Expert Insight: Dealing with Indulging During COVID-19

Looking through social media posts, I was so tempted by the beautiful pictures of the delicious cakes, bread, pastries, and meals. Last weekend, as we were all staying home, complying with social distancing guidelines, I gave into temptation and for the first time, made “Cornish pasty.”

Even worse, I posted a short video of how we made it on Facebook and Instagram. I must admit, it was super delicious and worth all the time and effort my kids, my husband and I put into preparing 8 pieces. Then the guilt set in.

Do you know how much butter I used in getting the pastry dough ready? The calories, the cholesterol, augh! I had disturbing visions of all the calories going straight to my belly and hips. I felt guilty even before we made such a high fat and high-calorie meal.

While reading the recipe, I announced that we must put in an extra 3 miles of brisk walk before we eat. That didn’t happen, but we managed to walk 2 miles that night. How much did I need to walk to burn off the calories I consumed?

How Many Calories do we Burn doing Typical Activities?

The following table shows calories used in common physical activities at both moderate and vigorous levels.

Caloric Intake and Physical Activity

Moderate Physical ActivityApproximate Calories/30 Minutes for a 154 lb PersonApproximate Calories/Hr for a 154 lb Person
Light gardening/yard work165330
Golf (walking and carrying clubs)165330
Bicycling (<10 mph)145290
Walking (3.5 mph)140280
Weight lifting (general light workout)110220
Vigorous Physical ActivityApproximate Calories/30 Minutes for a 154 lb PersonApproximate Calories/Hr for a 154 lb Person
Running/jogging (5 mph)295590
Bicycling (>10 mph)295590
Swimming (slow freestyle laps)255510
Walking (4.5 mph)230460
Heavy yard work (chopping wood)220440
Weight lifting (vigorous effort) 440
Basketball (vigorous)220440

Breaking Down Calories

A traditional large pasty contains 800 calories. I burned 140 calories during my brisk 2-mile walk that night. That is a surplus of 660 calories. So if I ate pretty healthy the rest of the day, I may have come out okay. But how often do we eat calorie-dense, unhealthy foods, drink liquid candy (juices, etc.), indulge in desserts and snacks and how much do we exercise? It is a simple equation if we bother to plug in the numbers.

About Cornish Pasty

Few meals have roots as deep as the Cornish pasty, a hand-held meat-and-vegetable pie developed as a lunch for workers in the ancient English tin mining region of Cornwall.

With its characteristic semicircular shape and an insulating crust that does double-duty as a handle, the humble pasty—which, perhaps unfortunately, rhymes with “nasty” rather than “tasty”—today receives special designation, along with Champagne and Parma ham, as a protected regional food by the European Union.


Paying Closer Attention

As you can see from the description, Cornish pasty was usually consumed by mine workers and not by someone who has a sedentary lifestyle.

In other words, they worked hard to earn that many calories! My physical activity, as a pharmacist, is nowhere close to a miner.

Therefore, I should not eat the same foods, or else, I will gain a lot of weight. Here is an important lesson: it is easier to ignore the calorie content of the foods we eat at a restaurant than making meals from scratch. When we are forced to pay attention to all the ingredients we use in preparing a meal, we are more likely to eat healthier. We tend to pay more attention to calorie content and may think twice about using certain ingredients.

A quote from one of my wise college professors:

“Lard and butter look the same in your arteries as they do in a tub. And you definitely don’t want your arteries to look like that.”

Here is to eating healthy and staying healthy!