The Ugly Truth About Counting Calories

Are exercise labels on our food in our future?  How would you like to get your favorite snack that you know is high calorie and discover how long it would actually take to burn off the calories?

The calories in vs. calories burned is nice and comforting as long as it is anecdotal and you never really have to apply it.  The reality is a very ugly truth that could change your food decisions for the better.

Case in point:

To burn 1 pound of body weight you must burn 3500 calories.  To burn 3500 calories you must exercise “x” number of  minutes or hours – depending on what exercise you choose.  So you see it isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially if you are overeating on a daily basis.

What about you?  If you reached for the box of Ho Hos and saw this:

Warning:  To burn off 3 Ho Hos containing 370 calories you would need to do at least one of the following:

Jump rope for 30 minutes to burn 370 cal
Run 6 mph for 30 minutes to burn 340 cal
Low impact aerobics for 30 min to burn 207 cal
High impact aerobics for 30 min to burn 238 cal
Vigorous impact aerobics for 30 min to burn 360 cal

Would you choose the Ho Hos?  After all, they are made with a flat bottom so they won’t roll away from you, according to the Hostess website.  But it is pretty much a guarantee that you will be rolling away by consuming these and other nutritionally defunct foods on a regular basis.

According to a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health these labels may actually influence a teenager’s decision to drink or not to drink a soda.  In this study, a sign was placed on the door to the sodas in 4 local corner stores in Baltimore, MD.  Some stores had the calories per drink listed while the others had time it would take to burn off the calories by jogging.

Surprisingly, most teenagers made a better, healthier choice, choosing the less sugary drinks labeled with exercise labels.  Sales of the sugary drinks went down and sales of water and other lower calorie drinks went up.

How much influence would this information have on you?  Let me know what you think about labeling food with exercise labels.


2 thoughts on “The Ugly Truth About Counting Calories

  1. roberta4949

    interesting analogy and idea but one problem cal in and cal out has been debunked. don’t know why this myth sticks. our bodies have more say on our weight then we do, it matters not what hte caloire count is, it is the setpoint and body’s nutrtional status and genetics that determine fatness more than caloire counting otherwise we would be mostly thin people since caloire counting and diets that incorporate some form of this has failed most people despite a 40 billion dollar industry on exercises, lower caloire diets, gym memberships etc. even your response to exericse is genetically determined next to nutrtional status that is why some people become elite athletes and some do not despite similar traiing and diet regime..

    1. thegroovyplanteater Post author

      True, Roberta. But time and again I encounter this theory and I find it is somewhat of an excuse to eat whatever you want if you exercise a few times a week. I believe if we pay attention to what we eat and what our activity level is we will know what tends to put the weight on as an individual. Similar to eating one “superfood” regularly and taking a specific vitamin, once it is in our system, we metabolize as a whole based on our makeup. It is easy to underestimate calorie intake and overestimate calories burned. Which is a basic reason why calorie counting doesn’t work.

      However, as a general rule, when you eat calorie dense foods in excess of what you need, you will gain weight and the only way to remove it, outside of surgery, is to get up and move and stop overeating.

      Even on plant-based diets, you can still overeat and carry a few too many pounds.

      Thanks for your post.


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