Snickers and Kit-Kats and Twix - Oh My!

(Photo: jeffk)

The Cranky Fitness Early Warning System has been activated. It's that time of year again. This upcoming Halloween marks the kick-off of the High Holy Calorie Days that last into the New Year and it's only a couple of weeks away. Do you have your emergency candy evacuation plan established yet? Have you built your suar-free bunker in the back yard? How are you going to protect yourself?

I know what you're going through - you run out to the store for some hummus and flax seed and your eye gets caught by the bright shiny bags of Halloween candy. And they're everywhere! They're multiplying like rabbits. Oh, and the candy comes in those cute little one- or two-bite sizes that can't really do any harm, right? That's an okay strategy if you were only buying them one at a time instead of a bag of fifty. Just like the way you buy potato chips, right? As if.

Check out this nifty little candy/exercise calculator that helps you figure out how much work you'd need to do after ingesting just ONE harmless little "fun size" candy, which would require a 0.8 mile walk to burn of the 80 calories. A slice of pumpkin pie? 2.8 miles. Resisting temptation? Priceless. The potential for disaster here is higher than Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Preparation is always our best defense in a situation like bulk candy marketing. Have you got a plan? Unless you love the look and feel of cold dried egg all over your house and car and toilet paper-strung trees, you must have something on hand for the little darlings when they come to your door. But having all that candy in the house is so tempting. What's a responsible Treater/Cranky Fitness person to do?

How about giving out fruit, you ask? Don't even think about it. For kids, that's like getting clothes for a Christmas gift not to mention their parents ramping up into flip-out mode over something unpackaged or homemade (so much for my strategy to unload last Christmas's fruitcake). So unless you plan on having your attorney handing out the apples and homemade goodies with waivers and disclaimers attached, it's good to have a Plan B.

I've always had pretty good luck with buying candy I don't like (which isn't a lot) so I'm not tempted to sample the wares and actually wind up without any treats when the big day arrives - only to then have to run out to the store and buy more. Having candy around me in an unsupervised environment has always been dangerous to me. I remember raising money for my high school ski club years ago. The fund-raising idea was to sell those really big chocolate bars - plain, crispy or with almonds - for $2 each, only I ate my entire supply and funded it with my hard earned babysitting money. The good news was that I didn't "sell" the most. The bad news was the increased velocity at which I skied down the trails due to my greater mass (learning the immutable laws of physics the hard way - so I guess high school wasn't a complete waste of time). But there's a delicate balance to be struck here - you can't go with completely crappy candy that has the taste and consistency of antacids or else your house will be pelted anyway. Ask a kid if you're not sure.

Be careful to avoid another common pitfall and that's your distribution system. The "one for you, two for me" model is going to get you in trouble. Some folks actually leave the bowl of candy outside for the kids to help themselves to. Good idea - assuming that only well-mannered toddlers and their hovering parents come calling. 'Tweens and other assorted trouble makers can clean you out.

Money? Travelers checks? Why the heck not? Cash is the universal people-pleaser but perhaps not feasible if you get a lot of Trick or Treaters. Also, currency rates tend to fluctuate wildly and presently the dollar is quite weak versus the yen and the euro. Consult your investment advisor. Perhaps a stock option plan is called for.

Hmmmm.....this is getting complicated. And expensive. Not to mention the additional temptation of raiding your kid's stash once his or her little head hits the pillow. Come on - you know you do it. Be more honest about it than claiming that the only TV you ever watch is PBS. Readily accessible free candy has that awesome power to turn even the likes of former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan into a prancing, preening Borat. The sugar may be refined but the behavior it inspires clearly is not.

Okay, so a real list of candy substitutes might read something like this: popcorn (unbuttered), pretzels (unsalted), sugar-free gum, colorful pencils and finger toys. Geez - throw in a tube of denture cream (only the "no artificial colors or preservatives" kind will do because really, who wants anything artificial around their false teeth?) and you've got the Bingo prize bucket down at the Senior Center. Seriously, what kid is going to be happy with that? And besides, that's their day-to-day world at school and home. Halloween is every kids' New Year's Eve when all the rules of responsible behavior get thrown out the window for one glorious night (plus it's good prep for their college daze when it's pretty much New Year's Eve every night of the week. It would be too great a shock to their systems if they walked into something like that cold.)

I'm going to make a Solomonic split decision here and opt for different outcomes depending on size and maturity level of the recipient. Kids, celebrities, members of Congress and reality TV show contestants all get to keep and eat their candy within a tolerance of plus or minus one metric ton per sitting. Responsible adults aged 35 and over - bring the extra candy to work, cobble it into this year's Christmas fruitcake, or think of something else to do with it other than eat it. Don't get tricked into treating.

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