(NEXSTAR) — The universe cruelly gave California resident Chris Sandberg a week to enjoy Taco Bell’s grilled Stuft Nacho before it disappeared from menus across the country — and he’s been fighting to get it back ever since.
The San Francisco Bay Area content creator worked 482 straight days on Saturday and documented his transformation on TikTok in hopes of convincing the fast-food company to re-feature the article, which was retired in 2015, according to a Taco Bell fandom wiki page.
The Stuft Nacho was a triangle of stuffed tortillas, shaped like fries, topped with beef, cheesy jalapeño sauce, sour cream and crispy red strips.
Sandberg, who was working in a restaurant at the time, tried it one day during a break between busy shifts and remembered thinking, “it’s like happiness right now.”
“There’s this common opinion that most Taco Bell items all taste the same, they taste like Taco Bell,” Sandberg explained. “I’m telling you, this cheesy jalapeño sauce is different for the Grilled Stuft Nacho, [it] different strokes.
Years later, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandberg weighed nearly 300 pounds and was at increased risk of serious illness from the virus.
“That’s when it really started to click and it kind of freaked me out,” he recalls, thinking back on how unnoticeable the weight gain was in hindsight. He described how the weight gain somehow seemed more noticeable to others than to himself.
“Like when people start calling you big guy, or I was on my friend’s phone as Big Chris and I never thought of myself as ‘Big Chris,'” he said. life changes slowly.”
Sandberg has dedicated himself to weight loss and said he lost about 10 pounds before he came across the idea for his Stuft Nacho TikToks. Knowing it was for TikTok, he said he wanted to create the challenge slot, or a little weird — and his latest favorite Taco Bell menu item came to mind.
Sandberg says he’s not employed by Taco Bell in any way (he wishes he was), but the restaurant gave him some gift cards after seeing his TikTok videos, as well as a special surprise.
“We’ve been watching and cheering on Chris since day one,” Taco Bell social media manager Nicole Weltman said in a statement. “When we saw his one year approaching, we wanted to recognize him and all he has accomplished. And what better way to do that than to bring back the Grilled Stuft Nacho, just for him, just for a day.
“They gave me a jar of sauce – it might be the only jar there is and it’s in my fridge,” Sandberg said. “We’re saving it for a special occasion.”
His first TikTok, posted on Jan. 4, 2021, shows Sandberg gasping for air, wearing blue workout shorts and a white Under Armor shirt, saying in the bathroom mirror, “Day one of exercise every day until Taco Bell brings back the Grilled Stuft Nacho.
Since then, he said he has built a community of supporters on the social media platform that has helped him stay accountable, overcome exhaustion and even injuries including a torn labrum and badly bruised knee.
While he has succeeded in his goal of losing weight, the return of the Grilled Stuft Nacho, his seemingly contradictory second goal, still eludes him.
“I understand the irony of training every day for a fast food product, it’s not lost on me,” Sandberg said. Unlike some of his supporters who fear losing the progress he’s made, Sandberg says he doesn’t care what might happen if the menu item returns.
“Perhaps there would have been a time when it could have been concerning, but over the past 481 days I have established a routine that is solid enough to eat and exercise only if a torn labrum and a bruise the size of a baseball doesn’t stop [the exercising] then a grilled Stuft Nacho, or two, or three, won’t stop it.
In fact, Sandberg says he still eats at Taco Bell and sets aside one day each week to eat “whatever I want,” but it’s not the same order anymore. From spending $18 on a “crazy” order, he now indulges in the occasional meal of one of his favorites, like the Crunchwrap Supreme.
When it comes to advising others on their weight loss journey, Sandberg recommends talking to a doctor first, then creating a workout and diet plan that can become a habit. If you change your diet, make sure the food is healthy and tastes good. If you’re working out, start with something that you can do for half an hour a day and that will eventually settle into your day.
“It got to the point where I had like a huge bruise on my knee and I didn’t think I could do the workouts anymore, but because I got used to it, like I was sitting there on the bed training to say ‘I don’t know what to do during this hour, I’ve always exercised during this hour,’” Sandberg said.
He also acknowledged that the weight loss aspect isn’t just mental and physical, it’s personal.
“A lot of times people ask for motivation,” Sandberg said, urging people to be patient with themselves. “It’s not what drives me, it’s what drives you.”
As for bringing back the Grilled Stuft Nacho, he says he’s more committed than ever.
“Doja Cat is doing a TikTok, a TikTok, and everyone is going crazy for Mexican pizza. I would say I was jealous but I’m happy for them, and it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe Taco Bell will bring it back at some point,” Sandberg said. “We just have to get bigger than Doja Cat.”
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