Letter to the Editor: A Battle with Calories
Of the letters I've been receiving about the calorie since my Editor's page discussed calories in the May issue, this was one of the few that came from a man. It's the first account I've seen about the effect of a bad job market on someone with an eating disorder.
I want to thank you for your candid editorial in the most recent issue of Cooking Light. As a 23-year-old male who has been struggling with an eating and exercise disorder for the better part of the last four years, I know all too well the power the calorie can hold on the human mind. It's almost impossible to escape in today's media blitz of diet ads, "health" news stories, and on-demand access to nutritional information, and I think for young people like myself, it's especially tempting to fall into a calorie-counting lifestyle. And when I say lifestyle, I mean it.
We are all looking for some kind of road map in life. Some kind of valediction for our days or plan to follow or goal to reach for. For those of us who've struggled with a bleak postgraduate job market and find ourselves frustrated at feeling helpless in the world, it becomes all too easy to build "control" factors, such as calorie counting and exercise, into our day. The idea is that eating X-calories and doing X-amount of exercise in a given time gives us something to accomplish in any given day, and ensures for a kind of "pat-on-the-back" that will always be waiting for us. The only problem is, like you said, the human body (not to mention the mind) is much more complicated than any chart or table we find on the Internet. The balance will never work out like we plan, and the results -- both physically and socially -- can leave a person in a downward spiral just as much as any obesity problem would.
Worst of all, it distorts your view of what full is and can lead to binging problems. I thought it funny how you mentioned a donut in your editorial because I think it hints at the distinction between being full and being satiated. Someone like me, who convinces himself I must eat a high-calorie diet to support an active lifestyle (but seldom actually eats enough to support it) may be perpetually full, but I'm never satiated. And I'm never satiated because I seldom allow myself to enjoy food beyond calories -- that is, to enjoy the social aspects and the impulse of those treats that someone just "had" the bring to work.
I've known what I needed to do to leave this vicious cycle behind for a while now, and your column is just one more kick in the pants to get me to hold myself accountable.