For fat people, the shortest distance is…not.


From the department of pathetic reasons why First Worlders are so persistently fat.


It’s in the form of an excruciatingly long treatise deconstructing the unlikelihood of focusing on the calorie as a tool of weight loss. The piece’s opening paragraphs tell us everything we need to know about the author’s Losing Weight Is Just Too Difficult perspective.


In an effort to lose weight, Nash uses an app to record the calories he consumes and a Fitbit band to track the energy he expends. These tools bring an apparent precision: Nash can quantify the calories in each cracker crunched and stair climbed. But when it comes to weight gain, he finds that not all calories are equal. How much weight he gains or loses seems to depend less on the total number of calories, and more on where the calories come from and how he consumes them. The unit, he says, has a “nebulous quality to it”.


Not really. There is nothing nebulous about it.


Eat less. Why is simple so complicated?
Oh, I know. Fat people, as evidenced by their physical state, lead very complicated inner lives. For a fat person, the shortest distance between A and B is not a straight line; it’s the buffet line.


So what to do when confronted with such immense odds and threat of uncompromising hard work and sacrifice? Why you defer to science to demonstrate why calories are so “nebulous.”


The great thing about that calorie is that it is, in fact, not nebulous. It is a concrete, physical measurement of energy. Anything else you do to cloud this elemental figure and distort its applicability to your dietary intake is on you and your overly complicated gluttony.


And once again, feel-good relativism finds its way into a fat apologist piece. Let’s make fat people feel good about accepting that they are helpless and lazy.


But Nash and Haelle do not find weight control so simple. And part of the problem goes way beyond individual self-control. The numbers logged in Nash’s Fitbit, or printed on the food labels that Haelle reads religiously, are at best good guesses. Worse yet, as scientists are increasingly finding, some of those calorie counts are flat-out wrong–off by more than enough, for instance, to wipe out the calories Haelle burns by running an extra mile on a treadmill. A calorie isn’t just a calorie. And our mistaken faith in the power of this seemingly simple measurement may be hindering the fight against obesity.


A calorie is always a calorie. An inch is always an inch, and sadly, I lack many vertical ones, but I don’t sit here trying to come up with reasons why height charts or rulers are inaccurate.


As long as our obese-minded culture of hyper-abundance continues to complicate food and feeding into a dystopian death spiral in which the alternate reality tells us up is down while apologizing and excusing gluttony with a self-righteous shrug, we will continue getting fatter and fatter.  Obesity is a self-perpetuating cancerous mental march that is unleashed the moment we put food in our mouths.