Have you ever noticed a restaurant menu with calorie totals on it? Chain restaurants like Jamba Juice or Applebee’s are required by law (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010) to label the calorie count of each standard item on the menu.
Knowledge is power, right? That’s the idea behind this law, at least. Though I wasn’t there, I can just see lawmakers sitting around the table envisioning a patron reading that the chicken fajitas that they are eying is also 1370 calories. Compare that to the 860 calorie hand-battered fish sandwich, and folks might make think of their health and choose the fish sandwich. (Applebee’s Nutrition Facts)
Brilliant! I’ll take the insulin bomb fish sandwich, over the protein and fat rich fajitas.
Well, it’s brilliant if calories are the variable that determines health, weight, etc. I mean, they are… aren’t they? More calories in than calories out (or burned) means weight gain, and if less calories are consumed than are burned then weight is lost, right?
That’s what this rocket scientist (and I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible) “proved” when he lost 27 pounds eating only Twinkies and other junk food, while restricting calories. His experiment does two things:
- Illustrates the impact of a calories deficit on body weight
- Further, engrains our obsession with calories
Legislation that make restaurants divulge how many calories are in our meals and studies where intellectuals hammer home this idea that precision calorie control is destroying our country’s chances of regaining its health, in my opinion. The successful influencers in the area of health and nutrition have historically got it wrong over and over (See: the food pyramid, the cholesterol debate, the red meat debate, etc), and the people have followed. Furthermore, it’s not so much the science that is most troublesome, but the perspective that irks me the most.
Our world has become one that says weighing more is bad. As we looked at earlier this year, Deb’s Story illustrates with great success the irrelevance of weight. Most people want to be stronger, leaner, and more healthy. What we don’t know is that we don’t care what we weigh if we look good, feel good, and perform well. The Twinkie experiment and the calorie labeling law tell us that body weight and health are the same thing, and that’s a costly mistake for our perception in America.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), is another thought leader that is unfortunately “leading” folks down this rabbit hole, too. They use the body Mass Index to screen folks of health problems. According to the Body Mass Index I am OVERWEIGHT.
All the knowledge and money of the US Government concludes that a 26 year old male with 7% body fat, sub-20 minute 5K, and 300lb clean and jerk is doomed.
The private sector is guilty, too. How do you think Jenny Craig works? You pay them money for them to monitor your calorie intake with highly processed, low performance food. You will lose weight, too, one hundred times out of a hundred. Want to feel good or grow old enough to see your grandchildren grow up though? They are just in the business of weight-loss..
Here’s the deal.. cancer doesn’t care what you weigh. Neither does diabetes. When’s the last time heart attacks had a weight requirement?
Our perception is wrong and it doesn’t help to have this idea hit home any further. If you want to optimize health by turning your food consumption into a daily venture into mundane arithmetic, that is your choice. Millions of animals roam this Earth without a clue how many calories they consume, but they also aren’t doing long division to figure out if their next bowl of Cheerios put their calories over the limit either. Thriving in our world need not require caloric precision.
Eat real food (meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, some fruit, nuts and seeds) and consider yourself immune to calorie counting. This perception continues to thrive, in part, because “leaders” continue to support it. Who wouldn’t like to hear that they can have their cake (in moderation) and health, too?
Complete the following for time:
20 Hang Squat Snatches (95/65)
Then 3 rounds:
21 KB Swings
12 Hand Release Push Ups