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Weighty Matters

Trey Reely | November 2010

    People on diets are annoying. They bore others with inane conversations about calories, carbohydrates, and fat grams. Dieters also have terrible timing, often talking about their weight loss during meals; the last thing I want to talk about while downing a triple Angus burger dripping with cheese and bacon is someone’s efforts to lose weight. A burger just doesn’t taste as good when you add guilt. Even if they don’t talk about their diet, dieters make you feel guilty as you watch them dip their modest portion of celery into a small cup of fat free ranch dressing.
    Sadly, I have become one of those annoying people. I am still struggling to expand my choice of conversation topics beyond my culinary travails, and it is certainly no easy task. I spend so much time talking about food because I spend a majority of my time thinking about food. In some ways I feel that my life has been reduced to that of my cocker spaniel. She spends all day thinking of squirrel, an unattainable canine delicacy; I drool dreaming about a Wendy’s double cheeseburger, almost equally unattainable for me. When I travel down the highway, I look longingly, like a scorned, teenage lover, at road signs bearing the names of former trysting places – McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s. At meals with friends and family I find myself entranced, staring jealously at the dinner plates of my companions. I have to hold my tongue to keep from saying, “Do you know how many calories are in that?”
    Actually, I am not on a diet per se. I have decided to make what some people call a lifestyle change. To aid in this effort I have employed an iPhone application called Lose It. (I’m hoping I can become to the iPhone what Jared is to Subway.) I’ve always been motivated by charts and graphs, so the basic concept of Lose It is perfect for me: I use the app to set a goal of how much weight I want to lose in a certain amount of time, and it sets my daily calorie count. The app also has a bank of food choices and how many calories each item contains. The food bank was probably the most enlightening and discouraging part. Basically everything I really enjoy is loaded with calories: Cheese. Ranch dressing. Chocolate. Ice cream. Milkshakes. Hamburgers. Quesadillas. Fried chicken. Pistachios. Cap’n Crunch. Pizza. Cheddar peppers. French fries. Biscuits. Whole milk.
    At every meal I bring out an old measuring cup. I still can’t get over how laughable the serving sizes listed on the food labels are. The first morning of my lifestyle change I measured out my cereal and almost screamed. There wasn’t enough there to feed a hamster. And things got worse – the allotted one cup of skim milk disappeared under the flakes.
    The Lose It app also has various activities listed and how many calories you burn if you participate in them. I don’t mind mowing the lawn anymore since it burns 71 calories every ten minutes.  When I walk halfway across campus and forget why I was walking there, I’m now consoled by the fact that I burned 10 calories getting there and will burn 10 more when I return after remembering why I went in the first place. I was pleasantly surprised to learn how many calories were burned in musical activities; so much so that I did extra research (visited one website) to confirm what is listed on the app. The figures I mention below will vary from one person to the next since calories burned during exercise are influenced by body weight, workout intensity, conditioning level and metabolism.
    For 30 minutes of practice a woodwind player burns 47 calories, violinists 71, trumpet players 71, trombone players 118, and drummers 142. Marching band burns 142 calories every 30 minutes but I’m sure this would vary by how many drill sets you have. (Political note: Don’t be surprised if this news reaches Washington and a minimum number of drill sets is required to promote better health.)
    As for conducting, 71 calories are burned every 30 minutes. That’s good news for band directors everywhere because it serves as an incentive to perform longer and more difficult music. By my estimate, conducting Husa’s The Apotheosis of This Earth would burn at least 59 calories, and that’s just on a run-through. I will no longer select pieces on their appropriateness or musical and educational value but by how many calories I lose conducting them. This isn’t altogether self-serving; it will also aid my students in battling childhood obesity.
I’m sorry if this article has proved to be annoying; it will be my last such expression on weighty matters. If you were eating something loaded with calories when you began the article, I apologize. And I hope it doesn’t bother you to know that while typing this article I burned eight calories.