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Calories equals energy, not fat

Shannon Rapp, Arts & Entertainment Editor

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Calories, a word that receives a negative connotation, control people’s food decisions all around the world.  Such numbers plague menus and food boxes around the globe and leave customers obsessing over what they mean for their bodies. By definition, calories “equal the kilocalorie used to express the heat output of an organism and the fuel or energy value of food.”

However, the meaning of a calorie means different things for each individual in the world. A minority of people understand the true value of a calorie. They understand that a simple caloric number does not define them, and a mathematical definition only determines an insignificant number. For others, however, calories can become an obsession and can lead to problems such as eating disorders, over calculating calorie intake, and overall dissatisfaction with eating decisions.

The scientific definition of “calorie” seems easy to follow: calories equal a unit of energy, and if used in physical activity then the body will not store it nor will it result in weight gain, but if one participates in a  sedentary life, the caloric intake will overtake the caloric usage of the body and pile up, ultimately resulting in weight gain. As a disorder paralleled with anorexia nervosa, orthorexia “indicates an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy food.” Orthorexia leads people to calculate their calorie intake simply because ‘healthier’ foods typically possess lower caloric value, but most fail to realize that not fulfilling caloric needs for the body can result in loss of muscle, organ damage, and hormonal disruption, not weight loss. In addition, 66% to 84% of women with an eating disorder experience amenorrhea, a strange absence of the menstrual period. Insufficient caloric intake interrupts the body’s ability to function, which demonstrates why the word “calorie” does not do justice to its actual use.

“Calories” represent what society thinks we should eat, not what the body actually needs to survive. Additionally, each human requires a different amount of calories, with height, current weight, and body type all factoring into it. However, one word should not hold so much weight based on societal standards and medical numbers. Nothing comes from over obsessing about calories and what they mean. American culture revolves around food; one can expect to find a plethora of food options at any social gathering, making it hard to separate thoughts from calories when deciding what to consume.  

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that all food packages clearly label their nutrition facts somewhere on the product, and most, if not all of the time, “calories” appear in large letters and draw the eye immediately. This only furthers the emphasis placed on one word and how society inappropriately perceives it. Something as simple as replacing “calorie” with “energy” would accurately represent the chemical breakdown that occurs in the body to provide the energy needed to do physical activity and live. A seven letter word holds so much power over people, and a change of mindset must occur to rid the world of such a vile word. Character makes up people, not calories.

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Calories equals energy, not fat