KFC’s Double Down Reminds Us: All Calories Are Not Created Equal | A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

KFC’s Double Down Reminds Us: All Calories Are Not Created Equal

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Y’know, I wrote about KFC’s Double Down monstrosity almost 10 months ago, when it was being tested somewhere out in the northwest. I was outraged then, but I figured it simply wouldn’t sell. Boy, was I wrong.

People are lovin’ this thing! I mean, OD’ing on it! Seems like the only ones up in arms about it are deskchair critics like myself, thumping away on our laptops and writing angrily on our blogs. I have to admit. The thing is well received. So much so, that there was a slew of articles written about how “The Double Down Is Less Calories Than The Average Salad… So Let Us Eat Our Two Pieces Of Fried Chicken With Pork And Simulated Cheese In Between In Peace!”

Anyone else hear the record skip? I did.

It’s bull.

Those of us who are calorie counting… I get it. It’s only 540 calories… it’s tempting. But think about it – if you’re really calorie counting, then you know full well what you can get for 540 calories. You know that that’s over 10 cups of broccoli. (Not that you’d actually eat that, but it leads into a larger point.)

Since I brought up broccoli, can we address the primary issue, here? You’re spending 540 calories on two pieces of fried chicken, pork, and a slice of “processed cheese food.” A primary point of calorie counting is the fact that since you are working to limit your intake of food, you make the most out of each calorie you’re ingesting. FiveThirtyEight offers up a pretty good explanation of what I mean:

Here, the Double Down’s credentials are more impressive. Those 540 calories contain 145 milligrams of cholesterol (more than twice that of the Big Mac and about half of the USDA’s daily allowance) — along with 1,380 milligrams of sodium (the USDA recommends no more than 2,400 per day) and 32 grams of fat (65 will keep you slim, says the government). So, for getting only about one-quarter of the calories that you need in a day, you’re exhausting about half your budget of “bad stuff”. [source]

So, let’s keep it real. For those 540 calories, you’re getting nothing but salt, oil, fat, a pickle and a chemical conglomeration that comes out something similar to cheese.

Thus… we come to the REAL problem I have with the food discourse, right now. Why are we comparing a sandwich made of chicken and pork… to a salad? Certainly, we’re ignoring salads with fried toppings and creamy high fructose corn syrup dressings in this conversation… but a salad with actual nutrients to offer the eater is compared to a sandwich made of sadness and skinny chickens? It doesn’t matter where your calories come from as long as the total amount of calories is relatively small? A calorie is just a calorie anyway, right?

Let me make something clear. A calorie is not, in fact, just a calorie. It absolutely does matter whether your calories are coming from sugar, fat or protein. It matters because your body does very different things with each. And there are far too many people profiting off of continuing this perception that calories are just …calories.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

“If all consumers exercised, did what they had to do, the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist.”

Know who dropped that little tidbit of nutritional science?

PepsiCo’s Chief Executive Officer, Indra Nooyi. Yep.

It’s the eternal passing of the buck. It’s not that “people are eating too much of my product.” It’s not even “people need to exercise moderation.” The message is “if you exercised, you wouldn’t be fat.” The message is also “there is no reason to stop buying my products, because the problem is only that you don’t exercise!” Understand what that means – it completely absolves the company of their share of responsibility in the obesity epidemic. It says the problem is the fact that you don’t move enough, as if that is the only explanation for why people become overweight. It simply isn’t.

The food industry is great at this – guilting the public into feeling bad about exercise (since, let’s face it – many simply do not) and using that guilt to avoid accepting some of the blame. I start to feel like a conspiracy theorist sometimes when I talk about the marketing and trickery used in their language… but at least I’m not making stuff up or pulling it out of thin air.

Because I know this is confusing to many, understanding why a calorie isn’t simply “a calorie,” I intend to spend this week talking about this very subject. So now, the next time some genius tells you “my double down is better than your salad,” you can let them know exactly what they can – and will – do with that double down.

  1. Comprehending Calories: The Basics
  2. Comprehending Calories: The Role of Carbs In Your Diet
  3. Comprehending Calories: How To Properly Read A Nutrition Label

Thoughts? Let’s hear ‘em!

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

19 Comments

  1. Therese

    May 3, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    Amen. The food industry is so full of crap on this one. In my experience, I have found that the quality of the food you eat is more important than the calorie count. Last week I made some small adjustments to my diet and even though most days I eat more calories than I was eating previously, the scale is finally moving in a downward direction for the first time in months!

    Many people are tricked into thinking that a small donut is a better snack than a handful of trail mix simply because it has fewer calories. Who are they kidding? We need to eat actual food.

    • ChellBellz

      March 3, 2011 at 9:59 AM

      I was about to say, this is bull. Who cares if it’s onlu 540 Calories, you can get a bigger and fuller meal out of 540 Calories with Meat, starch and Veggies. My thing is that I can do the Calorie counting, but at the end of the day I have to take into consideration my fat intake, and my sodium. I can eat a pack of Ramen thats 200 Calories (just a random #) but the sodium is 1500MG…doesn’t mean anything if my body is going to react badly to the salt with i have blood pressure. Let them have thier processed meat mess. They just need to stop trying to justify it…and don’t need to feed that mess to their kids.

  2. Teri

    May 3, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    I actually had a conversation with my brother-in-law about this sandwich and we were discussing this monstrosity of a sandwich. I was surprised at how few calories it had. But not surprised about the sodium and fat content.

    Another comment I’d like to make has to do with the statement made by Pepsi’s CEO… really? If Americans exercised we wouldn’t be overweight/obese. I excercise almost everyday, treadmill, resistance training, stretching, weights… the whole 9 yards and I am still overweight. The one time I successfully lost weight is when I joined a diet program that stressed the importance of portion control. Yet Americans are always concerned about getting “more for your money” and that translates into stuffing 3 portions in a handy container that someone is going to drink down in one sitting.

    I take responsibility for my weight problems, and am constantly attempting to better myself with exercise and diet modification. There are so few people with organic reasons for being overweight, so if we individually took responsibility then maybe we as a whole could do something about it.

  3. Tina Fite

    May 3, 2010 at 10:22 AM

    I love it!! I love it!! I love it!! You’ve said some of the same arguments I had when I debated my husband about the very same KFC product. I was telling him that one must be careful about their caloric intake; make it similar to that of a budget. He does not want me to spend money frivolously and I don’t want him to do the same with his calories. Each time he spends money on such trash that does nothing but clog up arteries and cause other issues, he is doing both.

    Needless to say, I won the argument but it is still sad to see the overwhelmingly wonderful responses it is getting especially since we live in a country where everyone complains about not feeling well and being far more sickly than ever. Sometimes, it is such a travesty how the narrow-sighted can lead the blind for so long that when fully sighted people want to lead them too, they reject the help, trusting only the narrow-sighted person to lead them correctly. Open your eyes America! OPEN THEM!!

  4. Monique

    May 3, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    Seriously…I thought this Double Down sandwich was a marketing gimmick. Surely, people won’t BUY this thing, but it’s a way to get people talking about KFC again. This is so disheartening :-(. I’ve definitely made more than my fair share of poor food choices, but consuming this right here just lacks of sound judgment. There’s no way you can tell me that high fat, high sodium, and high cholesterol, with moderate-to-high calories is a good look. No ma’am!

    • ChellBellz

      March 3, 2011 at 10:02 AM

      I didn’t think it would last either, but I have friends who actually tried this and who actually eat this often. I can’t even think about it. I think the guy from that show Doctors had the best reaction to it when he stop being healthy for 5 days. LOL…he couldn’t eat it, he even threw a temper tantrum and walked out lmbo.

  5. Darlene

    May 3, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    After what I saw on a food program demonstrating to kids how chicken nuggets are made, I nearly threwup. We’re feeding our kids process foods with no nutritional value. It’s no wonder, why our hospitals and doctors offices are fill with sick kids. Then the drug companies jump in and say, we have the pill for every problem. It’s time to go back to our gardens. It’s time to go back to our kitchens and cook books. It’s time to take charge of our family’s health with good basic cooking.

    • Lakisha

      February 2, 2012 at 7:35 PM

      Darlene, you are sooo correct. Love your statement!
      i have a two year old and her health has improved since i put her on a whole food plant based diet.

  6. newSaga

    May 5, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    it SOUNDS so unappealing. But yes, I’m glad you mention the nutritional analysis. Even if the calorie hit doesn’t make you grab your chest, the sodium alone will.

  7. Stephanie

    May 8, 2010 at 11:47 PM

    I just wanted to quickly comment on the quote you posted from Indra Nooyi.

    While I agree with most of what you had said, I just thought we might take a step back before attacking the food industry. The rest of the quote is as follows:

    “If all consumers exercised, did what they had to do, the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist. But because society has changed so much, I think we can also be part of the solution by transforming our portfolio.” (I got the rest of the quote from the link you posted)

    The article is referring to the ways that the company is trying to make their food “healthier”. Not all food companies are even attempting that.

    NOW, I’m definitely NOT saying that it’s ok to eat these things, and if they are incorporated they should be done sparingly. And I agree, that part of the difficulty is the constant slew of advertising that is thrown out by the companies.

    My point is only that her quote is not totally “passing the buck”. It’s her segway into the changes the company has made to its food products to try to cut down on the sugar, salt, etc. which includes them hiring members of the World Health Organization to advise. Again, i’m still not saying that it’s ok to go drink a bunch of soda, but I think PepsiCo should be applauded for at least trying to cut down on the bad stuff in their products.

    Anyway, my two cents.

    Thanks for the post. I thought it was a good one, and as always I love your blog.

    and I think they deserve

    • Erika

      May 9, 2010 at 9:54 AM

      Stephanie,

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one for reasons I already stated in my post:

      It’s not that “people are eating too much of my product.” It’s not even “people need to exercise moderation.” The message is “if you exercised, you wouldn’t be fat.”

      I get your point, but nothing in your comment negates the fact that this underlying message exists in her entire interview, which I presume you’ve read. And that makes sense – she’s the CEO, she’s not going to talk about the harm her products cause. Alas… her segue is still an exercise in buck-passing, no pun intended, LOL.

  8. Brenda Fisher

    March 3, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    This was a fantastic article. I think people get hung up on one part of weight loss and justify eating crap like the Double Down because its less calories. But when you look at the bigger picture like you did in this article, it may be less calories but holy cow, look at all the other bad stuff!
    I’m pre-diabetic and I watch my carbs carefully. Sometimes I find myself getting lulled into a false sense of security because the calories are low and so are the carbs. But watching the fat, cholesterol and salt is just as important. I won’t lose anything if I’m eating low carb foods with tons of fat thrown in.
    Thanks for making this easy to understand, I couldn’t have said it better myself! I will be posting a link to your blog from mine.

    Keep up the good work!

  9. Golda Smith

    March 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    Hi Erika,

    I am new to you blog and I love it. This sandwich looks absolutely unappealing but I am not surprised that some people by into the illusion that it is a healthy food choice because of the low calorie count.

    Golda

  10. Lilangel

    May 21, 2011 at 10:11 PM

    I’m so glad you mentioned that not all calories are created equal. It’s just like those commercials that advertise for high fructose corn syrup: “Your body doesn’t know the difference. Sugar is sugar!” HA! No it is NOT! PEOPLE may not know (or care to know) what it is they are really eating or not eating, but our BODIES always know! You are also right about the food industry’s role in this. But the only way to change what THEY sell is to change what WE buy. If the unhealthy products they sell don’t sell, but the healthy products they sell fly off the shelves (the ones that are actually healthy, not just advertised to be so) then that’s what they will make! :) AND…the only way we can do that is continuing to have conversations in our communities about making better food decisions. :)

  11. Eva

    May 24, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Wow this thing is real?? This picture made it across the Atlantic and we thought it was an April Fool’s joke!

    Anyway – currently assessing my status as an emotional eater and your blog is a godsend. Please keep this up, the way you seem to be knocking down goals is awesome and inspiring.

    Eva x

  12. icwatudid

    July 2, 2011 at 10:43 PM

    I hate to say it, but one of my beefs with eating out is that a lot of restaurant salads (mainly ones with chicken) ARE super high in calories and sodium. The serving size for what is supposed to be an appetizer is ridiculous… a big @$% bowl of salad plus a 6 oz chicken breast, cut into strips., croutons, cheese, dressing… that’s not just an appetizer!

    Still, I get your point. America (my husband included) are calorie-counting freaks.

  13. Lisa

    September 19, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    When I saw this “sandwich” I was horrified. I didn’t think it was possible to be more disgusted with KFC after the mashed potato bowls. How sad that I was wrong. Even sadder is that they have a successful market for garbage like this.

  14. K Brown

    May 17, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    I work in public health. I believe in everything you believe in for the most part. I even agree with the Double Down comments. But, the problem is not the sandwich, it’s the lips that eat the sandwich. If people won’t eat it, they won’t make it. Unhealthy food is many times medication for MANY people. When this sandwich first came out, out of curiosity I tried it and it was DELICIOUS! For breakfast this morning I had broccoli. Point: I know what I want for my life and dying early from obesity related causes is not it and everybody that is partaking in the “double downs” and every other artery clogging meal has to want the same thing for themselves. The devil is the devil. He has always been around and always will be…we must individually stand up and not blame the devil for being himself.

  15. Ayanna M.

    August 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    Even when I didn’t give much thought about what I was eating, I STILL didn’t try this heart attack with fake cheese…My tongue is burning from all the salt just LOOKING at it!

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