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Extra calories from bad eating habits add up over time

Running & Fitness
Saturday, May 4, 2019

There was an interesting article in the May issue of Nutrition Action. The graphs and article compared the change in how people from 1970 to 2016 ate. It is always interesting to compare the old with the new and see how the changes have affected the population. The article did not give a very positive outlook.  

The one item that stood out at first glance was that the average number of calories for a person to eat each day. In 1970 the total number of calories was 2,055.  In 2016 the total calories increased to 2,515 per day. That is an increase of 460 calories the average person eats every day.  Not to alarm you, but that amounts to a total of 167,900 more calories the average person eats in a year. To apply this information to a runner, we can use, as an example, a 150-pound person running an eight-minute mile and burning up 13.5 calories a minute (energy = cal./min./lb.= .09 cal. per minute). He would have to run 12,437 more minutes than we did back in 1970. If this runner continued the eight-minute-per-mile pace during the added 12,437 minutes he would need to run 1,554 more miles to maintain the same level as in 1970.

For a non-runner this is an impossible concept to imagine. It is sort of like, “the moon is a long way off” and the idea of getting there by driving that far is hoping the car can last that many years. For a runner, trying to approach 1,554 miles in a year is a lot of running – and even more when those miles have to be added on to the miles you usually run in a year. I have run 2,400 miles in a year when I was doing marathons and I can tell you that any spare time you had was spent out on the pavement running. Weekends are almost a total loss for social events as if you are not spending between three or four hours running, you spent another three or four hours sleeping and recovering from the morning run. Saturday night parties were always cut short early as you knew you had to get up early in the morning to go for a long run. It isn’t long before you go from a party animal to a fitness nerd that joined other runners putting in those long miles.  As you can see, adding another 1,554 miles to burn up extra calories is a full time task.

As if adding an extra 1,554 miles to your total miles wasn’t bad enough, the extra calories the average person ate was more bad news. The article listed white potatoes as the No. 1 vegetable that people ate in 2016. The problem was that the white potato was in the form of potato chips and dehydrated potatoes. The bottom type of eating the white potato was fresh potatoes. Tomatoes ranked second on the list of vegetables, but the large majority of it was canned tomatoes. Oranges were ranked No. 1 on the list of fruits people consumed. The problem was that orange juice was five times more popular than eating a fresh orange. Apples were in second place with the same results. Juice and dried and canned apples were the most popular method of eating apples. The two fruits that had more fresh consumption were bananas and watermelon. They both had graphs that showed 100% fresh consumption. Grapes were mentioned in the fruit section, but again the most popular form for grapes was either juice or raisins. 

The increase in grain food category was good until the statistics show that this increase was mostly refined. The loaf of bread that lists 100% whole grain fell to the white refined flour loaf for the increase in grains. The good news in the graph was that chicken consumption went from 75 calories to 170 calorie average. Red meat fell from 325 calories to 240 calories in 2016. The difference in the amount of added fats and oils went from 345 calories in 1970 to 575 calories in 2016.

When you add this information to the newspaper article that came out this week that mentions that obesity is poised to overtake smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer, when you put the article on the extra calories the average person eats per day with the newspaper article, this starts to make sense.  The one thing that is a positive is that the cases of cancer mentioned is that they are preventable.  It is very difficult to break routine and bad habits, but if it leads to a healthier, and possibly a longer, life it is worth the effort.

Two of the three things mentioned in these articles that can make a difference and are not that hard to change. A change in eating habits can be made in small steps. Fresh potatoes instead of chips, skim milk instead of whole mile, nuts or fresh fruit instead of candy, and fish and chicken more frequently instead of red meat. Subtracting that extra 460 calories per day is not that difficult. The increase in activity versus time spent sitting in front of television, or games on the computer, can be a big help. The most difficult change seems to be the habit of smoking. I have never smoked, so I have to rely on the experience I have heard from other people and they say it is a hard habit to kick, but it can be done.

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666