I’ve gained just less than 20 pounds since my last official weigh-in. Since there are 3,500 Calories in a pound of fat, that means that I’ve consumed just shy of 70,000 needless Calories in the past few months. As one would do when getting a household budget in line, I sat down with a spreadsheet to think about where some of these needless Calories were spent.
Until my gas station bribed me into trying one with a free t-shirt, I had never tasted a “Whoopie Pie.” It’s essentially two sweet, sticky muffin tops that sandwich a creamy filling that’s somewhere between butter cream icing and marshmallow goo. You can get miniatures 5 for $1.99 or larger ones 3 for $2.49. I wear the tshirt to the gym. I wear the extra weight I gained everywhere I go.
For the purposes of our budget, let’s say I had 17 of the miniatures. That’s 3,400 Calories — just shy of a pound.
I have also developed a habit of eating Reese’s Cups. I’m not talking about the cute miniature ones or even the two-pack classic cups. These (plural) are the thick super-sized “Big Cup” variety. They’re delicious, and do very little for me from a satiety perspective. Why, then, did I find myself in possession of a case of them from Sam’s Club one weekend? Because they’re cheaper in bulk.
Let’s add a case of those dudes into the calculation. That’s 6,400 Calories.
I also discovered a product that didn’t exist when I began my weight loss journey — Snickers PB Squared. It apparently won some awards last year. It has the nutty-creamy quality of Snickers, and it also has the je ne sais quoi of peanut butter that makes it super double addictive. The regular pack comes with two squares, but you can also get it with 4 squares. I bought a bag of miniatures at the grocery store. Again, cheaper that way.
I honestly have no idea how many there were in that bag. Let’s go with 28. If there weren’t that many in the bag, I know I’ve eaten at least that many at gas station stops alone. 7,000 Calories.
While we’re on the topic of peanut butter, I have been known to sit down with a jar of it and scoop it out on saltine crackers. A similar motion also works if you’re holding a jar of Nutella and gripping graham crackers. My rational brain knows that peanut butter is a very Calorie-dense food — one that must be consumed in careful portions in order to prevent consuming it in excess. Those Calories don’t count if you’re wearing your Whoopie Pie shirt, right?
A cup of peanut butter contains 1,518 Calories. Over several months, I know I’ve cleaned out more than one jar. For our budget, let’s put 16 cups. That’s a gallon — 24,288 Calories. I know I haven’t eaten that much excess peanut butter, but I’m still shy some Calories to meet my 70,000.
If I were to fill in the remaining missing calories in terms of large pepperoni pizzas, it would take a dozen of them to tally up the remaining 28,000 Calories.
A taste here, a nibble there, a cheat on occasion, and endless promises to do better tomorrow. That’s how weight is gained. Establishing a Calorie deficit — consuming fewer Calories than are expended — is how weight is lost.
The momentary pleasure of eating that Reese’s Cup quickly fades. The impact registered on the scale does not. These are poor choices, and I know better! Why, then, did I make them?
This fascinating podcast from Radiolab, which has long been one of my favorite shows to listen to on my commute, discusses the way scientists believe our brain makes decisions. They describe it as bundles of neurons voting, as if on a committee. I can clearly feel the struggle in my own mind. “We want a candybar!” shout the pleasure-seeking neutrons. “Those are empty calories,” scold the bookkeepers. It’s not that any one set of neurons is me, rather they’re all me. I just have to wrangle the electorate and make sure the votes fall the way I want them to — I’m like the Minority Whip.
Minority Whip. Cool Whip. Never mind.