Thursday, November 15, 2012

calories are good (from the right sources)

After decades of trying to minimize the number we can be satisfied with, in the course of a day, i find myself a delighted contrarian on the subject now.  Who'd'a' thunk it?

Calories, carbs, fat-grams, points -- it seems to help people focus on what they're doing, to have something to count.  In fact it's an old esoteric secret, using something that's merely emblematic to focus concentration where it's needed to do a job (think voodoo doll, or an icon, mandala or candle-flame).  Also, measuring things and mathematical gymnastics are "scientific" tools that help us to feel that what we're doing is based on solid, reliable FACT, rather than the shockingly-bad ideas which have gifted us with the "obesity epidemic."

It's easy for me and my contemporaries to remember back, and see how things have changed in the diet-and-health realm.  When i was a child, there were darned few "fat kids" in our school; nobody but "health nuts" went out of their way to get exercise, and yet before the age of menopause/andropause few people were particularly overweight.  These were the days when everybody ate white bread and drank whole milk, we weren't afraid of sugar, our home and school meals were full of fats AND carbs, and the only reason we used margarine in our house was because it was significantly cheaper than butter and we weren't very well off.

My kids, however, grew up in a society in which we were rather afraid of eating the "wrong" foods.  In search of health, their generation has enjoyed a surprising lack of it:  obesity, diabetes, infertility, mental disorders, ... i don't know where to stop.  Suffice it to say, our dietary changes seem to have wrought a sad result -- all in the hopes of IMPROVING health.  :-(

So here we are today, struggling to fix the damage done by the mistaken or greed- or fanatically-inspired diet advice of the last half-century.  It's truly and disgustingly absurd how we have clung to some of the most archaic, simplistic non-science -- like the obsession with calories.  Ironically, the Mephistopheles of my dietary-morality play, Ancel Keys, did a piece of early work which shines a beacon of brilliance upon this murky subject.  The "starvation study" showed that low calorie intakes (higher than a lot of diet plans dictate) caused some nasty psychological effects, as well as other health issues.  Calorie restriction was pretty well proven to be a bad idea -- yet that is the CONSTANT advice one is given for weight loss, improved health AND longevity.

For millions of years nobody counted calories, and the human race thrived and multiplied.  Then suddenly people started paying attention to the situation in large numbers, and the situation went straight to hell.  To me, this is just confirmation that whenever mankind sticks meddling fingers into natural processes, we fuck it up.  Science thinks it knows a lot more than it really does -- be skeptical of its sweeping pronouncements!

So ignore calories!  The only good use for paying attention to them is in making sure you're getting ENOUGH FAT.  YES.  This is opposite everything we learned before ... but we can all see where THAT idea has gotten us.


  1. "obesity, diabetes, infertility, mental disorders"

    Round up, 2-4-D, and chemical fertilizer all happened at the same time. Coincident or causal?

    Calories, as used in the food industry are sloppy over-simplification of misunderstood process.

    Calories are useful for sizing metered meals for those of us without effective satiation signalling, but useless for the general public unless they fully understand the limits of calorie measurement. Gram of protein, carbs, and fat are just as useful.

  2. One thing I notice on old movies is the portions are smaller, but the food they eat is real, dense, fat rich foods. You know the old fashioned breakfast: eggs, meat, cream being the base. After a start like that Im sure an otherwise endocrinally healthy person had no problem staying topped off with less than a 12 inch subway sandwich.

    1. there's no doubt -- portion sizes today are sometimes ridiculous! it's all about "marketing" in the restaurant world -- since twice as much food adds only a tiny cost to the existing overhead, people feel they're getting a decent deal if the serving is big. :-) it's a good idea in some places to ASSUME you're only going to eat half, and take home the rest for later....

  3. i think your sgo6eeh formula comes closest to summarizing the situation, Fred! i concentrated on the notion of calories today as a response to something my daughter said this morning -- that she's having a hard time not counting them. :-) i'm sure she had never read about the "starvation experiment" and i definitely wanted to make that a centerpiece to my argument that too FEW calories can be problematic, as well as "too many."

  4. "Also, measuring things and mathematical gymnastics are 'scientific' tools that help us to feel that what we're doing is based on solid, reliable FACT, rather than the shockingly-bad ideas which have gifted us with the 'obesity epidemic'."

    Well, garbage in, garbage out. Bad ideas are bad with or without measurements or other rituals. An aside: why do they put spices in those stupid round shakers now instead of metal boxes you could fit a measuring spoon into?

  5. Oh, and FWIW, here's my comparison of Key's starvation diet to some current diet plans.

  6. if only i'd started reading your blog a couple of years ago.... :-) i seem to be covering the same ground, don't i?

    ...and if the stupid little shakers (that don't admit a measuring spoon larger than 1/4 t) weren't bad enough; once, i wanted some green peppercorns and the only container available was a damned self-grinding jar! ya know how long it takes to grind out a tablespoon with one of those? :-P

  7. I recently saw another add for the Biggest Loser, and now, they seem like losers more than ever. All that exercise, all the yelling, all the measurement, for what?

  8. so they can gain it back when they stop torturing themselves, most likely. what little i've seen of it, looks like a nightmare.

  9. "All that exercise, all the yelling, all the measurement, for what?"

    TV you can't look away from. A show about eating bunless burgers and reading Why We Get Fat wouldn't be that interesting. Maybe they should take a married vegan couple where one of them wants to come over to the dark side. Break out the pork rinds and guacamole and watch the sparks fly!

  10. LOL!!! don't forget the BACON!


  11. Very interesting subject, thank you for putting up'''

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