Christine Hall went from a size Grande to a size Tall. That's Starbucks-speak for a dramatic weight loss. The Virginia-based law librarian has spent the past two years buying almost all of her meals from the coffee chain. On Thursday, in an interview with The Today Show, Hall claimed to have lost 76 pounds by sticking to a self-designed Starbucks-only diet. That's some serious brand-commitment.
It all started some two years back when Hall was rejected as a kidney donor because of her weight. At 200 pounds, an invasive surgery was too risky for her 5 foot 4 frame. So she turned to an unexpected place for help: a fast food chain. (And no, it wasn't Subway.)
Starbucks, the home of the whipped cream coffee drink is not exactly a dieter's haven. But with the chain conveniently located near Hall's two jobs, and a calorie count listed on every item behind the sneeze-guard, the 66-year-old saw the potential.
On an average day, she'd start with a 145 calorie breakfast of oatmeal and coffee and grab a bistro box of fruit and cheese for lunch. For dinner, she'd dig into a panini.
She began tracking her calorie intake in May of 2010 and by November, she had dropped 40 pounds thanks to a lot of BistroBoxes.
Restricting her diet to as little as 876 calories a day in order to drop 2 pounds a week, couldn't have been easy for Hall. In the past few years, Starbucks has become more of a milkshake shop than a coffee bar. A 24 oz Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha (Whole Milk, Whipped Cream) will set you back 700 calories, and that's without the side of food. What's another 490 calories from a Walnut Zucchini muffin at that point?
Most of the bakery options glistening behind the counter range between 350 and 450 calories. But heartier offerings are a better investment. Paninis and sandwiches range between 340 and 460 calories, while Bistro boxes of fruit and cheese or veggies and chicken range from 220 for 480 calories. It's a great option for a low-calorie quickie lunch, but if you're forking over Starbucks dollars three times a day it could get pricey.
Still, Hall has zero regrets about her diet. A year to the month after she was rejected from being an organ donor, she was given the okay by doctors to partake in a 32 person altruistic kidney swap.
Two years later, she's another 40 pounds lighter, weighing in at 114 pounds. She says she feels like she's 15 again. "I don't hurt anymore," Hall, who suffered from sleep apnea and joint problems at her heaviest, told The Today show. "I sleep like a baby and I have tons of energy. It's great."
Not everyone is as positive about the Starbucks diet. According to Marjorie Nolan Cohn, the National Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the diet is a "set up for disaster." Particularly concerning, says Cohen, is the "lack of variety, which sets you up for malnutrition, even if you are eating enough calories."
"Starbucks has a lot of good options but if that is all you are eating for two years you are severely limiting your intake," she tells Yahoo! Shine. "I think most other people would get bored and end up binging at some point. Not to mention the cost. This is simply not a realistic 'diet' for most people."
Consider Brett Bruce, a 35-year-old marketing consultant and father of two who embarked on his own Starbucks diet in March of 2010. On a 30-challenge to lose weight without exercising, he subsisted strictly on Starbucks food in hopes of dropping the pounds. His blog starbucksdiet.com, which tracked his progress, ended with a disappointing update.
"I do feel as if I may have plateau'd a bit," he writes on day 21, after dropping about 6 pounds from his 217 pound frame in the first two weeks. While he did credit the chain with getting him to eat more fruit than he ordinarily would have, he admits, "my weight has remained the same all week." That post, posted 9 days before his challenge ended, was his last update.