Thursday, January 9, 2014

True Confessions

I love peanut butter. I think I've told you this before. Love, love, love it. I could eat peanut butter all day long, and sometimes... I do. I don't like natural peanut butter, though. By that I mean the kind you can grind yourself at Whole Paycheck. It's all a throwback to my childhood when my mother went on a health kick and banished Skippy from our house.

Happily, now Skippy makes 'natural' peanut butter. It's the same consistency as regular peanut butter, but without the partially hydrogenated oils, which will apparently cause us to sprout horns and a tail. Don't burst my bubble and tell me Skippy Natural is made from glow-in-the-dark peanuts harvested by exploited wood elves. I don't want to hear it.

Anyway, I love peanut butter so much, I've decided I need to banish it from my kitchen. Not that peanut butter is nutritionally bankrupt. I sincerely believe that it isn't. However, it is fairly calorically dense and I am not able to control myself around it. Peanut butter is a wanton vixen and I am it's slave. (I told you I could be dramatic.)

I cannot completely banish peanut butter from my home. There would be a mutiny. My spawn have inherited my love of peanut butter and consume it regularly. So, I'm simply sending peanut butter to my cold, dark basement. Where the chocolate chips live. Because I can't control myself with them, either.

There they are... Bonnie and Clyde on lockdown
I wish I were the sort of person who could consume chocolate and peanut butter in moderation, but I'm not. I've come to accept this. If something causes me to stumble, I'm going to cut it out. Better have to trudge up and down the frigid polar vortex stairs to retrieve the peanut butter for the small people than to inhale the whole jar in one sitting while watching reality TV. That's in the Bible. I'm sure of it... though I might have paraphrased a little.
I got the idea of keeping the chocolate chips and peanut butter in the basement (aka--'the second fridge') from this book:
Mindless Eating was published back in 2006, which means you can almost certainly find a copy of it at your local library. At least until another reader of A Mom Walks Into A Barre beats you to it. (Did you know there is now a hold on Sitting Kills, Moving Heals by Dr. Joan Vernikos in my local library system? The one I discussed in my last post? Yes, people. I'm influential. I feel like Oprah.)

Anyway, Mindless Eating was written by Brian Wansink, director at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab. Dr. Wansink has made it his life's work to figure out why people eat what (and how much) they do, and he does it with a delightfully nerdy sense of humor. It's important to have a sense of humor if you live in Ithaca, NY. Talk about a polar vortex.

Dr. Wansink and his colleagues have conducted a number of experiments on unsuspecting diners. For example, they lured people in for a Superbowl party offering free chicken wings, then tested how many wings people ate under various conditions. FYI--don't gripe if a server doesn't clear your plate next time you're at happy hour. Turns out you'll eat way fewer wings if you can see the leftover bones than you would if your table were cleared regularly.

One of the chapters in the book is entitled the 'See-food Trap.' Wansink and his henchmen gave a group of office workers candy dishes stocked with Hershey Kisses. Half of the group were given clear dishes, while the other half's dishes were frosted glass. Each evening, Wansink's students counted the number of Kisses eaten (that would have been 'all of them' in my dish) and refilled the dish. They continued this for two weeks.

At the end, the workers with the clear dishes consumed a whopping 71% more candy than those who had been given opaque jars. That's a lot, people. Wansink and his students also rotated the location of the dishes--some were planted right beside the computer, some in the desk drawer, some on a cabinet a few feet away. In each case, the more convenient the dish, the more chocolate the worker ate.

In short, the more accessible food is, the more likely we are to eat it. If we have to expend a degree of effort, we're more likely to pass on it. And this is why peanut butter and chocolate chips now live in the basement. It's cold down there. When I'm feeling weak, I'm much less likely to descend the staircase into the frozen tundra that is my basement in January.
The book is replete with interesting stories of sabotage and deception (all in the name of science) and some pretty handy tips on how to trick yourself into eating more of the foods that are good for you and less of those that aren't.
It all kind of makes me want to get a job in Wansink's lab. But then I'd have to live in Ithaca. Mmmm... not convenient. I'll pass.


  1. Hahaha! Yes you are influential! Now I want to read that book too!
    I put a few boxes of mini chocolate chips on top of a kitchen cupboard and forgot about them. Out of sight, out of mind. Of course, having other sources of chocolate readily available and in sight over the last few weeks helped, I'm sure.
    I might try putting chocolate in the attic (which is our frozen tundra in the winter).

    You can't buy peanut butter sans hydrogenated fats around here, so we have to make do with the other kind and it's more of a treat. I like homemade natural peanut butter, just as long as the peanuts are evenly roasted, but it would be even nicer if it were really smooth.

    1. That's the trouble with Europe, PB is in short supply! Though the deliciousness of the chocolate more than compensates...

  2. Just made Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies filled with Marshmallows! Too yummy!!, had to Share with 90% friends and neighbours! Oooh! ;)

    1. Oh my, that sounds decadent. I wish I were your neighbor!

  3. One day when I come for a visit. Will be sure to bring some for you and your family. :) - Pru :)

  4. Peanut butter is really good for you, the sugar free kind. I buy the Trader Joe's brand with no salt and sugar added. It's a great source of protein and satiates hunger. I spread about 2 tablespoon on a slice of ezekiel bread every morning for breakfast, and I don't gain weight. I think sugar free and natural is the key.

    1. I'll have to try the TJ's sugar free! Still, for me the issue tends to be quantity--I just tend to eat too much of it!