When Taco Bell removed the “Grilled Stuft Nacho” from its nationwide menu in 2015, Chris Sandberg was crushed.
The specialty item – a triangle-shaped tortilla filled with beef, crunchy red strips, sour cream and cheesy jalapeño sauce – was “the best thing I ever had at Taco Bell,” Sandberg said.
The day he discovered the dish, he liked it so much, “I had it every day for a week,” Sandberg said. “The following week, it was discontinued.”
After it was taken from the menu, he moved on and tried other items, but none measured up for him. It stayed fresh in his mind. And on Jan. 4, 2021, he decided to start a daily exercise challenge on TikTok, in the hope of getting Taco Bell’s attention.
Sandberg shared a video of himself, breathless in his bathroom mirror, saying, “Day one of exercising every day until Taco Bell brings back the Grilled Stuft Nacho.”
The seven-second clip went viral with hundreds of thousands of views. Sandberg doubled down on his unusual – and somewhat illogical – effort to apply pressure to the restaurant chain through physical activity. He posted another mid-workout video the following day, and every single day thereafter. In the roughly 470 days since he started chronicling his daily exercise routine on TikTok, Sandberg has shed more than 85 pounds.
“I’ve put in an unbelievable amount of physical work,” said Sandberg, who lives in San Francisco, is self-employed, and produces social media videos and short films. He emphasized that he does not work for Taco Bell and never has.
The goal of his workout antic is twofold: While his primary objective is to bring back his beloved Grilled Stuft Nacho, when he began his Taco Bell challenge more than one year ago, Sandberg – who weighed close to 300 pounds before the pandemic – what also seeking to lose weight. He decided to merge the two missions.
“I do understand the irony in exercising every day for a fast-food item,” he said. “It started as a joke that has clearly gone way too far, but I can’t stop now.”
Although Sandberg initially executed the idea in jest, he quickly realized “it resonates for people,” as losing weight can be a stressful struggle for many. He wanted to find a way to make his experience lighthearted.
Sandberg grew eager to get in shape after “I read that people who were overweight were more vulnerable to COVID, so that had been at the back of my head for a while,” he said, adding that he was 275 pounds when he started the exercise challenge, after losing 15 pounds over the preceding few months.
Sandberg thought that publicly sharing his weight-loss journey on social media might help hold him accountable while also potentially motivating others. He wanted something to set himself apart, a cause that might be comical enough to compel Internet strangers to cheer him on.
“I didn’t want the journey to be about a number on a scale,” Sandberg said. “I wanted it to be fun. I wanted the goal to be something that had nothing to do with my weight.”
Enter the Grilled Tier Nacho.
“Everyone loves Taco Bell,” Sandberg said in a bold culinary statement. “That’s just what came to me.”
Plus, he believed his efforts might actually work.
“Doja Cat wanted them to bring back the Mexican Pizza, and look what happened,” Sandberg said. “The Grilled Stuft Nacho is better than the Mexican Pizza, and the world needs to know that.”
According to the Taco Bell Fandom Wiki, the Grilled Stuft Nacho first appeared on the menu in 2013 but was discontinued in March 2014. It made a brief reappearance in 2015 before it was pulled for good. Some people were peeved, though probably no one as much as Sandberg.
“There is a common belief that everything at Taco Bell tastes the same, but the Grilled Stuft Nacho is the exception,” Sandberg said, explaining his appreciation for a specific sauce.
“I want to make this clear,” he said. “The cheesy jalapeño sauce is different than their creamy jalapeño sauce. Without the cheesy jalapeño sauce, it is just not the same.”
Sandberg found an online community that shared his taste in fast food. Someone started an online petition four years ago pleading with the chain to bring back the specialty item. The petition collected 792 signatures – including Sandberg’s. The appeal was not enough to revive the dish, so Sandberg decided to take matters into his own hands.
First, he began with at-home workouts, then incorporated weightlifting, high-intensity interval training and long-distance running into his regular fitness routine.
“There are days that you want to give up,” Sandberg said. “On the days that you do want to work out, that’s when you push yourself physically, but on the days that you don’t want to work out, that’s when you have to push yourself mentally.”