Eating at Chipotle once a day started as a joke during Lent for Andrew Hawryluk. Now he plans his life around it.
A daily text message alert, email notification and calendar app remind the 23-year-old freelance animator from Los Angeles to eat at least once a day at Chipotle, which he has done for 155 days and counting through Wednesday. He began his streak with what he dubbed "chipotlent," in which he jokingly gave up not going to Chipotle for Lent, and he hasn't stopped since, detailing all of it on his blog, Chipotlife.
"I think one of the interesting things about Chipotle — they are 'fast' and they are 'food' — but they have such healthy options,'' Hawryluk told TODAY.com. "I had a very good feeling that nothing bad would happen from it. If somebody asked you, would you eat organic chicken and rice every day that was GMO-free, they would agree. I would like to dispel the myth of any negatives about Chipotle."
Hawryluk regularly orders a burrito bowl with chicken, white rice, guacamole and lettuce with Tabasco chipotle sauce that is about 650 calories. He works out regularly and has showed off his rippling abs as proof that eating daily at Chipotle hasn't affected his body. He wrote on his blog that he saw a doctor after 80-plus days and was given a clean bill of health and told his cholesterol was actually lower.
"The food tastes the same every day, and it tastes great, so there's no reason in my mind why I wouldn't eat it,'' he said. "Although there are days when it's nerve-wracking because I schedule my day around when I'm going to eat Chipotle."
"The term that we use for that is called a 'food rut,''' food psychologist Dr. Mary Pritchard of Boise State University told TODAY.com. "Certain individuals like athletes and body-builders, where their diet is restricted, are more likely to have food ruts, but with the average Joe, we usually don't usually see them for longer than a week.
"To do it for 155 days, at that point we start to say there's something going on here. That's long past when a health coach or dietician would wonder about proper nutritional needs. It's almost like Jared from Subway."
In addition to the regular alerts on his phone, Hawryluk has had occasions where he has been with friends and left because he had to get his daily quota of Chipotle. He also plans any travel around places that have have a branch of the fast-food giant (there are Chipotles in Paris, London and Frankfurt, for example).
"That's where the disorder part comes in because that's bordering on eating disorder behavior,'' Pritchard said. "He doesn't have a bona fide disorder, but that type of obsessive-compulsive-addictive behavior can lead to muscle dysmorphia, body dysmorphia and restricted eating. I get what he's trying to do, but he's going to end up harming his body in the process.''
Hawryluk is far from alone in his love for Chipotle, as Mark Rantal of Colorado Springs, Colorado, recently demonstrated in a Facebook post about reaching his 100th straight day of eating Chipotle.
Hawryluk is a regular at the Chipotle on San Vicente Boulevard in Los Angeles, near his home, where he said many of the employees already known his order as he walks up to the counter. Even before he started his 155-day streak, he ate at Chipotle three or four times a week.
The company has taken notice, giving him cards for free burritos, T-shirts, a chapstick called "lipguac" and a rare free burrito coin coveted by Chipotle lovers. He also received a special gift package for his birthday.
"A lot of people are diehard Chipotle fans,'' he said. "Chipotle has this social media lock where they are the cool fast food to like. They're like the iPhone of fast food."
Now the question is how long he can continue his daily habit. He started with the 40 days of Lent, then decided to go for 100. Once he reached that milestone, he decided to continue by taking part in the social media phenomenon #100happydays in which people post a picture every day for 100 days of something that makes them happy. He is now 45 days away from finishing out his 100 happy days of posting pictures of burrito bowls and receipts to put him at 200 straight days.
"I guess after that it's 365 (days),'' he said. "That seems super daunting."
While Hawryluk appears to be living the dream, it may not be the healthiest thing, according to Pritchard.
"You still need to get different sources of protein,'' she said. "You see a lot of people trying to be more fit and athletic who don't have the skills, knowledge or time to make a variety of healthy meals, so they see a place like Chipotle advertising chicken and rice or whole grains and think they can just eat that. We want to see a little more variety in the diet."
"Is it better than eating fast food burgers all the time? Yes. If you're going to do fast food, there's healthier ways to do it than others, but you're still not getting your nutritional needs met by eating the same thing every day because you're not getting a variety of meals."