Where does lost weight go?

Wow. Lots of my comments have started out with questions lately. I don't know whether I'm feeling uncertain (well, yes, I always am, so that was a dumb comment) or just more alert to the strange things that happen in this world.

Or it could be an existential crisis, of which I usually seem to be in the midst.

But I was wondering: where does "lost" weight go? How do you "lose" weight? Do you ever find it again, or do those little burnt up cells float around like ash in the multiverse? I can almost see the headlines: Mount Vesuvius erupted and spewed adipose cells and scraps of Weight Watchers cookbooks all over southern Italy.

That would be a sight.

I remember an experiment I did in Advanced Placement Chemistry class, my senior year of high school. Keep in mind that this was the same class in which I accidentally blowtorched my hand and wound up in the ER. However, we did an experiment on calories where we measured the number of calories per gram of different varieties of nuts. How did we do such a splendid thing? We lit the nuts on fire (all chemists are pyros at heart. They really are.) and measured how much the nuts heated 100 mL of water.


That's what a calorie is. The amount of energy needed to heat up one milliliter of water one degree Celsius. A calorie is neither good nor evil. It's energy.

And food, at the end of the day, is really different only combinations of molecules. Fats and carbohydrates consist of the same atoms (!!), only arraigned differently. The only difference with protein is the fact that protein has nitrogen. Hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. All your foods explained. There are important trace elements (potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, etc), but food is molecules.

I think you do, at the end of things, find the weight you lost. It's called a binge, my friends, and I've been on more than my fair share of Snickers benders in my life. Not a pleasant thing, that. There is a magnet that's floating around in Hallmark stores (perhaps belched up by the aforementioned eruption of Mount Vesuvius) that says, "I went on a diet for two weeks and all I lost was 14 days."

Imagine what you would lose when your diet goes on for seven years.

I rest my case.

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1 comment:

Laura Collins said...

Well put.

I have lately thought of how funny it is that people count calories. We don't count oxygen molecules. We don't compare our red blood cell counts. Most people don't know their blood pressure readings. We all just go to the doctor every once in a while and they measure it and tell us if its out of whack or not. But calories, and weight - those we think we have to know. Silly.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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