Olive Garden’s creamy alfredo sauces and buttery breadsticks don’t exactly scream diet food. But a pastor in North Carolina managed to lose weight while almost exclusively eating from the chain’s Never Ending Pasta Pass over the last eight weeks.
Alan Martin set a goal to lose 10 lbs. from his 222-lb. frame as he took on the annual challenge to eat as many free bowls of Olive Garden pasta as possible. While the carb and butter-laden dishes don’t sound too healthy, Martin says they’re actually better than his typical barbeque sandwich breakfasts, peanut butter and chocolate-filled snacks and late-night hamburgers.
“I’m a Southerner,” Martin told The Wall Street Journal, “We don’t eat normal.”
The pastor had trouble with the diet at first, because the manager kept giving him free glasses of sweet tea, but he learned ways to cut calories, like filling up on salad and just eating the pasta toppings. He also limited himself to just one breadstick.
“Those can really add up,” Martin said.
Though he didn’t meet his 10-lb. goal, losing just 5 lbs., he considers the diet a success.
This was Martin’s fourth year eating the majority of his meals via the Never Ending Pasta Pass, after he got one of the first ones in 2014 and became an internet celebrity for eating every single meal — a record 115 straight — at Olive Garden.
“I thought, if someone’s going to give me $1,800 worth of food, I’ll eat it,” he said.
By the end of the eight weeks, Martin says the hardest part is going back to the Olive Garden for more pasta when, “you’d rather eat your shoe.”
This year, a man from Florida, Jeff Berman, broke Martin’s record, and the two celebrated together with a bowl of pasta. Martin believes that it’s fully possible to lose weight at Olive Garden because of Berman, who actually lost a pound from his 152-lb. frame during the Pasta Pass weeks.