Thursday, April 19, 2012

Battle of the Bulge: Those Pesky Calories

I have learned this from personal experience. It's not an easy fact to grasp, but when one makes peace with it one is able to move on. 

There are calories practically everywhere. In anything one can chew. Anything casually sipped. Anything one can mindlessly pop into one's mouth. 

And once it's in, it stays. The human body can deal with too little calories better than when inundated with surplus. Meaning it is all too easy to go overboard. 

I was unpleasantly surprised when I finally learned how to translate nutrition facts. Often what constitutes a serving is ridiculously small. 
 . . . a single cookie [can] contain 700 calories,” Dr. Nestle said. “You may want that cookie, but then you can’t eat anything else. Cookies didn’t used to be this big.” Nor were bagels, now 500 or 600 calories each . . . . Dr. Young. . . asked the students in her nutrition class how many calories were in a Double Gulp . . . She’d already told them that an eight-ounce soda has 100 calories, but the students guessed a Double Gulp contains less than 400 calories. When Dr. Young asked why their estimate was off by 100 percent, they simply said, “800 calories — that can’t be!”
 . . . A serving of ice cream is just a half-cup, a burger is three ounces, and uncooked pasta is merely two ounces. A pound of pasta, therefore, should feed eight people, not two or four; two ounces per serving is about what Italians consume as a first course. A typical American restaurant meal is more like dinner for two . . . She recently found at one New York restaurant that a “personal-size pizza” contained 2,100 calories, the amount the average woman needs in a day.
It is downright depressing.
Thankfully, Dr. Young recommends that which I do already: 
“I don’t count calories, and I don’t recommend counting calories,” Dr. Nestle said. “I recommend eating food. You have to pay attention to eating better and in moderation: plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains in reasonable portions, and not too much junk food.”
She applauded the current campaign by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to get people to stop “pouring on the calories” by consuming fewer sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
As I mentioned before, with healthy foods one gets more bang for their calorie. Restaurants don't care what they slap on your plate; I just can't trust anyone, including myself, when it comes to eating out. As for not drinking calories, the only way to do that safely is to only gulp water. 

Want to blame just one ingredient, like high-fructose syrup? Nope, that won't do; weight issues have many factors, not just one. And just because something claims to be healthy doesn't mean it is. Use your sechel, and really go over the nutrition facts and ingredients. 


Rachel said...

But they're learning. Coke cans now have nutrition facts based on 12 oz. of drink (the entire can), when previously they considered a serving size to be 8 oz. :)

I personally enjoy lemon water, something I got used to over Pesach when there wasn't anything better. Few drops of real lemon (not Real Lemon) per 16-24 oz. water bottle.

Princess Lea said...

Every morning I squeeze a lemon into some Brita water. Aaaaaaah. That's the stuff.

Defying Gravity said...

I used to count calories. I noticed that my weight loss hit a plateau for over 6 months. I recently joined Weight Watchers (even though I swore up and down I never would because it evokes an old lady image in my mind) and now I am forced to incorporate fat, fiber and carbs in my calculations. Previously I had never paid attention to anything but caloric content.
It's interesting to note that Dr. Young wrote the average calories a woman needs per day is 2,100! I eat about 1, 250 per day and am having a hard time losing the weight...

Princess Lea said...

Calories and healthy eating go hand in hand, in my experience; I pretty much check everything for fiber content, which leaves one fuller for longer. I found a white bean flour that has 8 grams of fiber in 1/4 cup; boy, was I giddy.

Everyone has different caloric needs. For instance, I make a point to move around as little as possible, with the exception of walking; I will never be caught in a gym. In that case, I probably require a lot less than others do.

The dreaded plateau. Especially now, after Pesach, I jiggle all over, and I have to really, really watch myself.

I find sticking to good foods help the best, since they keep me full and satisfied longer than anything else. I OD on whole wheat, fruits and veggies. Nothing processed. Then I still have to cut down on portion size. Meh.

Rachel said...

It's interesting about calories and fiber. I compared two cereals, Cheerios and Corn Chex. I eat the same amount (sort of like 2 servings!) of each when I do breakfast. On Cheerios mornings I feel the first hunger pains about 2 hours later. With the Chex, however, i can go like 3-4 hours before feeling hungry. They have nearly the same amount of calories (100, 110) and the fiber count is greater in the Cheerios (3 as opposed to 1.2 in the Chex). So sometimes it's the actual ingredient/s that matter. I think corn is more filling than wheat, for example.

Princess Lea said...

Oats have the highest amount of fiber than any other grain (I just saw this last night on "Good Eats"). But I love cold cereal.

I have a high-fiber cereal from Trader Joe's that has 80 calories for 2/3 cup, 9g of fiber. I measure out one serving, then sprinkle on top a few of Barbara's Bakery Shredded Oats (it tastes a lot better than the name implies). I am in heaven.

Cheerios? I'm eating the table at 8:30 if I do.

Ingredients do matter. Maybe the Cheerios are somehow more processed, or break down differently.

WigTastic said...

I wonder how much sugar is in Cheerios. I find it's how much sugar that's in cereals as well the fibre content/what it's made with. I tend to go for lower sugar, oat based or mixed grain cereals with some nuts in them to keep it low-GI and that seems to work quite well.

Princess Lea said...

Cheerios claim to have very little sugar, 1g per serving, so it can't be that. Hmmm.