Mimi Roth is Bullshit!

(with honorable mention to Rogan Kirsch)

If you didn’t get a chance to catch Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! episode on Fast Food, it was pretty good. Very, very Fat Headesque, which is essentially to skewer the notion that fast food is responsible for obesity by means of an “evil” industry preying upon a “stupid” public.

While I’m not a cheerleader for fast food, I do hold a couple of positions on it — aside from the obvious one that it’s none of anyone’s fucking business what others choose to eat or how much of it.

  1. Aside from the sugary drinks & desserts, and deep fried fare, the food is generally nutritious.
  2. It’s inexpensive, allowing low-income families who work a lot to do as well or better nutritionally than they might otherwise.
  3. It’s generally clean and safe.
  4. It’s better than Hot Pockets, Pop Tarts, Cheerios or hosts of other things found in the central isles of the local supermarket.

In Fat Head, Tom Naughton interviews Eric Oliver, author of Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America’s Obesity Epidemic and who, as I recall, made a good case that pretty much the whole of the average weight gain of Americans can be accounted for by the massive increase in the consumption of sugar drinks (including fruit juice) over the past decades. Basically, you’re talking about high caloric density in something that’s nutritionally vapid while offering nothing in terms of satiation — and in fact is probably quite the opposite once the insulin over-spike has done its thing.

No, in my view the best reason to shun fast food is simply optimality in nutrition. But on the other hand let’s admit that one thing fast food has going for it is: meat. Very nearly all of their menu selections have decent protein content. So before we continue here’s a clip from the program.

And, yea, Rogan “nudge nudge” Kirsch is a busybody dipshit too. He wants more government regulations aimed at fast food, artificially raising prices in order to “nudge” consumers into behaving according to his values.

In another interesting segment Penn & Teller profiled some professor at, I believe, Cornell who studies food habits and perceptions in a laboratory made into a dining room, where they feed people in a restaurant setting. In one experiment they served a ~950 kcal taco salad from Taco Bell where the bowl is a giant crispy tortilla.

Taco Salads from Taco Bell
Taco Salads from Taco Bell

Now aside from the grain represented by the flour tortilla, that looks like pretty nutritious fare. But one group was actually told their salads were from Taco Bell. Asked various questions while eating them, the answers were uniformly negative; i.e., “heavy,” “not very healthy,” “bad for you,” etc. Perfect guit-laden responses, as aimed for by the likes of Roth & Kirsch. And when asked to guess the caloric content, every person guessed extremely and surprisingly close, 900-1000 calories. Then, another group was served the exact same salad but were told that it was from some fancy local restaurant with an upscale sounding name. Asked the very same questions, answers were uniformly positive: “light,” “healthy,” “nutritious,” “good for you” and so on. And the guesses on calories? 400-500.

Pretty enlightening. So let’s take a look at the actual nutrition in their taco salad offerings (click to enlarge).

Nutrition Information
Nutrition Information

While not my choice, it does have a decent amount of fat (about 50% of calories) and a good portion of that is coming from the meat, avocado and sour cream — all excellent sources — and very respectable level of protein. The carbs, while high-ish for a single meal, aren’t that bad, particularly if no sugar drink is consumed along with it. A person could eat two of these per day exclusively and likely lose weight at 1,800 kcals or less, 50% calories from fat, adequate protein, and moderate carbohydrate of 150g per day at most.

So what is that skinny bitch, Meme Roth, yammering on about? And Rogan Kirsch? What’s his problem (other than the appearance of just having had an enormous suppository inserted)?

The aim here isn’t to hold up fast food joints as beacons of healthy eating. They’re places where it’s possible to get adequate to good nutrition when one is sensible about their own choices. But: I’d wager that in terms of enormous portions and hidden calories that your local TGI’s, Chili’s, Applebee’s, and so forth in that market, are far worse. Well shit on a shingle…let’s look.

Just scan through the Taco Bell nutrition info in one tab, then do the same with Chili’s nutrition info (PDF) in another. See what I mean? Taco Bell has not one single menu item over 1,000 calories while Chili’s must have dozens of them. Taco Bell has a single item at 1,000 calories exactly, their “volcano nachos.” All four of Chili’s nacho selections exceed that and one of them comes in at 1,690. Let’s just take a look at Chili’s appetizer and dessert offerings; you know, the stuff they try to get you to oder before and after the enormously portioned main course (click to enlarge).

Chilis Appetizers
Chili’s Appetizers
Chilis Desserts
Chili’s Desserts

Now, if I did the math correctly, the 21 appetizer offerings come to an average caloric load of 1,010 per item. This is before you get your oversize portion of whatever. The desserts average out to 759. So let’s do a little math. We’ll start you off with a 16 oz sugar drink at 200 kcal, split the app for 505, dig into a median calorie oversize main course with 2 sides included at 1,300, and then finish it off splitting a dessert at 380. Total damage: 2,385.

That’s about 500 calories more than if you ate two of Taco Bell’s taco salads with the highest caloric load.

Now, tell me, who do these fast-food fascists think they’re fooling? …And did you catch Meme employ the inclusive “we” when referring to the “stupid” American public the “evil” fast food companies are exploiting?

You didn’t buy that, did you? Didn’t think so.

Update: Here’s an 8:25 minute YouTube clip of the show. Lots of good ‘ole f-bombs, skewering of assholes, magic and humor. Watch it while it lasts.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Tweets that mention Mimi Roth is Bullshit! | Free The Animal -- on June 19, 2010 at 04:27

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brad Wilson, jedidja and Richard Nikoley, melissa mcewen. melissa mcewen said: RT @rnikoley: Mimi Roth is Bullshit! […]

  2. Melissa McEwen on June 18, 2010 at 16:02

    Mimi Roth is bullshit. Her rhetoric is to deal with health problems using a combination of hate mongering towards larger people and fascism. In her mind, the public is a bunch of dumb cows that should be tied down and forced to eat lettuce flavored lettuce with lettuce on top. It’s no wonder people give up on losing weight. Guilt and deprivation? They are being perfectly rational to reject that in favor of Taco Bell.

    That’s why I love the paleo diet- it’s not about hating yourself for being overweight, it’s about eating food that makes you feel good in order to live a long healthy life. If you lose weight that’s great, but that’s just one of so many benefits. And it’s not about eating a bowl of flavorless pinto beans, it’s about delicious nutritious fat.

  3. Chaohinon on June 18, 2010 at 16:05

    Mimi boasts about feeding her kids a breakfast of “spinach and egg whites”. By leaving out the yolks, YOU ARE DEPRIVING YOUR CHILDREN OF ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS, DUMBASS. And say hello to even further nutrient deficiency due to the lack of fat solubility. Those poor kids must be starving well before lunchtime comes around.

  4. mike mallory on June 18, 2010 at 16:28

    I think ‘good to adequate’ nutrition from a fast food restaurant is really goin’ out on a limb……..Yeah there’s protein, but a whole host of chemicals/drugs, and other nonsense that creates havoc all across the board.

    When I can get grass fed beef for $2 a lb…….I find it incredibly hard to justify fast food in any respect. I don’t live in the inner city, but the fast food companies just don’t put any effort into the matter.

    • Bay Area Sparky on June 18, 2010 at 16:52


      Richard can defend himself but I wanted to chime in on your comment.

      Yes, the ideal is for us to prepare and consume extremely healthy, fresh, and nutritious foods that has been raised in accordance with the standards set by nature, not agri-business. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Moreover, I don’t think anyone is advocating fast food as the end-all, be-all of eating.

      I think the point is that for a person who is armed with a little knowledge and discipline, it IS possible to incorporate fast food into one’s diet without severe adverse effects and even possibly with some benefit (protein).

      As for chemicals and drugs…I’m guessing you’re alluding to the antibiotics and ingredients often found in fast foods…but as has been pointed out, fast food is no worse (and possibly better) than those prepared foods one buys at the supermarket (what Richard refers to as Frankenfoods). And again, it’s about what you order. For instance, I would stay away from cheese sauces and things like that.

      As Richard stated, stay away from the liquid sugar bombs and minimize the carbs and deep fried stuff (unless it’s fried in something good). I’ll eat a Carl’s Jr. burger wrapped in lettuce (no processed cheese, please) and I have other strategies for enjoying the convenience and budget indulgence of fast food eating.

      BTW, I’ll be 50 years old very soon and no one has ever accused me of being in anything but excellent physical shape and health. My diet is not perfect but it’s pretty damn good and very manageable.

      • mike mallory on June 18, 2010 at 17:12

        I’m with ya there, but respectfully, I just cant condone it……..

      • Richard Nikoley on June 18, 2010 at 17:18

        I think the word I’d use Mike is ‘encourage’ rather than condone. I want to discourage people from eating fast regularly. I also want to discourage them from filling their carts from the center isles (we’re far from the topic of local fruit/veggies and grass fed & pastured meat). And given a choice between the two and considering the middle isle stuff is always at hand in the cupboards, advantage fast, in my view.

      • bob r on June 20, 2010 at 20:50

        Good thing it’s really not up to you to “condone” what _other_ people eat. What other people eat is no more subject to being condoned by you (or me, or the next guy down the street) than it is to being approved. The food people choose to eat may be more or less “healthy” but it is not a matter of “right” or “wrong”.

    • Paul Verizzo on June 18, 2010 at 20:04

      Grass fed beef for $2/lb????????? The tripe, maybe?

      Considering that SAD beef is at least 50% more, and up, I don’t see how.

    • Jesrad on June 19, 2010 at 00:27

      Not everyone lives in the USA… Here, grassfed beef is about six times the price you quote, whereas fast-food is pretty much identical in contents and price, except it uses locally-produced ingredients.

  5. Bay Area Sparky on June 18, 2010 at 16:32

    Mimi’s children are helpless victims, so that is sad.
    It’s bad enough hearing about kids that are vegans by their own misguided (and perhaps well-intentioned “value system”).

    But it’s almost tragic that some parents are now literally shoving this sort of diet down their children’s throats, before the young person can make the decision for themselves. The fact that this sort of brainwashing is prevalent in areas well beyond nutrition doesn’t make it any more palatable. But I’m straying into a different conversation.

    The upside is that Mimi’s kids will have a hard time bringing enough energy and verve into their lives to continue their mother’s misguided, hostile, and sanctimonious crusade.

  6. Aaron Blaisdell on June 18, 2010 at 16:35

    Spot on, Richard. I’ll keep eating the occasional Inn-N-Out double-double protein style and love it. Funny you should mention the Cornell researcher Dr. Wansink. I just listened to Jimmy Moore’s podcast interview with him. Very interesting work he’s doing on portion size and satiety. He also gave the inside scoop on how the US Nutrition Guidelines panel was selected.

  7. Jake on June 19, 2010 at 01:27

    Taco Bell is a bad example to use as their meat is full of sugar.They try to hide that fact by using different types of sugar in their meat so that the sugars appear low on the list of ingredients. I counted six different types of sugars on their meat ingredient list. Maybe that is why it is very difficult to eat only one taco.

    I prefer the ultimate paleo fast food served by In-N-Out. This is what I order:
    Double meat (without cheese), protein style (no bun), no spread (dressing full of omega 6s). This gives me a meal of fresh ground chuck with fresh vegetables of lettuce, tomato and onions.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 19, 2010 at 01:59

      Cool Jake.

      I might blog about what you wrote in your comment, someday. 🙂

  8. Stancel on June 19, 2010 at 04:07

    The diet Morgan Spurlock took on in “Supersize Me” was an extreme one, where he only ate food from McDonald’s. Nobody is doing that. Only the stupidest person you could find on the planet would think that eating that way is sustainable for their body’s normal function. Most of his caloric intake wasn’t the burger at all, but the french fries, the milk shakes, and sugary soda.

    I think the fact that many people ignore the “normal” restaurants high calorie meals is similar to the whole HFCS/”natural” sugar debate. It may not be HFCS, but it’s still sugar, and it’s still calories, nobody is going to become thinner if they drink what is basically carbonated sugar water.

  9. Jeff on June 19, 2010 at 06:06


    Thought you might like to know there’s an error on your web page. I can still display your site on my IE7 browser, but not through my BlackBerry. Here’s the error info: Jeff

    Webpage error details

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    Timestamp: Sat, 19 Jun 2010 13:01:09 UTC

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  10. JP on June 19, 2010 at 06:41

    I would much prefer high quality foods to any fast foods even if the calories looks ok. There is more to food than calories.

    Other than that, if anyone else want to eat something, its their own choice. But, we need to educate them on whats healthy and whats not. Thats the whole problem with fast food joints.

  11. Alan Beall on June 19, 2010 at 07:34

    I have a couple of strategies that work pretty well when I eat out or take out. Most Chinese places (including the ever-present takeout shops) have a Chicken Stick appetizer, sometimes called Teryaki Chicken. It is bathed in a sweet sauce, but that can be rinsed off or wiped off. An order of steamed broccoli or vegs and I’m happy.
    Longhorn Steakhouse has a delicious Strawberry Salad that has fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, seedless grapes, red onion, and pecans over mixed greens. Choose the vinaigrette instead of the sweet raspberry dressing. I had this with a full rack of ribs. Cole slaw was my other side. No bread. I took home half of both and was very satisfied. Twice.

  12. Joseph on June 19, 2010 at 10:02

    Thanks for taking down yet another cultural crusader, desperate to save us from ourselves. My biggest problem with Mimi is her desire to treat all of us like her poor children, little fools who can’t be trusted to make decisions for themselves. Heaven help us if we reach the point where we would be better off outsourcing all our nutritional choices to the president of some advocacy group. This is why I cannot “find a voice” politically: each party stands for making other people do what some bigwig says, and all the bigwigs (judging from their public behavior) are plainly idiots and/or tools. Sometimes this makes me angry; on a good day, I just laugh. Thanks for getting me to laugh.

  13. […] Richard Nikoley wrote more about the episode and did some of his own fast-food analysis in his latest post at Free The Animal. […]

  14. Theresa on June 19, 2010 at 15:02

    Mimi is an idiot. Yes, fast food isn’t all that appetizing to me anymore, but not for any of her reasons. (Even my kids don’t like it.) For us, it’s the mystery ingredients – you haven’t a clue what’s actually in stuff anymore. My favorite alternative to typical fast food is Chipotle. They have grass-fed beef, humanely-raised/farmed meats, organic vegetation, etc. They’re doing it right. I like to get their “salad bowl” which is essentially the burrito with all the trimmings (your choice) except no tortilla and it’s served over romaine! I can feed my family (incl 3 teenage boys) on $40 quite easily. They get what they want, and I can skip the rice and flour tortilla. Yes, we should be doing it ourselves (and I do 95% of the time) but this is a nice alternative for us. Oh, and their philosophy? “Food with Integrity”

  15. Shayne L. on June 19, 2010 at 15:39

    MeMe Roth (she changed her name from Meredith to MeMe – massive narcisist anyone?) is Carrie Nation in a designer pantsuit.

  16. Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2010 at 09:58

    Here’s an 8:25 minute YouTube clip of the show. Lots of good ‘ole f-bombs, skewering of assholes, magic and humor. Watch it while it lasts.

  17. Puzzled on June 20, 2010 at 09:30

    In addition to the many other problems with these horrible ideas, on a selfish note, I notice that (when not attacking fast food) they generally focus on exactly what I eat, such as the proposal for a ‘fat tax.’

    That said, the fast-food proposals miss the point so entirely I cannot believe it is out of ignorance. Don’t like fast food? How about, instead of taxing it, you stop subsidizing it? Stop the damn corn subsidy which lets Coke sell their poison to fast-food restaurants at absurdly low prices, and you’ll see them charge a market rate f or burgers and soda. Before you attack me for wanting poor people to pay more for fast food, consider that all I’m advocating is to stop making the rest of us subsidize the food.

    Why do they attack fast food rather than upscale restaurants? Simple – they eat at upscale restaurants. They are old-fashioned elitists and whatever they do is fine.

  18. Trish on June 20, 2010 at 15:07

    Hey, MeMe–instead of bleating about taxes on fast food why don’t you work on getting decent supermarkets into urban areas? You live on the Upper West Side of New York, I bet you have a Whole Foods and Gristede’s and all that stuff. Go uptown a few blocks and all you’re going to find is tiny little bodegas selling crap because the supermarkets are afraid of crime. People eat fast food in the ghetto because that’s all that’s available. Trust me, I’ve been there while I bet ten bucks your lily-white privileged elitist ass has never been north of 90th Street unless you’ve gone to a Yankees game.

    • Bay Area Sparky on June 20, 2010 at 16:12

      Righteous rant, Trish!

      Glad you weighed in on the comments. Great food for thought…and action.

      It might be mean-spirited on my part, but as I said earlier, it doesn’t concern me that her own children will be too malnourished to carry on their mother’s “legacy.” Movements like hers deserve to die.

  19. Zach on June 20, 2010 at 17:53

    “i want to see the soda taxed, i would like to see junk food away from school zones, i would like to see fast food marketing against the law when it’s directed to children”

    is that really so unreasonable? honestly, wtf is wrong with you people? if a parent hits their child, it becomes the governments responsibility to protect that child from their parent. if a parent feeds their kids crap and makes them sick, it’s still the governments responsibility to protect that child from their retard parents. when people get fat and sick cause of poor food choices, it comes out of ALL of our pockets, even those of us who eat healthy, get lots of sleep, and exercise. in fact, the CDC estimates that 3/4 of the $3.2 trillion tax dollars we spend every year on healthcare is due to preventable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, etc. so yes, with the current system, what other poeple eat is our concern. penn & teller calling mimi an elitist snob for wanting to protect children from becoming fat and sick when their parents won’t do it themselves and from all of us having to pay the bill is ridiculous. i honestly and sincerely wish there were more people like Mimi Roth in this world

    • Dave C. on June 21, 2010 at 06:40

      The obvious counter to yours and Mimi’s point, is that we should stop socializing medicine (yes it already is to a degree, even before Obama) so that healthy people do not have to pay for people who make bad choices.

      Mimi Roth’s standpoint assumes that socialized medicine is the system de jure.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2010 at 07:29

        Exactly, Dave.

        That has always been my position in the immigration debate as well. “It’s the socialism, stupid.”

    • Jan on June 21, 2010 at 11:51

      So, Zach – don’t you think the government should be proactive and regulate your right to have a child? After all, if they stop the unfit from procreating, then the problem would be solved before it even began.

      • Richard Nikoley on June 21, 2010 at 11:55

        I say we ought to just toss everyone in jail. KISS.

  20. Richard Nikoley on June 20, 2010 at 20:30

    “if a parent feeds their kids crap…”

    Yea, like butter, egg yolks, meat, bacon and so on.

    Get it?

  21. bob r on June 20, 2010 at 21:02

    I suggest you read Johann Hari: How can America’s ‘War on Drugs’ succeed if their Prohibition laws failed?

    Think about what he writes and how it applies to just about every aspect of your life. In particular, think about it in relation to Richard’s response to your post.

    “i honestly and sincerely wish there were more people like Mimi Roth in this world”

    I honestly wish people like Mimi Roth would shrivel up and blow away in the next strong breeze.

  22. Felix on June 21, 2010 at 09:45

    Telling people what to eat … how self-absorbed can you get? Let them eat cake. 🙂
    Like it’s certain foods that are the problem…
    As Tom Naughton has amply proven, you can lose weight on fatty burgers if you just keep your calories below maintenance. And if you choose food that makes you feel full and content, it’s pretty simple actually. You don’t even have to ditch the fries, as other McDieters have shown, this one for example:

    Eat less than you burn of food that makes you happy and wait…

    Fast food is not the problem and never was. Seeing her feed her kids egg-whites made me cringe. Nutrition is the new religion, I fear … Lots of room to be a good puritan and spoil other people’s fun in life.

  23. Paul C on June 22, 2010 at 14:36

    I would eat Taco Bell food if the ground beef seasoning didn’t contain wheat. A crunchy taco never seemed unhealthy to me.

  24. Melissa on June 22, 2010 at 17:37

    Oh Meme Roth! I have a feeling if we keep paying attention to her she’ll never stop talking.

    If she really cared about fighting for the people she’d be questioning the gov’t subsidizing corn and wheat, not trying to get the gov’t to tax the stuff they already pay to have produced.
    She’s not that smart is she!

  25. […] Free The Animal calling out some BS – Free The Animal […]

  26. William in DC on June 24, 2010 at 06:18

    Richard, to me this reads like you and some readers are letting your politics drive your reaction to this one. Stopping marketing of fast foods to kids is GOOD. Also, I don’t understand the sudden charecterization of the Fast Food Industry as innocent, lambs, that are being bullied. Uhm, what? I’m not a Paleo-Nazi (I read you and Mark only pretty much), but I’m quite surprised to see you apparently encouraging fast food consumption. About Meme Roth, as distasteful as you may find her, don’t mistake the messenger for the message. Also separate the politics (i.e. the libertarian urge to be left alone and for everyone to fend for themselves come hell or high water) from the actual health benefits to the population (if kids are slurping soda’s and french fries and sugar cereals at cafeterias from age 4 years old that doesn’t do them or anyone any good.)

  27. xonxaban on July 4, 2010 at 19:00

    “Stopping marketing of fast foods to kids is GOOD.”

    You use that phrase as if it weas an universal law and don’t bother explaining why do you think it is GOOD. What good does it does to us? Also, this is about a fast food tax rather than about just stopping commercials to kids.

    More so, since you didn’t explain why is it good, I am just assuming you just pulled some ‘think of the children’ stunt

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