T Nation

'You Don't Know What a Calorie Is?'


Given the nature of this website, I'd HOPE that most people here know what a calorie is. It seems though that your average Joe on the street doesn't have a clue, which is quite startling.

I say that your average Joe doesn't know what a calorie is because awhile back I was watching "Supersize Me" and saw that at one point they went around asking random people on the street what a calorie is. I believe not one of about a dozen people they asked could tell them. Most people said something like that a calorie was a type of fat, or that calories were things you shouldn't eat too much of. When I saw this I assumed that they had done some editing and just showed the people who didn't know, but I wanted to see for myself. So I went around and asked a bunch of people I knew what a calorie was. Ignoring my physics friends, not one person I asked could tell me what a calorie was. Even though I still don't know just how much editing they did on Supersize Me, and I know my own little poll had far to small a sample size, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that these results are probably pretty representative of the population at large.

Anyway, with how much dietary issues and stories end up in the media I find it amazing that so few people know what a calorie actually is. It's no wonder that even though the media and internet are awash in dietary information that your average Joe is still fat... If you don't even know WHAT a calorie is I don't see how you could effectively understand the basics of any diet or any sort of dietary principles. I'm not trying to say that people fail at diets or fail to establish good eating habits only because they are ignorant--obviously lack of self control and will power are the biggest factors--nevertheless this sort of ignorance can't be helping.

Comments anyone? Is this complete and utter lack of basic dietary knowledge, despite the wash of dietary information available, really a big deal? How could the various governmental health campaigns and private diet marketing fail so thoroughly that your average person STILL doesn't know what a fucking calorie is?


Curiously enough, our governments most visible diet and information site seems to lack a basic explanation of what a calorie is.


Anyway, at least I couldn't turn up any definition at all through some quick searches and browsing through some of the question and answer sections. Maybe it's there somewhere, but I didn't find it.


I think it is enough energy to change the temperature of one liter of water by one degree?


Well yeah it's how much energy is needed to raise the temperature of a litre of water by 1 degree centigrade right?


The amount of energy required to raise 1 g of water by 1 deg C. 1000 of them will get you the dietary calorie. (sorry I had to nerd out for a second)

But I totally agree. I think it's the fact that people are very uninformed about almost anything these days, not just with nutrition. People are lazy choose not to stay informed, and would rather have information force-fed to them (which tends to be the wrong information). Unfortunately, some of these misinformed people are in high positions of power, with the govt. for example.

As for not knowing what a calorie is, in terms of just a basic measure of energy...well that's just sad.


calorie or kilocalorie?


This is also true where I live. The media have them believe that they get fat by eating fat, so all the diet people eat is "no fat this" and "no fat that".

The canadian government as an eating guide wich is a oversimplified diet for the average joe. It's like eat 8-10 portions of fruits/veg every day, 1-2 portion of meat, but also 8 portions of bread and pasta. Basically, lots of carbs and almost no protein.


calories are points you have to collect with your mouth


You mean you are like pacman and collect goldnuggets and avoid ghosts, but periodically you want to eat them too?


lol why the fuck are you named Emile Zola?




IMO, people underestimate calories. For example, if one were to eat a half a pizza, the common misconception maybe to "run it off" the next day. heck, they just took in 1000 calories, then I need to do a 1000 calories worth of work. A lot people are having problems understanding how their body responds to certain food and workouts and are looking for that "One diet, fits all" to cure their bad eating habits or help compensate for their lack of nutritional knowledge. If this is the case, than it is not a suprise that the average person does not know what a calorie is.


I had to read books from this author in college and hated it, this guy is too fuckin' descriptive. And hum, that name was not taken. It's kind of a love/hate thing.


gold nuggets = calories
ghosts = cheat meals
big nuggets = protein shakes

I'm going for the high score!!


I have read ''La faute a l'abbé Mouret'' and it was okay. I like his style.


I like boobs , I really do, but they do make all kind of mental activity extremely difficult.


Big difference between kcal (kilocalorie) and calorie.

Kcals are calulated coverting grams of P, C, and F. Calories on food labels and cardio machines are worthless.


Exactly! My point wasn't that your average Joe can't recite the precise definition of a calorie from memory (hell, I can't do that, although I do vaguely remember the Joule conversion). My point was that the average Joe doesn't even understand that a calorie is a unit of energy! They think calories are a type of fat, or even more vaguely things you should stay away from!

Does anyone else think that this sort of lack of basic knowledge must hinder people's abilities to form good dietary habits? I mean really... How are you suppose to understand or internalize any sort of basic guidelines for eating right if you don't even understand what's being said? What good does it to to tell a person they should eat x amount of calories a day (which is incorrect anyway... you don't "eat" calories, you take in food with a certain caloric value), eat lots of omega 3 fatty acids, choose low glycemic index carbs, etc etc. if they don't even understand what a calorie, fatty acids, or the glycemic index is in the first place? This is like me giving someone ostensive instructions on how to measure the area of a room but not telling them what the fuck "area" is. Sure, they'll be able to follow the instructions, but god help them if they have to go measure a room on their own.


Yeah, what gets listed on nutrition labels is actually kilocalories. A calorie is the energy to raise one gram/milliliter/cm^3 of water 1 degree C.

As an interesting side note, it takes about 33000 kcal to equal the energy of one gallon of gasoline.


I think I'm going to track my energy intake in terms of gasoline from now on.