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Dear Abby: Unwanted Holiday Goodies

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Old 12-21-2012, 11:49 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by mandalinn82 View Post
I have a real issue with the idea that people should avoid giving/sharing gifts of sweets/food because others might not control themselves well around the goodies.

I have my own issues with food, and yes, avoiding food gifts is hard for me. But avoiding those foods I have trouble with is my responsibility. It's not the responsibility of people bringing in sweets to consider my own personal issues in avoiding them. In most offices, there are people who can control themselves around sweets and people who can't, just like in every other setting, and it's not everyone's job to ensure that the people who can't control themselves don't get faced with temptation. Temptation is everywhere, food is part of office culture, and we're all responsible for our own consumption. I don't see anything "cruel" about putting a food gift in a space where one or more people might be trying to avoid it.

I do think that if you know someone is avoiding sweets, it's ham-fisted to give them specifically a big ol' plate of cookies. But that's not the same as keeping sweets out of the office so that the subset of people with self-control issues don't indulge.

That said, if you receive a food gift and prefer to throw it away, that's fine (after all, it's a gift, and yours to do what you please with), so long as you thank the giver and don't tell them your plans to do so.
I agree with everything mandalinn has said. Leaving them in the common area basically says "you are free to do what you want with them."

HOWEVER, where I work most people are in shape and healthy. I would feel a little bad if I knew everyone was on diets or trying to avoid XYZ sweets.

My boyfriend went shopping for his secretaries (all 3 are dieting) and realized that his default was chocolate - he ended up digging a bit deeper and got them nice locally made pottery and a cat calendar for the one who likes cats. Interesting to see just how quickly everyone defaults to unhealthy food for Christmas gifts.
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Old 12-21-2012, 01:14 PM   #17
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I'm torn on whether to "pass on" unhealthy food to others. I agree that many people can healthfully indulge in high fat sugar and fat foods with no (apparent) adverse consequences, and on the other hand, I think even the thinnest and healthiest among us, may be overindulging in these "treat foods."

It's not my job to police anyone else's eating habits, but I'm not sure I'm doing anyone any favors by adding MORE sugar/salt/fat into the communal free-for-all buffet that is already available.

Some of you know I'm taking a break (which may or may not be permanent) from my local TOPS (take off pound sensibly) group, in part because of all the food that's showing up there. Well about six months ago, when the group discussed doing pantry purges and donating the "junk" to food pantries, I informed the group that the local food pantries were over-run with junk and that "healthier" shelf-stable foods were needed.

Several members said, "but will 'they' eat it?" (they being the people who frequent food banks, and "it" being healthier food).

I was left speechless (as many of you know, that's unusual in itself). What I WISH, I had said was that most of the people who were frequenting food banks were no different than the rest of us - in fact, it might actually BE some of us.

The attitude was very much one that "poor" people would only eat junk, so that's what should be donated.

It made me realize that our country is over-run with junk. And it may not be too long, before 90% of the population is sick or debilitated in some way by their lifestyle.

I can't solve the nation's problem on my own, but I don't have to contribute to it either. Sugar/fat/salt used to be a real "treat," because it was expensive and rare. Even in the early part of the 20th century, but especially earlier, sugar was so expensive it was kept under lock and key.

Now it's cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables.

It's hard to get over the "treat" mentality though, and it feels wrong to throw these foods away, but I also usually can't think of anyone for whom the gift would be appropriate. The children in my family get far too many sweets as it is. The men and the women all have health issues that aren't helped by sugar/fat/salt (or they are approaching the age when they soon will, given their lifestyle and the diseases that run in the family).


I do like giving food gifts though, and for a while I tried to gift healthier foods (such as the year I gave "cocktail pomelo" as Christmas gifts (they look like kelly green grapefruits and taste like lemonade).

The gifts weren't a total flop. Some people enjoyed them (or pretended to), but I also got "complaints" (such as "tastes good, but too many seeds").

I do find myself giving sweets sometimes without really thinking about it. It's the "default" gift for people we don't know very well, and yet it also feels like a copout.

Sometimes it seems like every other day I have a different opinion on the matter, but I do feel far less guilty than I used to when I decide that the trash can is the best place for a food gift I've received.
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Old 12-21-2012, 01:30 PM   #18
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I volunteer at a Catholic church/food pantry regularly. I'm not religious, but I started volunteering here because I was new in town, bored, and wanted to do something useful with my time. The program is actually a very good one, though, so I continue to volunteer a year later. The pantry is in the basement of the church and there's also a kitchen where we prepare meals and feed folks on some weekends and all holidays. It's also a men's shelter and we have a few residents who live upstairs. Most of my volunteering is in the pantry, receiving donations, sorting them, arranging them into bags to be given out, and delivering them between other churches and shelters. This isn't the first pantry I've volunteered at, and I can tell you, for all the junk food that's donated, there's also a good amount of healthy stuff there. Canned vegetables, grains, etc. I also know that obesity runs rampant in poorer demographics because it's easier/cheaper/faster to get junk food than it is to get healthy food. I hate that fact just as much as the next person, but I won't turn away someone who tries to donate a box of donuts. Food is food and we take all the donations we can. We might not be able to give the people who come to us the healthiest options, but we give them something that'll sustain them and their families. But I totally agree with you, Kaplods, our general mentality on "treats" are way off and unhealthy and I wish general mentality on eating would change and we could all eat healthier and be more mindful of gifting healthier foods. Still, though, if I saw someone tossing sweets because they thought it wouldn't be appropriate to pass on, I'd implore them to donate them to my pantry instead. The shelves there run low and bare more often than not and I'd rather pass out cookies than nothing at all.
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Old 12-22-2012, 12:29 AM   #19
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Someone can lead a healthy lifestyle and still eat a cookie. Eating a whole batch of cookies is another issue.

I don't think that sharing treats/goodies with a bunch of people is evil. Just because they don't fit into your specific plan or lifestyle doesn't mean that that they're bad.
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Old 12-22-2012, 12:34 PM   #20
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Someone can lead a healthy lifestyle and still eat a cookie. Eating a whole batch of cookies is another issue.

I don't think that sharing treats/goodies with a bunch of people is evil. Just because they don't fit into your specific plan or lifestyle doesn't mean that that they're bad.
This. I made chocolate mint chip cookies for my husband's office for their xmas party. I also made whole wheat cherry and honey cookies and sent a basket of homemade hummus and pita with him as well.

If they didn't want something, they didn't have to take it. But then, I also didn't specifically send anyone anything that I knew was on a diet. Slippery slope.
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:54 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by kaplods View Post
I'm torn on whether to "pass on" unhealthy food to others. I agree that many people can healthfully indulge in high fat sugar and fat foods with no (apparent) adverse consequences, and on the other hand, I think even the thinnest and healthiest among us, may be overindulging in these "treat foods."

It's not my job to police anyone else's eating habits, but I'm not sure I'm doing anyone any favors by adding MORE sugar/salt/fat into the communal free-for-all buffet that is already available.
I sort of agree with you

I am also a teacher and I am really reluctant to give out candy all the time. Instead, I tend to give my students some nuts, stickers, or pencils.

I will admit I still default to giving various treats sometimes, but I try avoid it, especially with kids.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:32 PM   #22
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I sort of agree with you

I am also a teacher and I am really reluctant to give out candy all the time. Instead, I tend to give my students some nuts, stickers, or pencils.

I will admit I still default to giving various treats sometimes, but I try avoid it, especially with kids.
What I do with my students as a whole, is give "tickets" for being respectful, responsible, safe or kind (which are the school mottos) and they put their tickets in a jar and when the group as a whole have earned X amount of tickets, they get a special fun thing to do as a whole such as a pajama day or popcorn and movie etc...Works well and I don't have to give out any foods
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Old 12-23-2012, 10:41 AM   #23
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Someone can lead a healthy lifestyle and still eat a cookie. Eating a whole batch of cookies is another issue.
I have a big office, so I will bring treats there. You're not forcing one person to eat 40 cookies, you're offering a cookie to maybe the 10 people who get your email first. The same thing happens in my husband's office. It really is the dumping ground for food these days.

Just make sure you taste anything you didn't make first before bringing it to the office.................

If the treats had to stay at my house, I admit I would have a hard time throwing them away - not because of feeling bad for the giver, but because I hate to waste food in general. I don't think there's anything wrong with throwing food away, it's just really hard to do for me.
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Old 12-24-2012, 10:05 AM   #24
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I threw out dozens of cookies and goodies left at my apartment after my birthday party. There is simply no way or reason to eat them all (some of them weren't even good), I appreciate the thought that went into it, and I'm keeping my favorite (the TOFFEE).
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Old 01-01-2013, 07:19 PM   #25
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I'm like kaplods, I'm torn.

It's tricky. You know it's hard to have this food lying around which is why you give it away. It's everyone else's responsibility to eat whatever and however they want but you have to admit, your main intention - to get rid of the offending food - isn't wholly unselfish. Then again, when are our actions ever not selfish?

I think, ultimately, it's better to side with "sharing is caring". A perfectly fit person may still want a cookie, they'd just be more likely to stop after one or two rather than half a box. It's far better to learn control on an individual level than to restrict everything and everyone.
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Old 01-02-2013, 09:27 AM   #26
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I draw the line at giving something specifically to person A, if you know person A is avoiding sweets, that they can't eat.

But let's say I work in an office with Person A, B, and C. Person A is avoiding sweets, but Persons B and C aren't, at least that I know of. I don't think it's "cruel" to person A to bring in sweets for the office to share.

That was the point I was trying to make. It's different to give someone something specifically that you know they can't or don't eat...
This is my situation here at work, specifically. Person A LOVES sweets and is lucky enough to be able to eat them and not gain an ounce. Literally. He eats nothing but sugar all day long, and loves when I bake and bring stuff to work. Person B is the same way, to a lesser degree. Person C is avoiding sweets, but brings 5 pound bags of mini Hershey bars and Snickers to work constantly. I'm trying to restrict what I eat...but I love to bake so occasionally will bring stuff up here for everyone else.
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Old 01-02-2013, 01:22 PM   #27
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I think more than weight is at stake though. The more I read about the role sugar and grains (and high glycemic carbs in general) play in inflammation and the resulting inflammatory diseases (which often have few if any symptoms until AFTER the organ damage is done) - the more I have a hard time believing that when it comes to sugar "sharing is caring."

It would be different if sugar were a rare treat in our culture, but it's not. When sweets were first given as a symbol of caring (not just hundreds - but thousands of years ago) they were rare. And that was why they were considered gifts of caring (not to mention that they tasted super, duper yummy).

Well they still taste great, so they still make great "rewards," but they're no longer rare - and almost everyone is getting far too many for their optimal health.

While I'm not responsible for anyone's health but my own, If I care about a person (anyone really, even my worst enemy), why would I give them what is essentially dangerous to their health (unless they're one of the extremely rare, almost unheard of folks who aren't already gettting too much sugar, grain flours, and other highly processed foods).

I think sugar has become the laziest of "default" gifts - one you don't really have to put much thought into, because just about everyone likes it (even if they shouldn't be eating it). In fact, if they shouldn't be eating it, it becomes a but of a "guilty pleasure," but only because people don't really know how much damage it is doing. In many cases, it's not just "naughty" it's poison.

I wonder how many of us would give sugary treats, if we thought of them as taking even one hour of life away from our loved-ones, and that might be what we're doing.

I might willingly and gladly trade a few hours of my life for a really good piece of pecan pie (with the wheat crust that I know will give me an itchy rash) - but every day?

And right now, that's what most Americans are doing. Doctors say we may be the first generation to live shorter lives than our parents. It's not just sugar, it's also sleep deprivation, stress levels, environmental pollutants and toxins....

but still why continue adding to the problem. Why give sugar when you can find much more creative and personal ways to show that you care. I don't think it's really "caring" to give anyone sugar, because more than weight is at stake.... far more.

I think considering it only a matter of weight and appearance is dangerous (hey you're thin and look healthy, here's something that will make it harder for you to stay that way... but hey, it tastes good so who cares, right?)

I'm not saying that it's necessary or even good to avoid every gift that could have a negative consequence, but on an emotional level, why give a gift that is so mundane that everyone gives it? Why not give a gift that shows you understand the individual person (or that you're trying to)?

Hubby and I talked about that this year, that the "best" gifts we got this year, had absolutely no intrinsic value whatsoever. They were gifts that the person put just a little bit of thought into and even when the person really missed the mark, you just knew they were thinking of you specifically when they gave the gift. Or another great gift is when a person shares something of themself with the recipient "I hope you like this, because it's my favorite..."

I do think that sometimes people on strict diets are at least attempting #2 (I shouldn't eat this anymore, but I'd like to see someone enjoying it).

And there's nothing wrong with #2, but it is a bit selfish. And nothing inherently wrong with that, but what kind of gift is it, if you know that your enjoyment might be at the expense of someone else's health and safety.

I know this may seem like an over-reaction, but quite frankly I don't know anyone personally who isn't already eating an unhealthy amount of sugar. Some of the thinnest look great, but I know personally have multiple health problems that are being aggravated by their diet. I only know about their terrible health problems because they're close friends and family - and many of them are problems people aren't likely to discuss with acquaintences and coworkers (such as IBS, colitis and other bowel disorders or disorders that aren't easy to guess by looking at a person).

But even if you take all that away, and falsely assume that everyone who isn't fat or sick-looking is healthy (which unfortunately is common assumption in our culture), why would you want to give something so common and abundant in our culture. It's like giving the gift of tap water (ok that's abit extreme an example, a more relistic comparison would be white socks, or toilet paper - something they could, would, and probabably already are buying fgor themselves). Really, you couldn't think of something a little more original - something the person doesn't already have available to them every day of the year.

I see sugar as a bit of a cop-out gift. One you give when you have no idea (and don't want to learn) what the person might otherwise appreciate. Sugar is easy, because you're not going to find many people who say, "Yuck! I hate sugar in all it's forms. In fact, I hate all carbohydrates."

I'm also pretty practical about this as well. When I've given the gift of sugar, it always gets an appreciative response - but it almost never gets a long-lasting one. It's the less common and more personal gifts that the people in my life remember and reminisce about. No one ever says, "remember when you gave me that box of candy and cookies that was like every other I've ever gotten."

Now you can give "exceptional" sugar gifts, but it's a lot harder because there are tons of good and even great bakers and candy makers. Why not give something a little more creative, and something the recipient already doesn't have daily access too. Toilet paper actually makes a better gift than sugar, because most people don't have stockpiles and excesses of toilet paper in their house, but they probably do have too much sugar.

But we don't think of sugar that way. Sugar is "good" because we like it. But when an unprecedented number of even the thinnest and healthiest looking of people are coming down with autoimmune diseases, at least in part due to the excess sugar consumption in their diet, what kind of gift is sugar really? (I'm not guessing at this, much of the research into autoimmune diseases have identified sugar and high-glycemic carbs as one of the leading causes of autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases, and have found that eating fewer of these inflammatory foods can improve and sometimes even result in remissions from many autoimmune diseases).

I think it's so easy to see sugar as harmless. I still struggle with seeing it as harmful - even to me. How can one tiny piece of candy do any damage? And while I think that often even now, I have to remind myself that no one in our culture is having one tiny piece of candy. The average daily sugar intake in America, I've read is 22 teaspoons of sugar, whereas the recommendations are somewhere around 5g (for a woman).

So if nearly everyone is getting 4 to 5 times what they should be getting, doesn't that make sugar just about the worst gift you can give someone. I mean, would you ordinarily decide on a gift by thinking "Hmm, what does the person already have far too much of, I think I'll get them more of that."
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Old 01-03-2013, 06:34 AM   #28
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As a teacher, the majority of my Christmas gifts are baked goods, chocolates, etc etc. Which I really do appreciate but I honestly do not need them in my house.

Every year I pack up any food presents and I bring them to the home where I am celebrating Christmas- this year it was in Michigan with my in-laws. They have a party on Christmas eve and I place the cookies, chocolates, fudge, etc onto platters and the majority of it all gets eaten by the family. I bring home whatever is left-over- usually just a few things that I store away for treats later.

I would consider providing the food to those in need- shelters and food banks. Be careful though: many won't take homemade food for safety reasons.

If it is really something that I cannot have in the house- my husband is doing his very first diet and I'm starting mine back up- I will just throw it out. Our health is the main concern- not a box of chocolates
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Old 01-04-2013, 10:45 PM   #29
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I don't think it really matters whether you take stuff to the office or throw it out. I think the "right" answer is the one that you feel most comfortable with in light of your knowledge of your coworkers and the office culture.
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