How Many Donuts?

Developing a good relationship with food is fundamental to live a healthy life, both physically and mentally. In today’s post, I intend to share some basic understanding of food thermodynamics and give you some perspective about what it takes to lose or gain one pound of fat weight.

When engaging in a food conversation, people typically repeat certain narratives that seem to be of common knowledge without fact-checking them or pondering their meaning. Some of these narratives are:

  • “you should not eat carbs; it’s bad for you.”
  • “that has too much oil; it’s unhealthy.”
  • “You can’t get protein unless you eat meat.”
  • “If you have sugar, you will get fat.”
  • “You need to go to the gym to lose weight.”

And following, I see them getting sandwiches wrapped in lettuce to avoid the bread or ordering salads with the dressing on the side. To be honest, there is nothing wrong with this approach if it satisfies you; but some of these people would kill for a piece of bread. And if they have it, they would feel guilty and starve themselves some more.

Recently I read a great book called “Intuitive Eating.” In this book, the authors argue that starving yourself or denying what you crave often leads to binge eating and weight gain because of many psychological factors that people on diets experience. In the book, one of the great ideas they propose is to stop labeling food items as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” “good” or “bad.” etc. But instead, see it as food, as something that you want or not, something that satisfies you or not, something that brings you closer to your goals or not. Thus, you will remove emotions from specific food items and begin thinking more strategically about your body and mind. Unfortunately, many eating disorders come from this traditional way of thinking about food.

If you did watch the Prezi slides on food thermodynamics I linked in the first paragraph, you saw how your body transforms food into energy. This transformation is, in simple terms, calories in, calories out. So It’s just a matter of learning how much your body uses, then eat as much (within a ballpark), and listening to your satiety cues. With this basic understanding, you can eat whatever you like, and re-train yourself to enjoy food.

There is much to say about the macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats, or protein, and I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian to teach the subject. However, I want to point you to some resources where you could either confirm or bust your myths:

Through these readings, I hope your takeaway is that there is more to food than binary labels, and there is no clean-cut way of “eating well.” This thought also might give you the relief that you can enjoy every once in a while some treats that you love but feel sinful or guilty to you today.

After bombarding you with information, I can answer the question of today’s post, how many donuts do you need to eat to gain one pound of body fat in weight?

By now, you probably know that one pound of fat contains approximately 3500 calories. This number comes from multiplying 454grams (1 lb) times 9 (9 calories per gram of fat) and deducting some energy your body needs to convert that stored fat into usable energy. Now, one donut weighs about 38g (according to Wikipedia), and according to the FDA, 38 grams of a donut is 172 calories. Therefore, to gain one pound of fat, you must eat a bit more than 20 standard donuts. Twenty is not a small number; this means that you would have to eat about three donuts/day in a week on top of your regular meals, and you would just become 454 grams heavier. Of course, we can apply the same logic to bacon, candy, or anything else that’s considered unhealthy.

There are many reasons why I would not choose to eat these many donuts, mainly because they contain white flour and refined sugar; none of these bring any additional micronutrients, thus not giving your body any nutrition or satisfaction. However, we must not underestimate the psychological effect that the pleasure of eating gives, plus the relief of feeling free to enjoy whatever you want without guilt.

Finally, the number talks about how weight gain is more a habit than an item that you enjoy at a point in time. So next time you feel like indulging your palate with that donut you were craving, go for it with the peace of mind that you didn’t do much damage to your weight goals.

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