Calories


I walked into the kitchen last week in search of candy. It was a Sunday and I had convinced myself that since Sunday was the day reserved by many to praise deities, I could have candy. In the kitchen, Burke was aiming her phone at a package of ham.

“Are you taking a picture of the ham?”

“Hm?”

“Is the ham doing something interesting?”

“No…I’m scanning the calories.”

Against all my instincts, I asked for an explanation. And then I got one.

It seems that the not-getting-fat or the getting-less-fat people are the target market of lots of apps. There are apps to motivate you to eat better, to motivate you to eat less, to motivate you to eat nothing. Many of these apps are meant to deter your appetite. For an app to be successful in doing this with me, it would have to turn into a cheeseburger and stuff itself into my throat. The app Burke had found works on the premise of counting calories. This is a sadist’s app. So, let’s say one buys a packet of Oreos at the store. He is joyous, for he has bought Oreos and they are a solid part of his immediate future plans. And then, somewhere in between buying the Oreos and devouring the Oreos, he decides that what would really make the Oreos enjoyable would be knowing exactly how many calories eating them would transmute to him. He can then open this app on his phone, aim the phone at the Oreo barcode, scan it, and then instantly learn that by eating the Oreos, he will be fulfilling his caloric intake for the next 27 days.

Over the following week, Burke used it for everything. Everything. She became a font of information, all of it bad. The very number of calories in anything will make you recoil in terror, an action whose only benefit is that it burns about 4 calories. Everything became tainted with numerical information. I stopped seeing food and started seeing calories. A whole wheat wrap no longer was a tasty way to bring chicken to my mouth, it was now 320 calories. Hummus was no longer a salty part of my lunch, it was 180 calories. A beer was no longer a tasty way to forget my week, it was now 280 calories that I might as well tape to my ass.

There are some of you out there who will argue that before I ever knew about this secret world of ‘calories’ they still existed. You might say with annoyance that I just didn’t realize exactly how much everything I put in my mouth was uploading fat into my system. You might then put your hand on my padded knee and say words of encouragement to the effect of ‘knowledge is power’ and ‘being armed with information is a huge help.’ To you people, I say go eat a few spoonfuls of Nutella and then look at the calorie count. If you don’t shriek in horror, I’ll be impressed.

Depressed and filled with awful awareness, horrific information, and 872 calories on Thursday morning, I found myself at a low point. Fortunately, Thursday is the planning day for Cheat Day, which comes each Saturday. Cheat Day’s slogan is Anything Goes (into my mouth). I can live the whole day on cookies and peanut butter and bourbon added to morning Cheerios. We decided to order food.

“But what?”

“Pizza,” I said. I felt weak. I licked my licks.

Now, whenever someone suggests pizza, two things happen. The first is immediate agreement and the reaching for the nearest phone. The second is minor hesitation, but due to the other party’s suggestion for cheesesteaks or Italian hoagies. There is nothing in between. But alas, Burke had done neither. What she did was say this:

“Wait, wait.”

I entered a low grade state of panic caused by the diminishing chances of having pizza when once pizza felt certain. She removed her phone and my panic elevated when I realized that she was looking at the dreaded app.

“No.”

It was too late. The app informed her that each slice of pizza delivers between 300-450 calories. Each. Slice. And you know that the 450 calorie slice possesses all the best adjectives in terms of pizza: big, juicy, greasy, thick, covered in tubular meat. And just to be clear, when I eat pizza, I don’t have two slices. I have two slices as an appetizer for the six slices that follow. I eat so much pizza that I’m embarrassed to talk to skinny people for two days afterwards. Embarrassed, I should be clear, for them.

So that means pizza would cost me roughly 4,000 calories. I couldn’t rationalize this, not even on Cheat Day. We decided with bitterness in our voices that we would have ham sandwiches. The stilted enthusiasm we effused after that decision was like burnt rubber in my throat.

This app ruined pizza and Cheat Day.

On Sunday morning I brought out the trash. I opened the dumpster lid to see, resting on the floor, a box once containing a large pizza. I was overcome with grief. A grease stain bemoaned the joys of an epic feast. An 8,000 calorie epic feast. What had they had on the pizza? Was it juicy? Did the diners understand the breadth of their choice or were they still in the blissful dark about it? I slammed the door.

Burke was in the kitchen aiming the app at a box of cherry tomatoes. She made a face.

“Bad?”

“Nope. These you can have?”

“Of course.”

Burke left the room and the dog sat under me while I concocted a consolation prize. I located a cracker and a slice of Eidem cheese. I sliced an olive and I sliced the tomato. I laid them out on the cracker and on top of the cheese. I counted the calories as I did so. 50 for that, 40 for this, 20 for that. I ate slowly and angrily, counting each calorie as it went down. Burke came in.

“What are you having?”

“A piece of pizza,” I said. “Keep the app away.”

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