What is a calorie anyway?

What are Calories anyway.

We as a society are getting fatter and fatter. People define generations by seemingly arbitrary names and criteria; The Baby Boomer, Generation-X, Generation-Y. However, if you asked me, we are generation “betcha-cant-eat-just-one”. Never before in history has food been as addicting as it is now. In yesteryear, people crowded around the freakshow to see a giant fat lady… now we just need to go to wal-mart.

Foods are being chemically processed to be scientifically irresistible, with the perfect blends of fats, oils, sugars and salts that both tantalize your tastebuds and make it impossible to satiate the thirst for more. Shortly after this new scientific model of mass food production (the 1970s) came the massive popularization of fitness and nutrition (the 1980s). But somehow, health and fitness has been several steps behind all along.

First the enemy was fat, we had to avoid fat, or we’d get fat. Then it became carbs, carbs were the devil and would be the death of us. Then came processing, organics were the answer, avoid mass production and all would be well. Then the ultimate of boogeymen: the calorie. We had to count every single little calorie. It didn’t matter what we ate, if the calories were low, we would lose weight.

Ladies and gentlemen: What is a calorie? Do you know? Because if I were being honest, I’d tell you that in 2009 when I started my whole Come-To-Jesus fitness thing, I had NO idea.

A calorie has NOTHING to do with food. Just like meters or grams, calories are a metric form of measurement. A measurement of what? Energy. A Calorie in chemistry is defined as the energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by one degree (kelvin). Does that make sense to you? Good, Me neither. So let me put it this way:

Wood for a campfire is measured in Calories, this is NOT an analogy or metaphor. When we hear the term “burning calories” that isn’t a cute little saying invented by the fitness industry. Gasoline, kerosene, lamp oil or even whale blubber can be measured by their Caloric content.

When we turn over our package of microwave burritos and see that each has 90-110 Calories depending on whether we eat the beef and bean or bean and cheese, this is a breakdown of the amount of energy that the digestion of this food will provide to your body.

An original glazed doughnut from Krispy Kreme has 190 Calories, Five guys double cheeseburger 920 calories, Outback Steakhouse 6oz filet 280 calories. None of those numbers has ANY pertinence to how healthy it is, just how much energy the processing of that food will provide your body.

The “real” truth of it is; the fitness industry has been “right” all along. Each of their attempts to simplify nutrition has been correct in many of its assertions and facts, their only real fallacy was attempting to simplify the bio-chemical process of digestion and metabolism. Unfortunately, it isn’t a particularly simple process, and so attempting to give Americans a magic trick to staying thin is quite literally trying to give them a way to have their cake and eat it too.

I will however, in my vain attempt, not try to simplify it to a magical solution, but clarify it to an understanding that will help you make better, safer, sounder dietetic decisions:

The fact remains this; all calories were not created equal. If you throw an oak log on a campfire, it will burn steadily and warm over a long period of time. It will provide good heat, and light at a very steady and reliable pace. Inversely if you threw black powder (of the same caloric content) on the fire, it would FLASH with heat and light. It would most likely singe off your eyebrows and the surge of heat may even recoil you back a bit. Depending on how it was done, after that flash of light, it is possible the fire would be put out entirely, having rapidly depleted the remaining fuel in the area. One fire, two calorically equivalent fuel source… VASTLY different results to the fire.

You still with me?

Why would various calories (which as we discussed are just the measure of energy) react any differently within our digestive systems? As my statistic professor always taught me: “Garbage in = Garbage out”. The fuel we put in the fire, is directly proportional to the resulting heat and light, there is simply no way around that.

We are starting the 90dayReboot again here in a few days. We are cleaning out our kitchen and refocusing on fitness. We’ll walk you through our 3 tiers answering questions along the way. We’ll cover organics, carbs, fats, and salts. We’ll walk you through the science and garbage of fad diets.

It has been a fun 2 years since the last 90dayReboot, lets make it a fun round 2.


One Response to “What is a calorie anyway?”

  1. I check your page once every couple weeks, and I’m always sad when you don’t have a new post to read. Then today I checked and you did, and I was happy. Yay!

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