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The Great Candy Binge Experiment

October 30, 2013 - Betsy Bethel
Pray for me this Halloween. Not because I'm scared the boogie man will get me. Not because I'm worried that my daughter will have nightmares or find a needle in her Kit Kat. Not because we are THAT house that isn't giving out candy this year (we live on a hill; hardly anyone comes anyway!).

Nope. I am requesting prayer in the hopes that the experiment I am about to unleash on my 7-1/2 year old will prove my hypothesis and not send anyone to the hospital. I'm calling it the Great Candy Binge Experiment.

Let me offer some back story. When I was a kid, candy was never rationed. Case in point, my grandparents got a 10-pound box of Russell Stover candy as a Christmas gift from someone every year, and I would spend my Christmas vacation annihilating the box. I would start with the caramels and truffles, of course, then move on to the nutty ones, and eat right down to the raspberry and maple creams, which I hated but forced myself to eat. All Christmas day and the blissful days following, I would carefully lift the enormous lid off the rectangle box that held candy three layers deep. I would try to be stealthy, but of course, the candy didn't disappear all by itself. There were the pesky wrappers to dispose of, as well. There were six grandkids, plus a chocolate-loving grandfather, to help put a hurtin' on that box, but I'm almost positive I made the biggest dent.

At Easter, if I wanted to eat everything in my Easter basket before dawn on Monday, no one would stop me. And I often did (I had to choke down the last of the white chocolate bunny, but I prided myself on finishing it all). The same thing went for Halloween. Most years, I would finish my candy within a few days. We're talking half a pillow case full. I think it took my digestive track a month to recover.

I don't know why I was allowed to eat so much candy. I think it's just that no one kept tabs on my consumption. I was a known sweet freak, ever since I was old enough to eat animal crackers. In the family album, there is photographic proof: a picture of me at less than 2 years old, standing on the counter and reaching for the animal crackers on top of the refrigerator. I'm looking right at the camera with a deer-in-the-headlights expression. My grandfather used to love to tell the story of a holiday meal at which I finished my dessert then eyed my cousin's pie for a minute before asking, "Are you going to eat that?"

I think part of the problem was, from what I remember, we rarely had sweets at our house. My mom, a divorcee, was perpetually dieting. Perhaps I was so "starved" for sweets that I overindulged whenever they were in my vicinity. I remember jonesing so bad for something sweet after school that I dipped into her Ayds stash. (For the uninitiated, the unfortunately named Ayds were little square chocolate-flavored dietary aids/appetite suppressants popular in the late 1970s and early '80s. I just googled it and found out they contained phenylpropanolamine (PPA), now available only by prescription because it has been found to cause strokes in women. Lovely!) Later, when I was allowed to walk across the street to the Convenient store, I would steal money out of my sister's koala bank to buy a 25-cent candy bar. Ah, the joys of a latch-key childhood!

Fast forward to when I had my daughter. Despite a great start — what could be better than breastmilk, homemade organic rice cereal, fresh avocadoes right out of the shell and spinach-and-organic-oat pancakes? — the health-food train pulled into the station permanently the day of her first birthday party. That's when I made what probably was the biggest mistake of my daughter's life by plopping a dollop of canned vanilla icing atop her whole-oat, carrot and applesauce cupcake. All aboard the Junk Food Express!

I don't know whether a sweet tooth is inherited or not, but if so, she certainly got a whole mouth full. Her grandmother was keen to fuel the treat machine, generously doling out Nutty Bars, Reese cups and Kit Kats while my husband and I were working. Things got bad for Grandma when Emma developed a conscience and, as soon as I walked in the door, blurted out the list of treats Grandma had given her. Unfortunately, no amount of protesting has ever made a dent in Grandma's insatiable desire to give treats. We've come to accept, counterintuitively, that that's how she shows her love.

We don't have a complete ix-nay on the eats-tray — I don't want to make the mistake of depriving her. Emma understands I want her to be healthy, and that's why I limit her sweets; but she's still a kid, so she tries every trick in the book to convince me to let her consume mountains of them. She has been known to extol the virtues of blueberry muffins and, most recently, point out the healthy almonds in the Hershey's kisses.

I've been thinking about my candy-bingeing a lot lately as we approach that favorite holiday of treat-aholics everywhere, Halloween. Lately, we've been on a kick of recognizing the consequences for our actions. Emma told me last night she's going to write a book about consequences. On one page will be the action, say, not looking before you cross the street; on the facing page will be the consequence: getting hit by a car. "Dun, dun, duuunnnhh!" she sung to denote certain gloom and doom. I told her it's a great idea ... and that's when I revealed my Halloween experiment: It's the Great Candy Binge, Charlie Brown. I am going to let her eat as much of her Halloween candy as she wants, with absolutely no restrictions. I don't think she believed me at first. And for good reason. I am, after all, THAT mom, the one who confiscates her post-game soccer snacks and Capri Suns and doles them out one at a time over the course of the next three days.

Yes, I assured her, she can have free reign over her Halloween candy, just like I did when I was a kid. I also was sure to inform her I still remember some of the colossal stomach aches I suffered as a result. Her enthusiasm was only somewhat dampened. This morning, she gleefully reminded me that Halloween was tomorrow and that I told her she could eat all the candy she wanted. Yep, I said, feeling just a little evil.

I truly am curious to see how my hypothesis will pan out. What IS my hypothesis? That Emma will eat too much candy and suffer the natural consequences: a tummy ache that she'll never forget. If nothing else, it will make a great entry in her book!

I know I may end up sitting up all Thursday night with a moaning and/or hyper kid. I'm hoping there will be no adverse reactions (hence, the prayer request) and that it will be worth it in the end — that I will gain a valuable tool in my Mommy Kit that I can whip out at the next carnival or holiday party: "Remember what happens when you eat too many sweets?"

Cue the doomsday music: Dun-dun-duuunnhh!

(I admit I will be pleasantly surprised if she decides to ration the candy herself. I'll keep you posted.)

P.S. She ate about 20 pieces of candy with her cousins on Halloween night and has barely touched her Jack-o'lantern bucket since. Only a slight tummy ache that night, and she went to bed without a fuss. Go figure. I guess I'll let the kid be a kid and eat her candy on Halloween. And I'm super-relieved she didn't get sick.


Article Comments

Nov-27-13 7:44 AM

Betsy, how did this go?!? Just wondered how Miss Emma did with this temptation. Haven't seen any updates so thought I would ask. :)


Nov-01-13 11:15 AM

Oh the Halloween memories! With six kids you can barely imagine the pile of candy that sat all over the dining room table. I let my kids eat whatever they wanted that night. Then, the next day I would pick out half of all the chocolate bars, put them in zip-lock freezer bags and stash them in the deep freeze for Christmas stocking stuffing. The kids were allowed to keep them candy separate for a few days, then the leftovers got dumped into one bowl. Anything still around a week later got dumped - if it wasn't gone by then it obviously wasn't worth eating! We didn't buy or keep candy in the house so I didn't feel bad letting them binge a bit on the holidays. Good luck with the great experiment - sounds more like Great Expectations....


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