In addition to loving chocolate, I am a survival show junky. I especially like it when the survivors get to the point of calculating whether the energy exerted to get food, maybe swimming for an hour, is worth the energy they will get from two or three sea urchins.  If more than one survivor is crunching the numbers, it usually leads to a disagreement not only over calories but flavor, texture, familiarity, spirituality, and humaneness.

It was during just such a show, the one with blurred bottoms, while I was snacking on some Baked Tostito Scoops and spicy hummus, that I realized yet another thing this Social Diet has taught me about myself (and it applies to a lot of other Americans): In this urban jungle of unhealthy foods, of easily accessible excess, new math is required if we’re going to lose weight and get healthier. Like those butt-naked survivors, we on the Social Diet have to calculate which food is actually worth our effort, and we have to demand a lot more from the food we do choose.

This is my environment: I can expend 20 steps, turn a key, drive a little, open my wallet, and buy 1,200 calories—in about 10 minutes. That’s probably a net calorie surplus of 1,190 over energy expended.

So, instead of calculating the most efficient way (drive-thru) to gather the most calories (chicken wings and fries)—food I used to eat more often—this diet has forced me to divine how to expend the most effort (running 5 miles) to harvest the least calories (a grilled chicken salad) from food that I actually enjoy.  This remains strange math for me, especially since this new way of eating—getting less food for more effort—seems to also cost more money. But, now that I log everything I eat each day on MyFitnessPal, and compare my activity and progress with the other Social-Lights (I am trademarking that term), I insist, most of the time, that my food has real flavor and good nutrition and limited calories—and it must satisfy. Chicken wings and fries just don’t survive that math.

Have your expectations of food changed since starting a diet? Share with us. Comment here, email and tweet @Cooking_Light using #SocialDiet.