To Count A Calorie

So recently I started counting calories. As I’m sure you’re all aware, calories are invisible magic gremlins that live inside our food and make it taste good, the only defense against which is counting.

I didn’t always believe in calories. Sure, I knew they existed, but I paid them little heed, which is likely why my food has always tasted so amazing. Unfortunately, this is not a Tinkerbell situation where every time you say “I don’t believe in calories” a calorie dies. They’re kind of like the opposite of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy in that you don’t believe in them as a child, but as you grow older, more mature, and begin to take on the aerodynamic qualities of one of those concrete balls in front of Target, the magical reality of calories becomes undeniable. (I can’t explain how the fact that there’s invisible, fat-making gremlins in our food has escaped Alex Jones.)

So how does one go about counting calories? Nowadays we have many resources, but our elders used to have to chew their food, spit it out, then sift through it to count the calories by hand. But now we have more civilized techniques, and have Food Scientists count the calories in advance on our behalf. They do this by chewing up the food, spitting it out, sifting through it to count the calories by hand, and then they repackage the food and slap a nutrition label on it. (Through a strange coincidence still unexplained by Science, all calories come in groups of 10.)

Another thing that makes counting calories easier today is the existence of calorie-counting mobile apps. You’d think tracking the calories of every item you consume would be tedious and time-consuming, but all you have to do is take a photo of your food so that the app can incorrectly guess what it is, search for the name of the food, search the brand of the food and realize that you’ve already thrown away the packaging and can’t remember, realize that your brand of ingredients aren’t listed on the app so you have to try to find a comparable, check that the ingredients match, hope that you’re using the same amount of each ingredient that they are, check that the serving sizes match, then weigh and measure your food, and then divide or multiply based on how much you actually ate, and then cry.

(After crying, you can measure the volume of tears you shed, use the app to look up their calorie count, and subtract it from your daily total!)

People didn’t know how to lose weight before calorie-counting apps. They’d go, “Well, I guess I’ll just be fat forever since I don’t have a mobile app to record my calories and sell all my personal data to China.” But now people are way more empowered to lose weight, with the weight loss industry increasing to brobdingnagian proportions! Oddly enough, the only thing bigger than the weight loss industry is the weight gain industry.

One thing to mind carefully though is the concept of “serving sizes.” Serving sizes are apparently not, as I’ve recently learned, “the amount of food I want to eat right now.” Serving sizes are amounts of food carefully predetermined by Food Scientists to be the correct and appropriate amount of that particular food that a person should eat. It’s important to pay attention to because if you eat more than that, you’re anti-Science. Less importantly, listed calorie counts are based on serving size, not on the actual amount of food. It’s great to eat a burger that’s listed as only being 400 calories, but not so great when you realize that the serving size is one-eighteenth of a burger and you’ve just eaten the recommended daily consumption of an entire small African country.

There are plenty of delicious low-calorie food options, though. Let me Google them real quick, because for some reason the numerous delicious low-calorie options have slipped my mind. Well, you have legumes, obviously. And berries! Berries can kind of taste good; they’re like a quaint substitute for artificial berry flavoring. Then you have small amounts of fish, and, um, oats, which, well… oh, and who can forget chia seeds? Can’t believe I did! Wait a minute, does this article actually list “water?” And apparently you can remove the yolks from your eggs to save on calories, but that just seems like a less efficient alternative to removing the taste buds from your tongue…

Anyway, there’s obviously a lot to choose from, and when you just don’t have the energy to soak your chia seeds for an hour in preparation for your breadless legume-and-chia-seed sandwich, you always have salads to fall back on. Salads can get a bad rap for being “bland,” or “inedible,” or “essentially the collected droppings of a hundred rabbits repurposed for human consumption.” But hear me out! Salads can have tons of flavor if you add some croutons, a nice thick dressing, some cheese, some chicken or bacon, and two full bags of Doritos. And then, obviously, if you remove the vegetables.

I understand that fruits and vegetables are good for me, but otherwise I don’t really get the appeal. Some people get way too excited about the fact they’re eating the same things that wild animals do. I mean, I’ve watched seagulls eat half a bottle of sunscreen; I wouldn’t be that proud of sharing food pyramids with them. And it’s not like the wild deer are over here in a lab measuring the nutritional content of a McDouble and a half-cup serving size of chia seeds and going, “Clearly we should continue to eat tasteless grains to better preserve our three-year lifespans.” I’m pretty sure that if deer had opposable thumbs, they’d be deep-frying Oreos right alongside us.

But not without logging the calories on their mobile app afterwards, of course.

Anyway, I’ve been doing really great at counting calories so far; I’ve counted more calories than anyone else I know, so I expect to see some pretty dramatic results. In the meantime, if you notice your food starting to taste good, feel free to join me in counting calories. Maybe we can meet up and split a chia seed.

This article first appeared in the Duzett Gazette, the really official newsletter of Carl Duzett. Sign up here to get more content like this in your inbox, as well as some other content that isn’t quite like it, but is probably also good.

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