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!