The Kingdom of the Calories

21 Dec

So there I was browsing in Barnes & Noble (bookshop) in midtown Manhattan, armed with good intentions and a couple of fitness/losing weight magazines in one hand (“How I lost 100 pounds!”, “Say goodbye to your old self in 2010!”), drooling dreamingly over some to-die-for chocolately heaven in a cakes cookbook in the other hand, when suddenly I caught sight of myself and chuckled at the dramatic irony of the situation.

I realised that this is the perpetual conundrum people who need to lost weight have to deal with: that terrible battle between wanting to eat luscious foods and wanting to be thin. Because for people who love to eat, that revoltingly smug one-liner abnormally-sized Kate Moss recently threw out to the horror of most normal-sized people – “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – is just one massive deception.

And this terrible conundrum is most graphically played out here on the streets of New York, where CALORIES scream out at you from every shop window laden with delectable goodies.

You walk past a doughnut place – “Chocolate custard donut! (573 calories)”, you go into a Starbucks – “Gingerbread Eggnog Happy Holidays Iced Cinnamon Latté! (498 calories)”, you go into a supermarket and you walk past a section wholly devoted to packets of snacks that are all only 100 calories each, perfect for your average dieter’s treat of the day (assuming you don’t eat all six portions in one go, of course).

My question to the powers that be in America’s Grand High Calorie Council is as follows: Do you really think that a person who is about to take a luxurious bite out of a MASSIVE cream doughnut or an even MASSIVER squidgy blueberry muffin is benefiting from knowing its calorie content? Is this omniscient calorie display really going to do anything to tackle one of the highest obesity levels in the world? (I would guess that lowering the exorbitant price of fruit and vegetables in your average New York supermarket might be more effective, but that’s just a hunch.)

One final anecdote:  not long ago I attended a talk on the East Side, followed by an informal buffet. At said buffet, in the midst of having my usual internal battle between what I really wanted to eat and what I was resigning myself to eating, I found myself looking on aghast at a horrific image. This was of another participant, female, emaciated, obviously ravenous,  who was standing in the corner next to a sandwich platter and literally devouring these horrible tuna and egg sandwiches like this was the first time she’d eaten in 2009.

What was really tragic about this scene was that I soon clocked that the poor malnourished girl was shovelling in just the sandwich fillings just as quickly as she was discarding the main bulk of the sandwich, i.e. the bread, in a dustbin strategically placed nearby.

There was no doubt in my mind. I was witnessing a scene out of an Atkin’s Diet hell.

It was then that I wondered what would happen to me living in America – would I end up skinny or would I end up obese? Are there any in-betweens here?

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6 Responses to “The Kingdom of the Calories”

  1. Nina December 21, 2009 at 12:45 #

    love it ! – trying to diet myself… no chance with Xmas round the corner and all the tesco expresses having special offers on “bad stuff”

  2. Valerie December 21, 2009 at 13:31 #

    Think Israel was even worse re. eating/calories… not much to do there except sit in cafes every night and eat out all the time. More active lifestyle in NYC tho the food everywhere is tempting!

  3. Jonathan Burg December 21, 2009 at 17:48 #

    Just avoid the High Fructose Corn Syrup that’s in everything, and follow the principle of balance (1lb in, 1lb out) and it will all be fine!

  4. Nadia December 22, 2009 at 03:34 #

    Darling Rebecca,

    my own personal theory is: “it’s all in your head”. Followed (or preceded) by a basic principle: “eat when you are hungry, and don’t eat when you’re not”.
    The basic principle is the result of this particularly smart question i asked myself years ago (when we were both still in Paris): “if I am hungry, doesn’t this mean my body NEEDS food?”. It sounds sort of logical to answer “yes”. I mean, if i feel tired, it’s because i NEED sleep. Right?
    Now we get to the theory part: since you are in need of food – stop being stressed about it. If you’re hungry – eat. And if you’re already eating – enjoy it and don’t think of the consequences.

    I know it sounds as a joke but i’m serious! Of course, feed yourself with real food as much as you can (if you’re hungry, eat a real meal, don’t eat a muffin or you’ll be hungry again in half an hour ), and treat yourself with something “sinful” (oh i love sins! All sins!) at the END of the meal, when you’re already full. This way you’ll enjoy the taste but won’t feel like eating tons of it (remember – if you’re NOT hungry, don’t eat!).

    I should write a book! Shouldn’t I!

    Anyway on a final note, get yourself a dog like Piece and i can assure you you’ll burn millions of calories every day just by walking this Hoover creature morning and evening 😉

    MISS YOU!!!
    (and Piece misses you too!)

  5. Nora El Rhazoui December 23, 2009 at 09:16 #

    Hello Rebecca ! I found your blog’s link on facebook !

    I tried a very nice method to loose weihgt (- 10kg since june 2009) :

    It’s very simple : eat only when you’re hungry, eat slowly, and stop eating as soon as the hunger feeling stops…
    Everything is allowed : chocolate, chips, tartiflette, moroccan sweets… You eat what you like, the only condition is to be hungry !

    It seems very simple, and it is, you’ll find more scientific precisions on the blogs :

    You can read Dr Zermati blogs and books about the topic (in french)

    Bisous Rebecca, tu peux m’écrire sur facebook !

  6. rebeccainspace December 23, 2009 at 10:51 #

    thanks for the how to lose weight advice, friends – although that was not really the aim of this post!!! are you all trying to tell me something?? 😉

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