(NEXSTAR) – The universe cruelly gave California resident Chris Sandberg one 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 content creator from the San Francisco Bay Area has, as of Saturday, worked out for 482 days straight and documented his transformation on TikTok in hopes of convincing the fast food company to once again feature the item, which was pulled in 2015, according to a Taco Bell fandom wiki page.
The Stuft Nacho was a triangle of stuffed tortilla, in the shape of a chip, that came packed with beef, cheesy jalapeño sauce, sour cream and crunchy red strips.
Sandberg, who was working at a restaurant at the time, tried it one day on a break between busy shifts and remembered thinking, “this is like happiness right now.”
“There’s this common view that most of the items from Taco Bell all taste the same, they taste like Taco Bell,” Sandberg explained. “I’m telling you, that cheesy jalapeño sauce is different for the Grilled Stuft Nacho, [it] hits different.”
Years later, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandberg found himself weighing nearly 300 pounds and at an increased risk of severe illness from the virus.
“That’s when it really started to click and it kind of put a fear in me,” he recalled, thinking back on how imperceptible the weight gain was in hindsight. He described how the weight gain seemed somehow more noticeable to other people than it was to himself.
“Like when people start calling you big guy, or I was in my friend’s phone as Big Chris and I had never considered myself as “Big Chris,” he said. “Your life just kind of slowly changes.”
Sandberg devoted himself to losing weight and said he dropped about 10 pounds before he happened upon the idea of his Stuft Nacho TikToks. Knowing it was for TikTok, he said he wanted to make the challenge niche, or a little bit weird – and his late, favorite Taco Bell menu item popped into his head.
Sandberg says he isn’t employed by Taco Bell in any way (he wishes), but the restaurant did give him a few gift cards after learning of his TikTok videos, as well as a special surprise.
“We’ve been watching and cheering on Chris since day one,” Nicole Weltman, head of social for Taco Bell, said in a statement. “When we saw his one year approaching, we wanted to recognize him and all he’s accomplished. And what better way to do that than bring the Grilled Stuft Nacho back, just for him, just for one day.”
“They gave me a jar of the sauce – it might be the only jar in existence 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 out of breath, wearing blue workout shorts and a white Under Armour shirt, saying into the bathroom mirror, “Day one of exercising every day until Taco Bell brings back the Grilled Stuft Nacho.”
Since then he said he’s built a community of supporters on the social media platform who have helped him stay accountable, pushing through exhaustion and even injuries, including a torn labrum and a badly bruised knee.
While he has succeeded in his goal to lose weight, the return of the Grilled Stuft Nacho, his seemingly contradictory second goal, still eludes him.
“I understand the irony of me exercising every day for a fast food item, that’s not lost on me,” said Sandberg. Unlike some of his followers who fear he might lose the progress he’s made, however, Sandberg says he’s not concerned about what might happen if the menu item does return.
“Maybe there would have been a time during this when that might have been concern, but during the past 481 days I’ve built a strong enough routine when it comes to eating and exercising that 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 reserves a day each week to eat “whatever the hell I want,” but it’s no longer the same order. While he used to spend $18 on an “insane” order, he now indulges in the occasional meal of one his backup favorites, such as the Crunchwrap Supreme.
When it comes to advice for others on their weight loss journey, Sandberg recommends talking to a doctor first, then creating a workout and dietary plan that can become a habit. If you’re changing your diet, make sure the food is both healthy and tastes good. If you’re working out, start with something you can do for a half-hour a day that will eventually become ingrained in your day.
“It got to the point I had a like a huge bruise on my knee and I didn’t think I could do the workouts anymore, but because I had made a habit, like I was sitting there on the bed going, ‘I don’t know what to do for this hour, I’ve always just exercised for this hour,” Sandberg said.
He also acknowledged that the weight loss aspect is not 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 motivates me, it’s what motivates you.”
As for bringing back the Grilled Stuft Nacho, he says he’s as committed as ever.
“Doja Cat makes one TikTok, one TikTok, and everybody’s going nuts over the Mexican Pizza. I’d 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.”