weight-loss poster boy. She figures she might as well find a way to make some money from the experience. So she's been faithfully documenting her diet, stapling receipts in a spiral-bound notebook and propping up her Sony Handycam on the dash, filming herself at each meal. She's been courting the attention of local newspapers and TV stations, inviting reporters to her home and to the McDonald's/Citgo gas station in Henderson, where she picks up many of her meals.

Still, she knows about McDonald's Unsolicited Idea Policy. "We love you, my public. But unless you're a franchise owner, we appreciate all your good ideas, but keep them to yourself," Morgan paraphrased. Morgan's goal is to lose 40 to 60 pounds. By Day 67, she had lost 33. Nothing at the restaurant is off limits, although she's only eaten french fries twice -- you're better off eating two cheeseburgers, she said. It hasn't been easy. She'd been consuming about 3,500 calories a day, and cutting that down to a third left her feeling hungry for the first few weeks. Morgan doesn't have a recommendation for others who might want to try the diet. "I think other people should do what works for them," she said.



The words Confederate Memorial Hall — words that evoke images of slavery for some people and fallen heroes for others — will remain inscribed in stone on a Vanderbilt University building after a three-year legal battle. Vanderbilt decided not to appeal a state court ruling ordering that the Nashville school either keep the inscription on the building or pay damages that could have topped $1 million to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, university spokes-man Michael Schoenfeld said yesterday. The UDC's Tennessee division raised $50,000 during the Great Depression to help pay for the building, which was part of the former George Peabody College for Teachers at the time, and vigorously challenged Vanderbilt's plans to remove the name in 2002. Peabody merged with Vanderbilt in 1979.

Schoenfeld said the university, which had hoped to create what it considered a more welcoming environment by taking down a word some find offensive, is dropping the matter and leaving the full name on the 70-year-old residence hall. "We believed the best option for Vanderbilt at this time was to move on," he said. "Taking on this issue was something important for the university to do, and taking it any further was reaching a point of diminishing returns."

UDC representatives said they were thrilled by the decision, which followed a May 3 ruling by the Tennessee Court of Appeals. "Slavery was terrible, and the Civil War was terrible in terms of the blood shed," said Doug Jones, a Nashville-based attorney for the organization. "But we don't need to forget it."

Vanderbilt said that simply bringing attention to the issue was a victory, and that the building's new name in all other official references, Memorial Hall, was taking hold on campus. The legal fight concerned only the Confederate Memorial Hall inscription on the building's stone pediment. The Court of Appeals ruled that the inscription must stay up as long as the building does.....

But Jones and Deanna Bryant, president of the UDC's Tennessee division, said most of the soldiers honored by Confederate Memorial Hall were not slave owners. They were simply men "trying to defend their homes," said Jones, who is a former president of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society. "It's a victory for the entire South," Bryant, who lives in Franklin, said of the decision to keep the inscription on the building. "Regardless, the War Between the States happened. Just because somebody doesn't like something, you can't erase it from the history books."

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