The “thinginess” is an issue – I think best dealt with by emphasising the re-imagining / redescription – so separating out the physical description from the “how much energy” calculation.
“What we’re doing here is calculating how much – but as we cannot yet od the calculations – to help you think about how much I’m going to show you something to help you picture this – and it’s a very useful picture”. Actually I suppose its a functional analogy (= model!) for the calculations we do, rather than a representational picture of the thing in itself.
There is more to read here:
Posting this link is really why I came here…