I read somewhere last week that a person needs to walk six miles to burn up the calories from drinking one can of coke. I don’t believe it; but whether or which, turning everything we eat or drink into a ball of numbers is all a cod and has to stop.
Nobody should make a statement, threat, or a promise without meaning it, or spelling out the consequences and not being able to back it up. ‘Eat your greens or you’ll never grow’, I was warned as a kid. I couldn’t eat the greens but I knew I was growing a bit anyway.
‘Eating sweets will fill you full of maggots’; but I ate any sweet I could lay my grubby little hands upon and was filled with nothing worse than a feeling of lack of credibility for all the things we were being warned about. Then of course in our teens we realised we were lucky not to believe everything we heard, or the fear of blindness would have kept us awake at night!
All of us have learned that we don’t have to pay a blind bit of heed to some of the things we are told. Years ago a doctor on RTE Radio was hell-bent on cutting out coffee. ‘Anybody who drinks more than four cups of coffee a day is in trouble’ he lyriced. For forty years I drink a dozen or more mugs of it a day. Maybe, like the sweets, it isn’t good for me, but lo and behold, in last Sunday’s newspaper I learn that five cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 65 per cent.
At this juncture we must point out that warnings against the misuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco smoking are well justified. What this column is on about is the neurotic, compulsive wasted obsession with an inaccurate measurement of health benefit.
Is somebody seriously telling me that if on a night out, I indulge in what most right-thinking people would regard as a moderate evening’s drinking i.e. four cans of fizzy drinks, I then have to walk twenty-four miles to undo the harmful effects of those four drinks? Rubbish, I say.
Calorie counting began around the turn of the last century. The idea caught on and people began counting and calculating exactly what was being consumed when eating particular foods and ‘burned’ when engaging in the different activities. The benefit of eating more fibre, fruit and vegetable was proven – and we accept that basic fact.
Even if you sit down to eat with a calculator along with your knife and fork, counting calories with accuracy is impossible. Restaurant meals are always understated, whilst some foods, like the humble egg has been given bad press, because the experts on these matters claim it fills you with 70 calories. In fact the egg is in itself ‘the perfect meal’ and contains more nutrients than any food on the planet.
Stop counting, I tell you: If you persist in counting those calories it will become your obsession too. You would have enjoyed a can of coke, like me; but then you become depressed from carrying the guilt, or believing that you must walk those six miles in order to purge the pleasure. Low fat this and low fat that – and your body and mind crying out for the healthy nutrients that you know you require.
We are what we eat. We also are who we are and what we do. Eating and burning up that energy is quite simply a matter of balance. I love my food and eating what we want is one of life’s great pleasures for all generations. But I do keep a reasonable rein on the amount and type of food I eat and I don’t eat as much as I’m ‘able’ and I couple this with a fair bit of exercise, like walking.
I am the recommended weight for my height and years – and I do not count calories! It is subliminal behaviour rather than willpower or calorie counting which has the desired effect. It is the gradual, long-term approach to eating which does the trick.
Calorie counting is a pain in the butt for you and everybody who has to listen to you. You will know yourself if you are ‘pigging out’ on something sometime that is fattening, so just don’t do it again tomorrow. No need to ever starve yourself either, but try to break the habit of continuous snacking between meals.
If you are out celebrating, no need to be the only one passing on the hot apple crumble covered in custard – just because some magazine warned you that it is a numbers trap set with you in mind. The last warning I read was that a scone contains more calories than a quarter-pounder burger; but you see, I don’t give a calorie one way or the other, because here’s one guy who isn’t counting!
If you want to be the picture of health, you’d better have a happy frame of mind.