National S’mores Day, and the Scary Reality About Calories

Sunday, August 10th was National S’Mores Day. I’m a sucker for s’mores (anything with melted chocolate? Bring it on!) and saw this as an opportunity to indulge. I’m at goal, and have been maintaining for over a year, so you might think I’d say to myself, “Go ahead. Enjoy. You’ll work it off.”  But I can’t stay at goal unless I keep budgeting what I eat, so I planned out my calories for the day and then added in two s’mores sandwiches for dessert. In adding them up, I discovered that four Keebler Graham Crackers came to 240 calories, two giant Kraft Jet-puffed marshmallows came to 50, and four blocks of Hershey’s dark chocolate came to roughly 145.

That’s a total of 435 calories.

That doesn’t seem all that awful, until you realize that for me, weighing 125 pounds at age 35, burning that off would require an intense hour on a spin bike.

Suddenly I wasn’t so sure I wanted those s’mores. However, there were other ways I could work off a little under 500 calories. Livestrong.com pointed out that you could also burn it by doing 90 minutes of jumping jacks. Fitsugar noted that it would take 57 minutes doing an interval workout on the treadmill. According to FitnessBlender.com, approximately the same amount could also be burned by:

  • Jumping rope for 42 minutes
  • Punching a punching bag for 70 minutes.
  • Playing rugby for 45 minutes.

See where I’m going with this?

The frightening reality about calories isn’t only in how many of them are in the foods we consume, but in what it requires to burn them off. It’s what eating these things is “costing” us, and what we have to do to “pay” for them. I found out recently that it would take over 5000 burpees (also known as squat-thrusts) to burn off one large hamburger from Five Guys. I happen to think burpees are evil, so that’s enough to ward me off from eating at Five Guys forever.

It’s becoming a well known fact that one pound of fat equals 3500 calories, so you’d have to either cut 500 calories a day or burn an additional 500 in order to burn one pound in a week. (You heard that—ONE per week. It doesn’t seem like a lot when you look at it that way, so is it any wonder that many people get frustrated and give up?) If you’re in a place where exercise makes you want to hide under your bed and never come out, then it’s essential to know what certain amounts of calories look like. Myfitnesspal has a lovely little breakdown about what 200 calories really looks like, pointing out that a large apple is 110 calories, and that two tablespoons of peanut butter is 180. Wisegeek has an even better breakdown.

Even more frightening than the reality of what calories “cost” or what the “price” is of working them off, is the fact that the vast majority of people are completely unaware of what they’re putting into their bodies. And, even worse, those of us who know that what we’re doing isn’t healthy, but we’re too afraid to really look at what we’re eating because that would require making a change. The thing to realize is that the power is in the change. The power is in the understanding that comes with knowing what you’re eating, and knowing exactly what it will take to burn it off. It takes work, it takes planning, and most importantly, it takes not sticking your head in the sand and avoiding the scary truth about calories. Because once you do, the food doesn’t control you anymore. You control it.

So, on Sunday afternoon, I put on some loud ‘80s ‘hair band’ rock, hopped on my bike, and cycled my rear off for sixty minutes, creating exactly the caloric deficit I needed to enjoy my s’mores that evening.

And enjoy them, I did.

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