Friday, January 1, 2010

Resistance Is Not Futile

Although October 1 isn't an official holiday (that I know), for me it marks the unofficial start of what I call 'the baking season.' It's when even the most pedestrian of cooks grabs their boxes of Betty Crocker or buy-in-the-dairy-section cookie dough and the more daring light a candle to their favorite celebrity patron baking saint on Food Network and begin combing obscure baking blogs for recipes they can "whip up" and share.

The season continues at least through the end of the year, although has been known to persist through February with its flourless chocolate dome cakes and caramel ganache. The flow of carbohydrates and calories is never-ending, merely shape-shifting -- whether that shape-shifting be from Halloween caramel-covered apples to Thanksgiving Dutch apple pies or the less-desirable shape-sifting from a size 6 to a size 10.

As a mildly capable cook and baker myself, I understand the desire to bake, as well as the need to share the wealth (one four-person home can only consume so much sugary goodness). But I also realize that stretchy pants should only be worn a certain number of times in a week. Once that threshold is exceeded, it's time to stop eating.

But how to stop eating when you are beseiged on every front with temptations? Perhaps this is what it feels like to be Tiger Woods at a Barbie-lookalike convention. (Ooh, was that too soon?) No doubt about it, whether going to the local shipping depot, the family holiday party, or the workplace, the calories flow abundantly. It requires one to be on their most vigilant guard.

When I try to resist treats, I find it helpful to understand the (sometimes underhanded or subconscious) motivation of the person who brought them in. This helps me identify the appropriate avoidance technique.

Baker's Motivation: “I really enjoy baking but my family can’t possibly eat everything I make so I’m sharing some of the bounty with you. Please enjoy.”

Avoidance Technique: Righteous indignation. (Think: "I AM NOT A GARBAGE DISPOSAL!")

Baker's Motivation: “My weight loss efforts have been unsuccessful so by making you gain weight through the treats I bring in, I feel less bad and more successful/validated.”

Avoidance Technique: Competitive zeal! (Think: “You’re not going to use me! And I’m going to feel so good being thinner than you!”)

Baker's Motivation: “I received these treats from a good-intentioned parent/sibling/distant relative and I can’t deal with the guilt of throwing them away myself. Please enjoy them so I don’t feel guilty.”

Avoidance Technique: Compassion. (Think: “Here, let me help you put them in the garbage.”)

Baker's Motivation: “I rely on your public pronouncement that you enjoy these homemade treats for my own self-worth. If you don’t try them, I’ll feel like I’m not a good enough cook and possibly be deeply insulted. Please enjoy.”

Avoidance Technique: Craftiness. (Think: “These look to. Die. For. Delicious! But I’m allergic to gluten/dairy/air and am on a strict medically-enforced abstinence diet from my doctor.”)

Don't get me wrong - I am not above any of these motivations myself. It is through using them, though, that I am able to better understand it in others and navigate the battlefield of balance versus indulgence.