About a dozen years ago, halfway through a family camping trip, we suddenly realized we had all had enough wieners and beans so we drove to the little bakery in town to stock up on homemade, to-die-for doughnuts.
My husband (who is known as the Saint, for reasons I will explain in another post) and I were pretty good at ignoring the usual post-bean noises from his 10-year-old and his buddy in the back seat, but then the boys floated a horrifying question.
“Why,” they wanted to know, “are calories bad?”
The Saint and I gaped at each other. What had the world come to, when two perfectly healthy – and, heaven knows, active – kids believed calories were evil?
We picked our jaws up off the floorboards, and then the Saint’s halo tarnished a little: he waved at me to make the first attempt.
“Calories aren’t bad,” I began firmly. “They’re just a measure of how much energy there is in food.”
Like British Thermal Units measure how much potential heat is contained in a cord of wood. Or miles per gallon indicates how far a car can travel on a jug of gasoline.
So we need calories – or more specifically, we need food that can give us energy as well as nutrients.
From an energetic point of view, doughnuts are good. Right?
Reality check: a pound of body fat contains 3500 calories, so the bulges on my belly and upper arms harbour 105,000 extraneous calories, energy I obviously didn’t need for pitching tents, writing stories, or scrambling for explanations.
A glazed yeast doughnut holds about 240 calories. That means I only had to consume 434 doughnuts to earn my extra poundage. It was way too easy.
So the trick, I guess, is to do what the experts say: “Get your calories from nutrient-rich foods so that every calorie counts toward health, well-being and answering questions from smart kids.”
Am I going to miss doughnuts? I think we can all guess the answer to that one.