Young and Hungry

The Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet: You Don’t Even Have to Lift Your Ass from the Car to Lose Weight!

Whoever devised the name of the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet deserves a place in the marketing hall of fame, right next to the dudes who conjured up the Crystal Clear Amoco Ultimate premium gasoline ("better for the environment"!) and the Cheerios heart-healthy campaign ("Clinically PROVEN to Help Reduce Cholesterol!").

It's the phrase "Drive-Thru" that's pure genius. That simple hyphenated word triggers a dopamine reaction faster than a line of high-grade coke. Think of all the many pleasurable associations Americans have with the drive-thru: hamburgers, childhood, convenience, french fries, comfort, soft drinks, Ronald McDonald, music, summer, chocolate shakes, practical jokes, Jack Black, and baristas in bikinis.  

That's advertising gold right there, even if Taco Bell is shamelessly searching for its own iconic Jared to trot across these fair states to promote the "benefits" of the chain's Fresco menu. (By the way, you have to admire the cojones of a so-called Mexican chain for using a word of Italian-German origin in its marketing.) 

Well, it's pretty clear, despite Taco Bell's mad pulling of the levers, Wizard of Oz-style, that poor Christine Dougherty is no Jared Fogle. Dougherty lost a mere 54 pounds (compared to Fogle's 235) by reducing her intake to a near starvation diet of 1,250 calories a day, which is a good 400 calories less than what the Mayo Clinic recommends for an inactive woman, age 30, who is 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 130 pounds.

Dougherty could down another Fresco burrito supreme a day and still have cals to spare.

It's also pretty obvious that the Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet is no diet at all. It says so right in the fine print of the ad.

Here are two of several disclaimers slipped into the bottom of the screen during Taco Bell's commercial:

  • "150-340 calories. Not a low calorie food." (Presumably, they're talking about the seven items on the Fresco Menu.)
  • "Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet is not a weight loss program. Pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular exercise."

In other words, pay no attention to the message of this commercial. According a recent article in Advertising Age, the Drive-Thru Diet idea has seriously backfired for Taco Bell. Check out this pertinent section of the story:

According to Zeta Buzz, which mines blogs, message boards and social media postings to measure buzz about a subject, Taco Bell's buzz rating has dropped six points after launching the diet. While volume of posts increased 44%, the tone has become more negative.

Prior to launch, posts were 73% positive, putting it ahead of beloved chains like Subway, Wendy's and Domino's. Words associated with the brand online were "love," "delicious," and "favorite." Postings are now 67% positive, putting Taco Bell behind White Castle, Blimpie and Arby's, which rank among the category's lower tier. Now three of the words most closely associated with Taco Bell and its campaign have been "fat," "stop," and "joke."

Somehow I don't see CBS doing a story, years from now, about Dougherty turning into the Taco Bell Gal.

  • Nikki

    I would do this diet but the only Taco Bell I know of in DC doesn't have a drive-thru. This is not the walk up to the counter diet! Damn it!

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  • Former Staffer

    As a two time Taco Hell employee from my teen years...all I can say is Oatmeal in the Meat and Chicken Powder in the Vegetarian Fire Sauce.

    Seriously, it's right on the box.

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  • Churro

    Who takes a picture in a bikini sitting in the marshes?

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  • Aaron

    The Taco Bell Drive-Thru Diet….weight loss miracle or a great big load of corporate bullsh*t?

  • Judester

    Hmmm....well 340 calories is pretty low -- about the same as a weight watchers frozen dinner. I think Taco Bell positioned this all wrong. If people eat dinner or lunch from a drive-thru an average of 10 times a month (the Advertising Age article gave that stat), then eating something that's 340 calories isn't too bad. Big Macs / Quarter Pounders are 540 and 510 respectively...and then there's the fries with dat! YEAH! Yep. Bad positioning. Don't compare yourself to a diet - you'll lose (although I'm not even convinced on that point, to be honest); compare yourself to other drive-thru options.

  • Judester

    And the fat isn't that high, either. I think I'm going to drive my fat ass thru taco bell tonight!

    Not. Because it's friday and I want my full caloric due.

  • Helena Himm

    Am I the only one who doesn't like Taco Bell? lol =)

  • RT

    Yeah, the calories are low, but the sodium is through the roof and there's a lack of fiber, according to a dietitian at

  • hoodia

    Please, can you PM me and tell me only some more thinks on this, I am really fan of your blog...

  • Jasmine

    LOL at walk up to the counter diet! But seriously, I don't know why this article is hating on the Taco Bell diet!? I think it's genius! A tasty low calorie meal at a drive thru is exactly what America needs. It's better driving up and asking for the Taco Bell Drive Thru Diet (two Fresco Soft Steak Tacos and a diet pepsi) for 310 calories than it is driving up to McDonalds for a Big Mac meal biggie sized which would equal 1490 calories (seriously, that's how many calories are in a big mac, fries and a pepsi super sized). It's really a no brainer. It's a lot simpler than Subway, which the calories can sky rocket if you chose the wrong combination and a lot tastier and sensible than Wendy's, Burger King, Popeye's and KFC Original. It seems like Taco Bell is genuinely trying to make a change and give people a healthier yet very tasty alternative. It's a shame this article is so negative, picking at the fact that they don't consider it an actual diet or low calorie meal. Hmm, 310 vs 1490 calories - You do the math.