‘Why Calories Count’ Provides an In-depth Look at Calories and How we Should View Them

Calories in, calories out; calorie counting; calorie restriction. With constant talk of calories in our society, it’s hard to decipher fact from fiction. And that’s exactly why nutrition professors Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim set out to write ‘Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics.’

In their book, Nestle and Nesheim seek to bring clarity on the topic of calories by discussing what we need to know about them, how we should view them in our approach to health, and how the food and diet industries have conditioned us to view them.

After reviewing the book a few weeks back, I was very impressed its content and message as I didn’t realize all of the intricacies of the calorie myself before digging into Nestle and Nesheim’s writing. And with much interest surrounding the book as it approaches its April 18th release, I grew curious about what the authors’ intent was in writing the book, and what they were ultimately hoping it would achieve.

So, I reached out to Malden Nesheim via email and he graciously agreed to answer my questions. Here’s what he had to say about ‘Why Calories Count.’

Q:What should the average person know about your book before reading it? And what should they expect out of it?

‘Why Calories Count’ is not a diet book, but it is about what you are up against if you want to control your body weight in today’s obesity-promoting “eat more food” marketing environment. We provide readers with the basic information about calories to evaluate label claims, diets, and the politics of calories.

After reading this book we hope readers will be able to make better decisions about what they eat, and how they control their body weight.

Q: In your own words, could you summarize the primary message of the book?

About 2/3 of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, and the expected long term public health consequences are serious. Talk about calories seems to be everywhere in today’s food environment. How many, what kind, do they matter? But if you ask people to define a calorie, most cannot, and this book  discusses calories in all their dimensions: What are they, how many you need,  how they’re measured in food, how you regulate intake, what happens if you eat too many or too few, and whether or not sources of calories matter.

We then describe the food environment, label claims, and the political dimensions of calories such as menu labeling, soda taxes, and alcohol regulation. We end the book with advice on how to cope with all of this in a way that works for you.

Q: Where did inspiration for ‘Why Calories Count’ come from?  

In her film debut, Marion [Nestle] was interviewed in Morgan Spurlock’s film ‘Super Size Me.’ In one sequence in the film, Spurlock asks people on the street to define a calorie. Most of those interviewed didn’t have a clue exactly what a calorie was. Marion was the authority to give the actual definition. This experience showed us that a book about calories aimed at the general reader was needed to provide background to all the discussions about calories today.

Q: Does this book contain a diet or fitness program?

We provide advice on how to cope with today’s food environment. We summarize our advice as “Get organized, eat less, eat better, move more, and get political,” in the book’s concluding chapter. We then explain what is involved in each of these steps.

Q: What was your ultimate goal in writing this book? To educate? Inspire?

We have both had long careers as  teachers and we want to help people have the basic information to understand and make judgements about what they hear and read about food, calories and body weight regulation. We hope that the information we provide is both educational and inspirational.


We appreciate Nesheim’s insight on the book and recommend ‘Why Calories Count’ for anyone looking to further their knowledge of the calorie, clear up misconceptions about calories presented by the food and diet industries, and how to be more aware of the “eat more” culture we live in today.

Also Read:

‘Why Calories Count’ Review

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