Food for thought: Are Jaffa Cakes the answer?
I have a confession;
Ive done something that I have previously mocked others for. I
feel like a complete hypocrite and slightly embarrassed too. My sin?
Ive recently started to think about my calorific intake. In my
defence, I would like to say that I expect this current fad to be very
short lived. It will only have lasted about two or three weeks in total.
Thankfully, I have emerged almost unscathed from my brief encounter
with an evil underworld. A place where the false gods of Slim Fast milkshake
and the Go Ahead biscuit await to recruit devoted followers. The one
thing this experience has taught me is the quite essential need to eat
more Jaffa Cakes. Let me save you from ever having to visit that horrible
place. All you need to know about dieting is this one simple fact
love Jaffa Cakes.
It all started on a cycle ride from Cambridge to London. I didnt
just decide to hop onto my bike and ride up the hard shoulder of the
M11; it was an organised event. I joined hundreds of others in the 55
mile ride through the quiet country roads of Essex and Cambridgeshire.
A couple of friends had cycle computers, which tell you your average
speed, ride time and various other facts that give you something to
think about whilst you pedal. Nothing unusual about that, but someone
had one with an extra function it worked out how many calories
you were burning. By the time wed got to Cambridge I was alarmed
to find out that after about 3 or 4 hours of steady cycling this machine
reckoned we had used up slightly less energy than a Mars bar would provide.
Fancy a burger?
Its not every day that I exert as much energy as a fifty-odd mile
cycle, where as it is virtually every day that I drink a few pints and
perhaps eat some chocolate. Bearing in mind that I am not obese, there
was an obvious imbalance in this equation. Is my body just waiting for
a few more years before deciding that its payback time? Is middle-aged
spread lurking around the corner? Or was it just that the equation was
totally wrong? I had to find out and so began my quest into this nightmare
The reason why I hate the idea of calorie counting is that I love food.
I also know that the nicest food is not always the lowest in fat. I
feel sorry for people who inflict strict dietary regimes on themselves,
especially when you can see that they by are by no means overweight.
Do they know what they are missing or have they just forgotten? Lets
face it; the best food is never going to feature on a calorie counters
menu planner. How good are fish and chips covered in mushy peas? Or
a juicy beef burger with a slice of melted blue cheese; a crisp green
salad with French salad dressing; a sweet, hot, blackberry and apple
crumble drowned in custard, the list is endless. But all frowned upon
by the diet police.
During my student days when watching This Morning was compulsory,
I once saw something that really got on my nerves. Their diet expert
Rosemary Conley responded to an enquiry about healthy foods by saying
But all food is fattening Richard. How many impressionable
people would have heard that comment and become obsessive calorie counters
overnight? It sounded like the perfect argument that someone suffering
from an eating disorder might employ. And all for what? Just so Rosemary
could scare a few people into buying her fitness video or latest recipe
We are often encouraged to believe that eating is just a way of providing
fuel for our bodies. Cooking is reduced to chemistry, involving the
mixture of strictly controlled and weighed components with the
ultimate aim, not of creating an enjoyable meal but calculated low-cal
sustenance. I can still recall the nagging voice of my home economics
teacher You half your fat intake by discarding the skin from a
chicken she would say, obviously unaware that the sticky crisp,
golden skin of a roasted chicken is by far the best bit.
Then of course theres drink. If you want to diet you can forget
it. You can perhaps allow yourself just the one gin and slimline tonic
in the pub. Although really it would be best to avoid temptation altogether
and not go to the pub in the first place. Sounds like great fun.
During my time with the enemy a friend bought me a 99p calorie counter
book. I think this was more of a joke than a thoughtful gift, at least
I hope so. My essential guide to calories and fat content,
did however, provide some very useful information. It cleared up the
confusion that had kick started my quest. The handy how much energy
do you burn? section said that cycling uses up between 240 and
600 calories per hour depending on pace and hills. During my cycle ride
I had kept up a reasonable speed and there were several hills so lets
take a figure of 450 calories per hour. I cycled for just over three
and half-hours which makes roughly around 1600 calories. A Mars bar
provides 310, a mere fraction, case closed.
Before I burn the book to measure the amount of energy it would yield
were it edible (an experiment known as caliometry, apparently) there
are a few facts that may interest you. Writing or typing uses up 120
calories an hour, which means by now Ive used up about 300 or
so just doing this. I may go shopping later, which will burn a massive
240 cal/hour. Perhaps Ill have a power nap, not because
Im lazy but to use up another 60 cal/hour. If Ive enough
energy left after that I may attempt the stairs. Not a task to be taken
lightly requiring an exhausting 660 calories per hour (admittedly it
only takes about 2.5 seconds to ascend the stairs in my house). If youre
feeling energetic and want to think about sport, then go for squash,
youll burn a whopping 840 calories per hour.
As for the food section of the book, heres a summary. A pint of
Guinness has about the same amount of calories as a pint of orange juice
and less fat. Jaffa cakes contain 25% less calories than chocolate digestives
made by a famous, so-called health shop and about 65% less
fat. Its all common sense really. Do a spot of exercise and dont
eat a donor kebab and chips every night and youll be fine.
Meanwhile all this typing has left me exhausted, I must have used well
over 400 calories now. Im off to the pub to replenish my reserves.
If youve got time I recommend reading a few more articles on the
website, youll use about 90 calories per hour just sitting there.
© Jim Johnson 2001