Skinny Daily Post

Invincible.

The November, 2004, issue of Health listed some interesting numbers in their “vital stats” back page. Someone must have studied the consumption of chocolate kisses based on proximity. They report office workers will eat an average 8.6 kisses per day when the candy is left out on their desks, 5.7 per day when left in their desk drawer, and 3 kisses per day when placed 6 feet from their desks. Proximity rules.

Does that sound like an obvious set of statistics? Yeah, it probably is, but if you extrapolate the extra calories out, from no kisses in the office at all to 8.6 kisses per day, five days per week, you’re talking about an office worker who could gain as much as 20 pounds of weight by the end of that work year.

When food is very convenient, in our path, we will eat it whether we need it, are hungry for it, or not. We are programmed to seek out, find, and consume calories. Wired. Many of us eat in a distracted way, without thought we work hand-to-mouth, inhaling far more calories than we really need.

Many of us eat in an addictive way. Some of us would have eaten more of those kisses than others in that experiment when the suggestion of availability bumps up against the chemistry and psychology of chocoholism. Some of us might skew the results of the experiment by eating all of the kisses issued to the researcher, the ones on my desk, on your desk, in anybody’s desk drawers. Some of us will tackle the researcher to the ground and rifle through their pockets until we have found and consumed every last kiss.

My son-in-law just left the house in search for something sweet to eat. Poor guy, the lack of snack food under my roof is unsettling for him. His skinny self likes to have a snack or two every day, and can completely manage the amount of sweet food he eats. I cannot. If there are sweets in my house, I can’t really concentrate until they have been consumed, can’t relax until they are gone again. Proximity rules.

I can and will do some work on my inability to concentrate when chips or ice cream are under my roof, just as soon as I can find the time. This will come after I’ve mastered knitting and Spanish. After reorganizing my spice drawer and garage. Yup, I’ll definitely go in for the therapy I need. For sure.

Meantime, though, our most effective strategy for keeping weight off is to keep these things out of our house, or at least off of our most traveled paths. And now that the season is open on sweets and salty snacks, I’m ready to focus, yet again, on ways I can keep extra calories out of sight, out of mind. Here are things I’ve learned to do.

Take a notebook and take a walk through the house to note where food is stored, how easily reached and convenient the fruits and veggies are compared with the reach and sight-lines for the low-nutrient, high-calorie snacks. Reorganize your food storage to make the healthier foods more available: pre-washed veggies and nuts in serving portions, stored in small reusable containers, low-fat cheeses sliced in 1-oz. servings waiting in a baggie. Pitch or place low-value (high calorie, low nutrient, low fiber) foods well out of reach and behind doors, in baskets, out of sight. Keep a full fruit bowl in the middle of your kitchen.

The optimum avoidance plan is eliminating low-value foods from your house, but that can be pretty hard around the holidays or wherever calorie needy people dwell. So try storing the treats in opaque containers and placing the containers well out of reach, or even in some room other than the kitchen. The basement? The garage? A freezer in your neighbor’s house? Get them out when the time is right for treats, and place them close to the folks who will eat them and farther from you. Have someone nearby when it’s time to wrap them up and store them again.

Teach your kids to put the snack foods and desserts away when they are finished with them. Explain how this will help keep your whole family healthy.

Get help. Maybe there’s someone in your family who doesn’t have as hard a time limiting these foods as you do. Ask them to handle the foods, store them, tuck them away. No reason you should have to handle foods that make you weak, actually. Delegate!

Don’t bake. A radical idea, isn’t it? You can assign this work too. Hand your family recipes over to someone else in the family, or ask a local artisan bakery to make up a batch or two for you and store it in a plastic container you provide. It might not feel quite as authentic to you, and might be an expensive option, but if it keeps you from eating one batch of frosted sugar cookies all by yourself while offering the next batch to family, it’ll probably be worth it.

Don’t bake at all. Last year I didn’t bake and didn’t buy and didn’t give food as gifts, but ended up with just as many treats in my house as if I had. I saved myself thousands of calories from the consumption of unbaked dough. Nobody died. Nobody starved. Nobody lost their sense of cultural identity (you can’t diminish a Czech’s sense of cultural identity very easily, it turns out). I wasn’t dropped from my family. I’m not sure I could get away with that every year without revolt, but for one year, when I was feeling especially vulnerable, it worked out pretty well.

Buddy up. If you hate the idea of not baking or cooking, then buddy up when cooking with someone who completely understands your difficulty with food. Have a healthy, high-protein meal before you begin and healthy snacks to nibble on while the batches bake. Keep your buddy on hand for the entire baking process, from mixing ingredients to storing the stuff away and cleaning up. Your buddy’s job is to keep you from over-sampling the treats, eating the dough and frosting and chocolate chips.

Bake the things that don’t particularly appeal to you, and then throw a cookie swap. Wrap your cookies while the guests are still there, storing them in plastic tubs. Seal the tubs with duct tape if you have to. Hand them off for storing out of sight or off-site.

If your identity is kind of wrapped up in the food you make, consider building a new holiday identity for yourself. Learn to make stuff, not food. In the time it takes you to bake batches of cookies or candies, you can make pretty origami tree ornaments, handmade post holiday thank you notes, decorate batches of wrapping paper, make groovy holiday gift tags, consumable, non-edible hostess and buddy gifts. You might actually burn a few calories crafting instead of baking.

Burn a few more calories. Truth is, no matter how careful we are, we’re bound to suck up some extra calories this season. All of these efforts will help us keep the food out of our path and the extra calories lower. But if we punch up our exercise routines a bit, we can manage both the extra calories and holiday stress. Add more minutes, another set of reps, an extra mile, one more class.

And ask your coworkers to keep their kisses off your desk. (Maybe even off of theirs too.)

Origami Ornaments

Handmade Card Supplies

Gift Tags

9 thoughts on “Kiss Off

  1. Dana says:

    So true! The power of moving food from one place to another is extraordinary! For example, taking one serving of a dish, putting it on a plate, and then putting that dish back in the fridge makes me much, much less likely to go back for more.

    I find it’s amazing how much less I eat at lunch when I pack something to bring along (this is best done when my stomach is not growling) — and then when it’s gone, it’s gone. And although I’m usually not sure I’m *really* full when my plate is clean, I usually find that when I assess the hunger situation 10 minutes later, I’ve had enough.

    Having a healthy relationship with food is often a mental game for me. Admitting that, and then coming up with a plan to deal with it accordingly, is most of the struggle.

  2. Brenda says:

    Amen, sister!

    Snack foods are endlessly fascinating to my brain too. I therefore don’t keep them around. I still eat a lot, only now it’s healthy stuff like vegetables and not a whole family sized bag of chips at one sitting. I find that hiding things is only of limited value, however. I mean, I know where things are “hidden” if I hid them myself. For me, it’s better to keep them out of the house, to learn to not see them when you walk down the aisles in grocery stores.

    Still, I am guilty of going after even the artificially sweetened stuff as though it contained real, actual sugar, so the emergency jar of sugar-free jam is stashed away behind the big jar of pickles. You can add fatty foods to the list of things I can’t resist too, so my jar of peanut butter is a half-block away, in the refrigerator of my best friend’s apartment…Making a (low-sugar) PB&J requires a walk, which makes it easier to resist PB&J’s anyway.

    Thanks for another column that makes me realize that my experience is shared by others!

  3. GoingSkiing says:

    JuJu,
    I enjoy all of your articles so much and I’m looking forward to January and the changes you have planned for Skinny Daily.

    I’ve seen M&M studies (similar to the Kiss study) and the more colors of M&M’s in a bowl, the more people ate… maybe this is another a clue that it is not necessary to bake 37 kinds of cookies. 🙂

    I didn’t do any baking last year, either, and didn’t miss it. (I REALLY didn’t miss the extra cleaning that baking creates!) I realized that most of my baking is my grandmother’s tradition… not mine. AND truth be known, nobody cared for a couple of the cookies anyway.

    For anyone who feels the NEED to bake cookies in order to pass on a tradition to your children… I have two words for you… salt dough. (Do a Google search for recipes, etc.)

    We got to do the “sugar” cookie thing and then keep the ornaments!

  4. rebeka says:

    We must be cut from the very same fabric because I too cannot have things in my house that I won’t eat. Right now I have some low-fat icecream bars and even though they are low in calories and fat, eating them everyday is not practical.

    I wanted to bake lowfat cookies for gifts this year, but now I am rethinking it because I will suffer the consequences if I do.

    Thanks for this post.

  5. DeAnn says:

    Probably the only good thing about being a person who tends to hide what she eats (or at least when it’s overeating or bad for me) is that I DON’T very often eat food that is available at work.

  6. Rachel says:

    Changes in January? Changes to Skinny Daily? Did I miss something? (Just realised that perhaps my firm belief that change is bad may have an affect on my ability to change my weight!)

  7. Kim Moran says:

    I totally agree with you! I have been on this weight loss journey for close to 3 years now and I have found my big problem areas:
    If sweets are small i.e. Halloween choc bars or my current issue small Xmas choc’s and out in the open – I just can’t handle it. If they are big or if they are in a container that I either have to go to great reaches to get (i.e. get a chair) or open a canister or something then I can deal with it. Strange mind games?
    I have the same problem with appetizers – because they are small for some reason I think they are ok?
    Kim

  8. Camille says:

    I am hoping someone is near me. I am female, 36, Married, stay-at-home-mom, 3 girls. 280 5’9″…HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Camille
    Ps I counsel those addicted to crack cocaine that is why my email address is what it is…

  9. JuJu says:

    Hey there, Camille.

    Most of us hae been close to your weight if we aren’t still. Do you have a specific question?

    Hey Rachel! Don’t you worry. The changes will expand, not detract. I double-pinkie swear. Not ready to talk about it yet, but it’s good stuff coming. Yup.

    J.

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