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ADVENTURES IN FOOD AND FITNESS

Halloween treats will be headed to ‘candy locker’ at the gym

Monday, October 29, 2012 - 12:01 am

We still haven't figured out what we're doing for Halloween this year, but the kids and I know what we're doing the day after — taking their treat bags to the gym, where we'll deposit most of the contents in a locker that serves as our family's “candy bank.”

Holiday candy infusions used to lead to dietary disaster at our house, especially since I didn't have any more willpower than our four kids.

In the process of losing 90 pounds in 2010, I came up with various strategies to keep myself out of the kids' treat bags. But what about them?

For a while, we tried regulating sugary snacks by setting up an in-house “candy store.” The kids used their allowance money to buy the occasional treat, with the profits going toward a charity of their choosing and to replenish the stock.

But this project disintegrated when Grandma gave each kid Valentine boxes of homemade chocolates. No one wanted to put their goodies in the candy store.

Frustrated with his chocoholic impulses, our son Ben hung his stash in a seemingly out-of-reach spot — suspended from the smoke alarm in the stairwell — only to retrieve it in a daring but dangerous midnight raid. Clearly, we needed a better plan.

The most obvious solution — declaring our house a sugar-free zone — wasn't an option any of us wanted to consider. As a former fat person, I've got psychological as well as biochemical reasons to stay away from junk food. But I also know I never could've stuck to a diet that didn't allow room for the occasional treat.

It would've been nice if I'd gotten my dietary act together when the kids were still forming their eating habits, but it was too late for that. Our oldest was in high school already. Our youngest, then 8, was already struggling with a serious weight problem.

The best I could do at this point was teach them some of the willpower-building tools I'd acquired belatedly in adulthood and trust that, being young, they'd pick them up more quickly than I did.

It was during a family workout session shortly before Easter that we got the idea of stashing the kids' excess holiday goodies in the locker we shared at the gym. They'd be harder to get to, and each treat would come with a built-in exercise session.

The kids agreed to the plan. Even Rowan, the high schooler who'd pretty much figured out self control on her own, got into the spirit of burning calories to earn candy as a means of showing support to her younger siblings.

They didn't mind if their candy stash wasn't close by, so long as they knew there was a way to retrieve it. This way, they didn't have to worry about anybody getting into their stash, either.

As time passed, it was fun to discover forgotten treats.

Last fall, a cache of leftover Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs added a unique element to a family birthday party: A “taste test” between the eggs and the reigning seasonal treat, Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkins. It was silly, but it got even the youngest partygoers thinking about how candy marketing works.

By December, we all got a good laugh during one gym visit when we realized that, for the first time in our family's history, a chocolate Easter bunny would live to see Christmas.

Last January, when the kids and I entered a YMCA weight-loss contest, the candy locker gave us extra confidence we wouldn't get tripped up by Valentine's or Easter goodies.

With our team scheduled for its first weigh-in the week after Valentine's Day, Colleen, our youngest, insisted we hit the gym on Feb. 15 so she could deposit her Valentine treats in the candy locker. There was much less chocolate than in previous years. Grandma had picked up on the kids' new nutrition goals and provided much healthier selections.

Still, Colleen didn't want to take any chances. “I know my limitations,” she said.

Our team finished fifth out of 101 teams with a total loss of 8.96 percent. We didn't win a prize, but we all felt proud of our hard work and healthier habits.

Weight control remains a problem in our house, for some of us more than others. But thanks to the candy locker, sugar has much less of a grip on our lives.

Tanya Isch Caylor, a News-Sentinel copy editor, blogs on diet and fitness at www.90in9.wordpress.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.