Thursday, September 27, 2007

The evil of Cupcakes

While in the car with my husband the other day, we heard an ad for an
upcoming episode of The Biggest Loser. We had watched the first season,
back before we thought Charlotte was paying attention to TV (and
definitely before she learned the word "ELMO"). Between the colic and
the evening clusterfeeding, we watched a lot of TV back then, as I was
spending a lot of my time on the couch anyway. In general I enjoyed
watching people work hard on such a healthy goal, and it was interesting
to see what kinds of regimens the trainers were dreaming up for their
teams. However, there's some aspect of every reality show that has me
talking to the TV--chiding the contestants or the show's creators
because of the sheer stupidity of what they're doing. During at least
one of the episodes, the contestants entered their communal kitchen to
find a beautiful display of every kind of baked good and pastry you
could dream up. It made my mouth water just to look at it. But these
poor people, who were literally working their butts off every day and
cut off from their friends and family, not to mention their strictly
enforced "diets", were punished if they so much as tried a fingerful of

As I monologued to my (sort of) patient husband the other day, this is
exactly the mindset that makes so many "diets" fail. People lock
themselves into some sort of strict deprivation mode, and may God strike
them dead if they even smell chocolate. Once they do fall off the
bandwagon and try the smallest taste of something, they then decide that
their diet's completely ruined, and spend the next week gorging on
anything fattening that they can find in order to punish themselves.
That is just dumb. Dumb dumb dumb dumb. A treat now and then (dare I
say, even every day) is not going to make you fat. And if eating a
cookie or two a day will keep you satisfied so that you don't get
desperate and eat an entire tub of cookie dough in an evening (locked in
the bathroom so that no one else can see your transgression), then it
seems like a good thing to me! Fat and Carbs have a very important
place in a healthy diet. I'm not advocating chucking the whole grain
bread, lean meat, and vegetables in favor of a Twinkie and Hostess
Cupcake diet, but I just don't see how a cupcake every now and then can
be so bad.

I saw a recent article on the New York Times website discussing the
controversy over cupcakes in schools. We're not talking a lighthearted
water cooler discussion, we're talking about lawmakers taking sides over
whether to pass legislation to ban or allow parents from bringing in
cupcakes to celebrate their child's birthday. I can definitely
understand the arguments from folks who want schools to serve healthy
lunch options (so that kids aren't buying Ding Dongs and orange Kool-aid
for lunch every day, not that I ever did that...ahem...). The problem
isn't that schools are dictating that every child must have a cupcake
every day; it's that parents are bringing a special treat to celebrate a
special occasion. Heaven (or Congress I suppose) forbid that that
special treat be made of fat and carbs and little else. Heck, I think
that describes most of the dishes my high school cafeteria used to sell.
Cut out those cupcakes and I suppose we'll eliminate the obesity crisis
in America. That's a logical argument, isn't it? Why don't they work on
making those healthy choices more appealing (or at least edible, as most
of the "good" food in my schools growing up was not), while still
allowing the special treats on occasion. Otherwise, kids who are
feeling deprived are going to learn to binge, and then to hide it.
That's a challenge that nobody wins.

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