Spooky Excuses

And oftentimes, excusing of a fault

Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse,–

As patches, set upon a little breach,

Discredit more in hiding of the fault

Than did the fault before it was so patched.

–Shakespeare, King John Act IV, SC 2

5073-illustration-of-a-jack-o-lantern-candy-holder-pv

Halloween is nearly upon us, and I think you all know what that means. It means enormous mounds of candy. It means sickly children who mysteriously get colds that won’t go away till sometime after New Year’s. It means gluttonous gorging on candy, all wrapped up in that flimsy excuse that everyone, from the president to the parent, knows how to use: For the children!

I read this article a day or so ago, and it was heartbreaking and frustrating. And frankly, it was also downright spooky. I mean…are there any adults left?

Don Stewart and his wife will be home with the lights on Halloween night, waiting for trick-or-treaters. But like a lot of folks who stock up on candy, they’ll probably end up eating it themselves.

“My wife and I buy candy every year, knowing that trick-or-treaters won’t come to see us.” … That’s why they buy the treats they like, not necessarily what they think kids will like: “Nothing is wasted. If we plan well, there’s usually enough to last us ’til Christmas.”…apartment-dwellers wait in vain for door knocks and on suburban side streets and country roads where kids don’t wander. “We were bummed out the first few times,” said Stewart, “until we realized, ‘Hey this is a bonus. We can buy all the candy we want and eat it and it’s not our fault.'”

I’m crying already. Are you?

Nothing will get wasted…it’s not our fault…we can buy all the candy we want and eat it.

Oh, well, we have to have candy. FOR THE CHILDREN! Of course, no children will come. Still, we’ll buy enough candy that the two of us can eat it constantly for the next two months. I mean, THANK GOODNESS we’ve got our Halloween candy supply! My wife’s Confectionery Deficiency is pretty severe, so she can’t go more than a day or so without candy. Where would we get any between now and Christmas if we didn’t buy a ton at Halloween?!

(January: A Sticky Catch–Make a Difference and support the NFL’s awareness of Confectionery Deficiency. Fans can purchase any game ball, conveniently coated in caramel. All proceeds go to the Saccharine Society of America)

But Mr. Stewart is definitely not the most self-deluded person referenced in this article.

“I purchased multiple bags of goodies and positioned a welcoming jack-o’-lantern in the front window,” she recalled. And who came? “Not a soul. Not a single solitary soul … I even checked to make sure the doorbell worked. Twice.” Her husband ate the candy, and each year since, he has convinced her that “this might be the year.”

This guy’s not only managed to find an excuse for himself, he’s also managed to get his wife to support his habit! FOR THE CHILDREN, HONEY!

“Kids do their trick-or-treating at school now because of safety reasons or fear of drunk drivers,” said Jason Varden, who works for an online videogame company Gazillion and lives with his wife in Milpitas, California. “It goes into the helicopter mom thing of ‘We’re not going to let our kids go up to strangers.'”

The trend hasn’t stopped him from buying the 200-plus-size bags of goodies from Target. “It’s all for the children!” he insisted. “But we bought Kit Kats and Snickers – candy we knew we would eat if we had to.”

You see folks, it’s not Jason’s fault. He “had to” eat the candy. Actually it’s the fault of you stupid helicopter moms. If you just had the good sense to let your children take food from a strange man who manifestly has no self control, he wouldn’t be forced to eat the candy.

And what do these people mean by “have to” eat it?

What they’re trying to pretend is that they’re really good, wise stewards of their money and resources. After all, it would be a crime in this day and age, with so many Starving Children in _______ (insert random nation name here) to let good candy go to waste. It’s not like an unopened piece of candy will last forever! I’ve never seen someone find a dusty Krispy bar of indeterminate age under the couch and promptly open and eat it. Oh no.

That apple had a bad spot, so I tossed it. The lettuce looked a bit wilted, so we put it in the compost pile. We really should have eaten that ham earlier. It just smells a bit off to me: better chuck it. No big deal. Just food. But thank the STARS the candy is safe! We won’t let that go to waste.

Are you making excuses for yourself to eat junk that you know is bad for you? Not just that it makes you fat–that’s not my biggest concern for you–but junk that makes you cranky, frustrated, exhausted, and sick? Junk that’s threatening you with diabetes? Junk that’s running your life? By running your life, I mean that you can’t stop thinking about it; you can’t stop planning your next junk hit; you eat it and know you feel awful, but you haven’t a modicum more self-control when it comes round again than you did the first time. That junk is running your life. So what’s the deal?

Well part of the deal is that sugar (all food to an extent, but nothing as much as sugar) has an addictive quality. This has been pretty well established. We can look at your brain and see what the sugar is doing in it–activating reward centers and pleasure centers. Your brain is flooded with endorphins: so much so that it responds by decreasing your sensitivity to these feel-good chemicals in self-defense, meaning that you need more sugar the next time to achieve the same feeling. And you start looking for that feeling again just a couple hours later, because once all the sugar is gone and those chemicals retreat, you start feeling sad and lonely.

Add to this that glucose is a cheap fuel source your body will burn before any others and you’ve got another addiction. As a child, you could burn glucose or fat without a problem, switching easily between the two. As you taught your body that only glucose was to be used as fuel (by making most of your diet carbohydrate, and most of that refined carbohydrate) your body stopped producing enzymes needed to efficiently use fat and stopped being able to switch back and forth. Now when you run out of glucose, you start feeling angry, shaky, and ravenous.

However.

That’s not the whole story, is it?

After all, lots and lots of things activate the pleasure center of the brain and release endorphins, and yet we do not consider “addiction” a valid excuse for overindulgence in those things. Video games are a good example. So is sex. Exercise also does it. Don’t you look down on those boys who die in front of their game consoles, lying there in a sea of energy drink bottles and pizza boxes? What was wrong with them? Why couldn’t they control themselves? I would never do that.

Don’t you secretly do an enormous eye-roll at the idea of a “sex addict?” And don’t you smugly congratulate yourself that you are satisfied with your body or have better things to do when you drive past that emaciated marathon trainer, grimacing through his seventh mile? Guess what? All those people are doing what they are doing in part because they have the same happy, satisfied feeling when they do them that you have when you bite into that cake, close your eyes in pleasure, and groan just a bit.

We even feel this way about alcoholics, right? Ok, yes, once they’re that far gone we mostly acknowledge they really are now at the mercy of their physiology. But they didn’t get to this point by magic, now did they? Only a few rare genetic freaks become alcoholics at their first sip–most people got there a glass at a time, and then two, and then three, and then three bottles; and millions of people drink constantly throughout their adult lives and never become alcoholics at all. So when you see that guy who is so far gone, don’t you think–somewhere deep down at least–that if he had only exercised a little self-control back when he still could, maybe he wouldn’t be in this mess now?

And yes, some people are far more sensitive than others to alcohol, becoming more buzzed off smaller amounts.

So what would you say to that person?

Oh well! Luck of the genetic draw! Bottoms up!

Of course not. You’d remind them they have to watch themselves. You’d watch them. You’d have a chat with them about maybe forgoing alcohol entirely. You’d stage some kind of “intervention” if it got too bad.

And what if they complained that it wasn’t “fair” that they were genetically more sensitive to alcohol than other people?

You’d likely tell them that life isn’t fair. That we don’t get to choose our parents or our genes. We have no say over what our mother eats while we’re in the womb. We have no voice in what year we are born, what city, what family, what economic circumstances. Ranting and raving won’t change the fact that you’ve got three bad genes almost guaranteeing you breast cancer. We have very little ability to make things “fair” in these senses. Where things can be fair, and should be fair, are in areas like the way we are treated under the law, the right to keep what we earn by our own work, or the way we are rewarded for our labor. Our genes aren’t part of fair.

The same thing holds true for you.

Yes, I speak to you, my fat friend. As a formerly obese person who normally ate less than the skinny people around me, while enduring their scorn, I speak to you with lots of sympathy.  You can’t eat cupcakes. If you do, you feel like death or you get fat. It’s not “fair,” no. Your brother-in-law or your college friends can eat nothing but Doritos all day long and never put on a pound. That’s the luck of the genetic draw.

I’ve got a friend back home, bless his heart I love him, but the man is like a candy garbage disposal. If I regularly ate the amount of sugar I’ve seen him eat in a day, I’d be 400 pounds and diabetic. Now don’t misunderstand–his behavior is dangerous and he is making himself ill in the long run. But through the luck of the genetic draw, his sugar intake doesn’t affect his weight and hasn’t (yet) given him diabetes or a stroke. But how is it fair that he can sit on the couch and eat half a bag of bite-size Snickers at a sitting, while I can’t eat a nice, healthy pear three days in a row without putting on two pounds? (And forget about if I ate cookies!)

But that’s the very problem. You must stop looking at this as a matter of “fairness.” It’s a matter of reality. It’s just as real as the fact that I have certain gifts and talents that my friend does not–also things that were given to me: things which I did not earn anymore than he earned the ability to eat candy without getting fat.

And that’s not all. Not only is it a matter of reality vs. mythical fairness, it’s also a matter of perspective. Were I to say that it’s unfair for my friend to be able to eat all that junk without getting fat, I would be implying that this:

2778-close-up-of-candy-fruit-pv

is actually some kind of desirable thing.  it’s so not. And neither is this:

9043-halloween-cupcakes-with-a-pumpkin-pv

I don’t obsess over the fairness or lack thereof because I’ve learned what good food is. I know what it feels like to eat great food that makes you feel like the proverbial million bucks. I know what it’s like to actually enjoy my food, rather than snarf it down so fast you can hardly remember what it was before it comes back up again. I also know what it’s like to feel good and then eat garbage–and how long it takes to feel great again. When I look at the things I’ve pictured above, I don’t even see them as edible. They’re merely decorations.

You know what’s edible? And delicious? And makes you feel good? Foods from which you never come away feeling sick and hating yourself because you couldn’t stop cramming it down your gullet?

Juicy steak, or thinly sliced roast beef

Spicy chicken wings, with a (fresh) ,bleu cheese dip

A lovely hard cheddar with some sliced apple or pear

The cream cheese ice cream I came up with a couple days ago

A cup of coffee topped with piles of freshly whipped cream and cinnamon

Homemade sausage

Big leaves of crispy lettuce holding slices of pastrami and cheese, tomato, spinach, and spicy brown mustard

The chili that sits all day in the crockpot

Brother #4’s all day, slow-cooked, fall-off-onto-the-plate pork shoulder

Brother #3’s homemade blueberry ice cream with blueberries picked that day

The Sister’s shredded cheese chips, to scoop up salsa and homemade guacamole

Anything Sister-in-Law #1 makes

The amazing raw cream Sister-in-Law #2 brought to family reunion–my first taste, and which has ruined me for regular cream ever since

Ritter Sport 73% dark chocolate without any soy or any other emulsifier or thickener–try it exclusively for a month and then try to go back to any chocolate with soy in it. I dare ya.

Clam chowder

Slow cooked leg of lamb

A bowl of thick Greek yogurt with a pile of raspberries

A fresh salad tossed with olive oil, salt, and oregano and covered in strips of marinated steak, cheese, and olives

A simple lettuce, onion, tomato, and olive salad with feta

A hamburger patty covered in blue cheese and crispy bacon

A coconut milk and egg omelet, slowly–SLOWLY!–cooked in butter, seasoned with lemon salt, freshly ground pepper, herbs de provance, and just a couple flakes of ground red pepper

All that stuff is real food that tastes really good and makes you feel satisfied, nourished, and energetic. Wouldn’t you like to feel that way? Aren’t you happier when you feel that way? If you keep sneaking a brownie twice a week because you just can’t stand it, you have doomed yourself to a perpetual half-life; a life of feeling even worse than if you just ate all that stuff all the time. You never feel happy because you never feed the addiction as much as it wants; yet you never feel satisfied and energetic because you keep sabotaging yourself with garbage. Give it up. Be free. Discipline your mind, and enjoy a piece of bacon.

 

Plato says he’s hungry

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