Halloween is the second highest per capita spending holiday. Any year now we will see pumpkins before the Easter Bunny has even visited.
Clearly, serious scientific inquiry is sadly lacking, and for that I have requested the assistance of my 9-year-old daughter, Lauren, an expert in all things Halloween.
Through careful measurement of the capacities of various Halloween candy conveyances such as plastic pumpkins and ghostly bags, adjusting for stride length and youthful enthusiasm, we have arrived at the semi-scientific, fun-sized average candy haul of 143 pieces on Halloween night. That is just over five pounds of candy (fun-sized bars are 17 grams).
These so-called “fun-sized” bars are intended to be the moral equivalent of cookie crumbs; which they say don’t count. But what do they know; they all have a body mass index problem.
The fun-sized bar is about a third of the weight of the full-sized candy bar. For me, fun-sized means two bites, perhaps three for my daughter. That is about 50 calories a bite. While I wouldn’t be inclined to buy a full-size Baby Ruth candy bar, much less consume it in one sitting, I am perfectly capable of eating three fun-sized bars (who am I kidding, four or five). The fun-sized bar just looks so small and harmless; it doesn’t set off dietary alarm bells in my brain.
Buying a whole candy bar involves commitment. You have to want it, find it, pay for it, and feel guilty about it – there is emotional and financial investment here. Fun-sized candy bars are commitment-free, just a little dalliance for your sweet tooth; sort of a spin the bottle of the candy world.
And if the lack of commitment isn’t tempting enough, the variety is almost overwhelming: beautiful shiny wrappers, tantalizing textures and tastes, chocolate, licorice and taffy, sweet tarts and candy corn.
But they do add up – it’s roughly 90 to 100 calories per fun-sized bar. It is not hard to eat five or 10 in a day when the candy bowl is convenient and visible. Halloween candy eaten at work from a community bowl spreads the crime out over several people. This is more in theory than in practice as a very few people eat almost all the candy. You avoid being identified as the glutton. However, your body will know.
An extra 500 to 1,000 calories per day is pretty common during Halloween season. Do that for a week and you have built a shiny new pound of fat. If you want to neutralize the effects of this extra 500 or 1,000 calories you can always get a little more exercise, five hours of walking or an hour of running should do it. An hour and a half of jump roping or Taekwondo will rid you of those extra 1,000 pesky calories. Is anybody up for two hours of rollerblading?
It should be obvious by now that if you want to stay lean, it’s not a “shock and awe” kind of battle. It’s more guerrilla warfare. You are in it for the long haul, and you accept partial and uneven victories and save some fight for tomorrow, and next year.
For me, that means carefully select and slowly eat two fun-sized bars per day – maximum – and tomorrow I will exercise (though not for two hours).
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B) is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing Clinical Occupational Medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.