What is it about calories that freaks everyone out?
In one of the recent radio interviews I've given about anorexia and refeeding, I was struck by what a big deal the interviewer made about the number of calories required for a recovering anorexic to gain and then maintain weight. She just couldn't get over the number I mentioned in the NYT Magazine article--between 3,000 and 5,000 calories per day--and made a point of interjecting with what she considered the "normal" number of calories required by a teenage girl.
It reminded me of that old Lenny Bruce routine about the word c***sucker, where first the prosecutor and then the judge kept saying the word over and over: "Your Honor, he said c***sucker!" "He really said c***sucker?" "Yes, your honor, he said c***sucker!" And so on.
I had the same feeling about this: as if talking about so many calories (let alone eating them) was somehow disgraceful or shocking or obscene. I think this is part of what makes it challenging for anorexics in this country to recover--that in this culture we are so phobic about calories that we can't bear to feed someone that much, even when they so clearly require it for recovery.
Myself, I'd much rather see a recovering anorexic eat a few too many calories (and what is "too many" in this context?) than not enough. Anyone who's lived with the firsthand experience of anorexia should be far more phobic about "not enough" than about "too much."