I can picture this scenario in a corporate boardroom:
Big Soda CEO- “Sales are down! The health message linking soft drink consumption to sickness and disease is hurting our bottom line! We need to do something! We need a miracle!”
VP for Sales- “Time for a Hail Mary pass! Let’s fund a nonprofit to blame obesity on lack of exercise and then let’s tell people that calories don’t count any more. Woo-Hoo!”
There is no mystery regarding where those calories you eat come and go. Your body needs a significant number of calories for growth and maintenance. The amount is linked to your body size (height and weight), your muscle and fat composition, and your activity level. Excess calories are shed or stored, and it is this storage that is obvious when you look in a mirror.
Let’s compare the effect of diet versus exercise on your weight. For example, if you eat a half pint container of Aggie Blue Mint ice cream, you’ve consumed at least 340 calories. No worries! You can just exercise this off, right? If you walk a normal pace (3 mph), it will take you over an hour to burn these calories. There are about 240 calories in a 20-ounce bottle of sugary soda, and you need to walk about 2.5 miles to burn those calories. Perhaps you drink two bottles a day. Then you need to budget time for a 5-mile walk to compensate.
Let’s say you overindulge just once a week (fast food, extra-large popcorn at the movies, extra portion of pie) to the tune of 1000 calories. How do you burn off those calories? You can walk from south Logan to north Smithfield. Or, like many people, you can store these calories for a rainy day. Then store more, and even more, until it is obvious to everyone… your friends and family, your physician, and certainly your clothes, that your caloric income is exceeding your caloric expenses.
Which brings us back to the Hail Mary pass, or the desperate move by Big Soda to get you to consume their products while reminding you to simply exercise more. It’s not what you are drinking, it’s that you are lazy!
The public outcry was so great, that the VP of this new organization wrote, “My dismissal of diet as a cause of obesity did a disservice to their [top nutrition experts] work… I believe that both diet and physical activity are important in obesity and that we must address both together to help people achieve healthy weights.” (What would have happened without public health advocates? Big soda would have been laughing at us all the way to the bank.)
I am reminded of Big Tobacco’s efforts to conceal and misrepresent the hazards of tobacco. Yes, regular exercise is important, nay, critical to good health. But it is not the answer to a poor diet, and the continuous consumption of sugary soda is on no health professional’s list of recommended activities for optimal health.
Sugar sodas are perhaps the easiest calories to eliminate from your diet. You can maintain the status quo or you can show Big Soda that you were listening, and you don’t like what you’ve heard. Live Well, Utah!