“Have some candy”


Why do people assume that everybody wants candy, no matter where you are? Has this become so normal?

The other day I was at a lunch restaurant, where you can buy healthful foods, such as a salad full of nutritious ingredients (my choices: chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese). I chose mineral water to go with my salad.

As I was paying the cashier said “… and have some candy”. I answered “No, thank you”, but she had already thrown a handful of wrapped toffees into my grocery bag.

Did I seem like a customer who wanted candy with my healthful lunch? Apparently. One apparently assumes that EVERYONE wants it nowadays. It’s normal to eat candy, at any time.

The Twist of the Tale

It’s of course voluntary to eat the candy you are given. It’s your own responsibility what you put in your mouth, no one else’s. I have chosen not to eat candy. So, do you think I ate them?

I spent my lunch break at my desk to finish paperwork before the upcoming vacation. Not much fun. And the four toffees just lay there, so of course I had earned the pleasure of eating them. But I had decided not to, I don’t eat candy and I wasn’t even craving them. A while later the toffees still lay next to me. A minute later they were gone.

The Moral

This was an interesting experience. Normally, I never eat candy (except for really dark chocolate). I would never dream of buying it. And if someone offers, it’s usually easy to say no.

The difference this time? It wasn’t enough with just a quick decision not to, the toffees just lay there tempting. My self-discipline was already used up working on boring administration. And you only have a limited amount of self-discipline (although it will be refilled with time). So, even if I don’t suffer from troublesome sugar cravings, I still fell for the temptation.

I could of course have thrown the toffees away on my way back to work and avoided the temptation. This is the secret for those who effortlessly want to eat healthfully: never keep unhealthful foods in the house.

Now, you might think that some toffees is not a big thing, but the example is only the tip of the iceberg.

A World of Temptations

People addicted to sugar don’t have an easy time. After the toffee incident I thought of this when shopping in my grocery store. Normally I don’t notice the candy, but now I looked more closely.

Just on my way through the outer sections of the store to the real food there were at least 15 small stands with tempting sugary snacks. Candy. Chips. Cookies. Lemonade. Soda. Crackers. Muffins. Pastry. Chocolate. And more. You can’t walk 30 ft without encountering a new stand.

Can you imagine a sober alcoholic having to pass 15 stands of temptingly displayed drinks every time he or she goes grocery shopping?

As a parenthesis: can you imagine giving up smoking while being tempted with 1,000 cigarette packages at an arm’s distance every time you pay your groceries? This is what reality looks like here.

Whose Responsibility is it?

Of course, fundamentally it’s everybody’s personal responsibility what they put in their mouths. But those who tempt us also have a responsibility. Nobody would throw in a small bottle of spirits together with an unknown customer’s lunch just to be nice. Who knows if the customer is an alcoholic?

Perhaps it’s time for those tempting to show responsibility too? I’m not saying that you can never offer sugary snacks. But perhaps one should think a little bit first, to avoid making life unnecessarily difficult for other people.

What do you think?


Top comment

  1. Becky
    You nailed it. EXACTLY correct. For some of us it is not simply a matter of food choices. It is the addiction and everything that comes bundled with that - stress, comfort, deprivation, reward, and constant exposure to the "drug" (sugar). Great post, Doc!
    Read more →

All comments

  1. Becky
    You nailed it. EXACTLY correct. For some of us it is not simply a matter of food choices. It is the addiction and everything that comes bundled with that - stress, comfort, deprivation, reward, and constant exposure to the "drug" (sugar). Great post, Doc!
  2. Margaret
    Yes, I think many people will be able to relate to this.
    Thank you for your brilliant website; I send all of my patients here. :-)
  3. Mark.
    St. Philip Neri said that when faced with temptation, cowards are the only ones who win: they run away. I think he was talking about sex, but the principle applies here. I've thrown out a lot of tempting foods that I wouldn't otherwise have resisted, and eaten many that I should have thrown out. Wasteful but it works.
  4. Rachel
    You have described exactly what messes me up about 50% of the time. Temptation is there, and at first you are fine with refusing it ....but the stress gets to you later and then suddenly you think to yourself: "I can't deal with this deprivation right now" and boom, the sugar is eaten. I just spent a week in meetings at my home office where large baskets of candy was placed in the middle of the table every day. And one day pizza was brought in (since I did not have a ride to get food outside the office I had to eat it). It is sad that it takes so much pre-planning just to eat healthy... it should not be so different from everyone else's diet that you have to practically stomp your foot to prevent yourself from being forced to eat stuff that your body should not have.
  5. robert
    The old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" still holds true.

    When I go shopping for food, I switch to tunnel-vision and blank out everything that classifies as junk. It's almost like most of the products are covered with a black "censored" bar. My walking speed increases considerably in those areas as well. I try to finish shopping as quickly as possible too.

    Get in, hunt for food, get out.

    One of the worst experiences is when I see parents in the checkout lanes fighting with their children over sweets. Tantrum alert.

  6. murray
    Sugar candies are stuff I don't eat, no dilemma.

    My dilemma is what to do with them. I hate to waste them but I would feel like I was poisoning someone if I gave them away. I usually cop out by giving them to someone and letting them decide to do with them.

    Another dilemma is when people are trying to be generous and offer sugar-based stuff. I want to be magnanimous enough to allow them to feel generous. But now I have everyone in my office on to the fact I don't eat sugary stuff so they don't offer.

  7. FrankG
    As I frequently find myself reminding my son (at University) the occasional beer and pizza night is probably not an issue for him.. it is what he eats every day that I think (and he agrees) will affect his long-term health.. same goes for you Dr Eenfeldt and a very occasional couple of toffees :-)

    In fact even that word "occasion" is apt in this situation because in the past things like cakes and sweets would have been an "occasional" treat on birthdays, harvest time etc... and not something we ate every day for breakfast :-P Going even further back, our hunter gatherer ancestors coming across a seasonal field of berries or some wild honey probably manged to fill up on them without suffering long-term metabolic damage. Carbs per se are not the enemy... but constant high levels of sugar and refined starches as promoted in the western industrial diet is another matter altogether.

    I don't have an issue with temptation, or even ever feel need to "cheat" these days -- that pretty much went away along with my constant "hunger" when I started LCHF. Yes I can relate to "temptation"... the smell of fresh-baked bread for example but it is that much easier to ignore when I am not hungry and there are tasty alternatives that will not (as a Diabetic) cause me further harm. I recall a couple of times early on with LCHF when I did slip up and eat one of my "old favourites" only to be thoroughly disappointed at the experience and left wondering what all the fuss had been about :-) Evidently my tastes have changed and I enjoy what I eat these days... probably more than I ever did in the past.

    But no I think you are asking about the broader concepts such as what people socially assume to be "treats" and that I think needs to change... and perhaps, slowly already is :-)

  8. Kaylen
    I think that waitresses are persistent about it because of the perception that it increases tips.

    Thankfully, I have lots of experience saying no from declining plastic grocery bags.

  9. Galina L.
    Today a women who just had a womb removing surgery due to a cancer, told me that short time before she was diagnosed with the cancer, she became a candies addict, even though she was never interested in sweets before. She ate boxes of candies, but never gained a pound (she is a sleam 46 years old gym rat), but it was obviously consumed by the cancer.
  10. Jan C
    I have complained at my local WH Smith store (which actually sells books, magazines, newspapers, stationery, cards etc - in the UK), that they not only have display boxes of chocolate at the checkout but they also have piles of chocolate on the desk by the till and they ask every customer if they would like to buy a bar of whatever chocolate is on offer this week for £1. I've told them that I don't agree with doing this although I understand that they are required to do so (if I was a mystery shopper I could get them intro trouble). One week I pointed out to them that they had asked everyone in the queue in front of me and not one person had said yes. They even have sweets in little racks in front of the shelves with the newspapers in - it's like running a sweet/chocolate gauntlet in there. I'm not tempted at all. I've snootily told them I only eat very good-quality chocolate. I keep meaning to write to Smith's and tell them that it's very irresponsible to do this. I feel sorry for the sales staff who have to ask people time after time. They don't always ask me!
  11. Janknitz
    I used to nibble on candy all day long on SAD, because my blood sugar was constantly dropping and I felt like dirt if I wasn't spiking my blood sugar back up.

    On a LCHF diet, my blood sugar is stable, and I'm not even tempted by candy that's all around me (candy bowls on every surface seems to be a big thing in professional offices)--the smell of sweets is unpleasant now.

    BUT, occasionally I find myself tempted by some candy around me. When that happens, I check in with myself to see if I'm hungry. Since I often now forget to eat lunch (that NEVER happened on SAD), it usually means I am hungry and it's time to eat. I've learned to take it as a cue--not that I need to eat candy--but that I need to EAT good, healthful food.

    I'm not bothered a whit by all the candy around me in my environment, EXCEPT that I now cringe when I see people giving kids candy, buying it for them, etc. Internally I'm screaming that they are poisoning the children.

    There's a post on another low carb forum by a woman who is concerned that her children should not see her refusing the sweets she makes and buys for them to eat (every day!)--avoiding these sugary treats is somehow in her mind a bad example to set for her children. She is trying to justify allowing herself to eat the baked goods she "slaves over" and other sweets around her. And she titled her post something along the lines of "don't judge me". But all I can do is think how much her children would benefit from getting rid of all the sugar, not from seeing Mom eat it, too. How can she possibly think these sweets are good for her children???

  12. mckohtz
    What should we do on Halloween? Offer dark chocolate? Give out tooth brushes like my old neighbor who was a dentist? or cheap toys? Any suggestions?
    Replies: #18, #19, #23
  13. murray
    We give out playdough to younger kids on Halloween and they are delighted. "Mom! I got Playdough!" Usually small bags of potato chips to the other kids. Kids who come late after we run out of our original supplies (we get 200-400 kids depending on the year), they get culls from our own kids' loot (anything with trans fat in the first cut). The first cut otherwise goes in the garbage.
  14. Jennifer
    I say, "No thanks, I'm struggling to control my blood sugar." The person who is pushy about the pie, offers the candy, or acts put out answering my questions about ingredients of restaurant foods sort of blinks, jaw opened, when I say that. Their reply is often a sheepish assumption, "Oh, you're diabetic!' I let them think what they want because at that point they're very cooperative.
  15. Bernardo
    Don't worry doctor. As people get to know the truth and dangers of sugars they will eventually be less and less available. I used to be a very strong sugar addict. If I could I'd eat just ice cream my whole life, but since I decided for 0 tolerance with sugar I can do things I could never imagine I'd do before. Here is an example: I put a coin in a vending machine in order to get myself a packet of almonds, but I typed the wrong number, and a chocolate bar fell. I could have just accepted it was fate, but I actually threw it away and spent another dollar for the almonds. I wasn't even proud of myself, I was more amazed about how easy it was and how much I had changed. Maybe you ate that candy because you don't need a 0 tolerance. Because you can eat it once in a while, you never had to go that path. I advise those that have cravings for sugars to go 0 for a few months and consider it something permanent.
  16. Els
    I often find it just as hard to refuse candy, ice cream or cake as I used to find it to say no to a cigarette, some 15 years ago now. Now that I'm resolved to eat a healthy diet I can honestly say I'm addicted to sugar and recognize the cravings I had when I was trying to give up smoking. It took me a long time to quit that addiction, but I find sugar is socially more accepted and more abundant so this one is really hard for me.
  17. cancerclasses
    "Nobody would throw in a small bottle of spirits together with an unknown customer’s lunch just to be nice."

    Just one more thing that's wrong with the world, I would happily trade the candy for a tiny bottle of vodka or tequila! ;-)

  18. Maggan A

    What should we do on Halloween? Offer dark chocolate? Give out tooth brushes like my old neighbor who was a dentist? or cheap toys? Any suggestions?

    sliced carrots and/or Cherry tomatoes....

    Reply: #20
  19. Anders Lundin
    Give them butter, or a penny... ;)
  20. Anders Lundin
    Carrots has to much sugar to fit in the LCHF-diet.
  21. ZellZ
    I really Love this blog post because it shows that even someone who's a Master at what he eats, like Dr. E, is still, from time to time, subject to the candy monster.
    I also Love the way Dr. E points out how ubiquitous, how Surrounded we candy are by by candies, cakes, cookies, ice cream, junk food.
    That stuff tastes Good!!!!
    (And then makes you feel Horrible. And then the hideous cycle begins all over again). I don't Ever want to be in That HELL Again!
    Having been doing keto for 2 years, (and counting) I'm starting to worry about the resurfacing of old cravings. I'm a sugar addict & my demons have not gone away, just gone underground, but underground is where they can stay. I just must be very Careful not to ever give in to temptation (& if I do, nip that sucker right in the bud & get back on track - just like Dr. E did)!!!
    My cravings seem to be giving me a hard time, of late, & I realize that it's because I'm under immense stress.
    I haven't given in to the cravings & I won't: I have blue berries on hand & some home made chocolate (w/a small amount of liquid stevia) to keep cravings at bay.
    If I didn't have that stuff, I don't think I'd have the strength to pass up all the bad stuff.
    This summer, I intend to have some water melon. I won't go an entire Summer anymore w/o at least some water melon.
    I've had occasional water melon before when doing Keto & it doesn't bring out my cravings like candies do, or cakes, ice cream, etc.
    Fresh fruit - just a bit - is my antidote to cravings.
    Having stayed away from store bought candy & other treats (including Atkins bars) for 2 years & counting, fruit now tastes almost insanely sweet.
    You know, it's hard to justify to people why one must be so "extreme" about passing up cookies & cakes & other party foods. I don't justify, I just do it, but I can feel the silent judging from others.
    Dr. E. really makes it Clear: what if I were an alcoholic & I had to be Constantly tempted w/booze?????
    THEN would people Finally Understand what we are up against?
    Sugar is so "innocent" & people associate it w/their childhoods, holidays & birthdays.
    But sugar has a deeply toxic side that is the horrific nightmare of all that "innocence".
  22. Lori
    I give kids coins for Halloween. They love it and so do I: there's no leftover candy afterward.
  23. Jan
    "Now, you might think that some toffees is not a big thing, but the example is only the tip of the iceberg." Sorry that just made me think of a lovely mixed salad so just couldn't resist saying .... Ice berg lettuce good, candies/sweets not so good.If we do not start giving children sugar, sweets etc it can only help them not eat it in the large amounts that some are now consuming it, a generation almost addicted to sugar. Start them young and encourage healthy eating.

    All the best Jan

  24. moreporkplease
    Just another reason I love living at 2.25 on the blood ketone meter. Candy has zero attraction to me. At all. I regard it with the same indifference as I do styrofoam. It's not edible & it doesn't occur to me to ever eat it.

    Real ketosis is a bullet-proof shield.

    Reply: #27
  25. Galina L.
    Not all people can't eat sweet things. In one of your links - "As a rule, hunter-gatherers struggle to find calories: a scoop of honey supplies a huge hit." Our society struggles with different issues, and on low-carb forums you will mostly find people who benefit from a sweets avoidance. Even in our modern society many young folks can eat anything without obvious damage, but such luck rarely lasts a life-time.
  26. Murray
    @moreporkplease, I have the same experience. I measure blood ketones and in ketosis I have zero desire to eat sugar products. This weekend my wife, who gets migraines from wheat, was excited to bring home an almond flour, olive oil pound cake as a treat (as a base to serve strawberries and whipped cream). I passed, as I just was not attracted by the prospect of sweet tasting cake.

    I see manufactured carb food as serving edifice. I love pizza, but don't eat the carb-board plate underneath. Even my son doesn't eat the carb-foam wrapper that hot dogs are served in. They are pleasantly soft and puffy yet glutenuously resilient and this clever structural engineering makes it simpler to apply mustard and eat the sausage without a plate or utensils and without touching the food with your fingers. Sadly, some people actually mistake these carb-ware products for food and eat them despite touching the carb-ware with soiled fingers.

    I confess I do love the smell of a bakery. I also revel in the smell of the nearby flower store. But neither the flower store nor the flour store stimulates my appetite.

  27. Sam Roberts
    I read this blog post about junk food marketing immediately after yours about the toffees. The issue you identify is related to the marketing practices of 'big food' as it outlines here: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/06/the-perfect-crime.html
  28. Stacy in USA
    Candy is like crack cocaine. Not something you want to use or consume consistently. But, please, take responsibility for your own choices. The new world - the post-modern world - demands that you take responsibility for your own choices whether you're willing or not. Please, Europeans, stop acting like surfs and accept responsibility for your own choices.
  29. moreporkplease

    "just was not attracted"

    100000% agree. The beautiful beautiful thing about real ketosis is that you don't need any "willpower." The sugar & carb addiction just turns itself off. No effort of any kind is required because your brain isn't getting tired from glucose exhaustion, no matter how much work you do. You experience incredible mental clarity & tireless productivity, just as Peter Attia says.

    Your bakery/flower story made me laugh - here we had edible flowers for Summer that decorated the holiday salad to make it pretty. I would definitely eat the flowers before the bread. ;)

    Andreas, get yourself back to 2.0 at least on the ketone meter. ;) That's my advice.

  30. Eric Anderson
    A pat of butter,
    Soon we will all be able to have continious levels reported back in real time of sugars, ketones, insulin etceteras and the feedback loop can reinforce the harm of 'just a taste' come on 'just a taste' as the dealer works to hook into addictive responses. Eric
  31. Kristin
    A while back, I purchased printer cartridges online, and was surprised when they arrived that there had been candy put in the box. I didn't want them, so I put them in a ziplock bag and took them to work for others because I hate waste. I had problems with the cartridges and had to contact the company for replacements, so I specifically asked them not to add the candies to the box again. They added them again anyway. The 2nd batch ended up in the bin because frankly I feel hypocritical giving sugar to people when I don't eat it myself.
  32. ZellZ
    Well, maybe the True Moral of the story is that Dr. E. got right back to his good eating, and didn't allow a few candies to derail him! I don't know if I could be so strong - but on the other hand, if I believe that, I might slip up one day, & then feel "doomed" to never get back into ketosis. So, I don't want to brainwash myself. But I agree w/others here who say that life is just so much easier when one is in ketosis. There's so much sweet stuff out there & as Dr. E. shows, it gets THROWN at us (sometimes Literally, Even!) on a regular, even daily, even hourly basis! So much stuff, so yes, I also need the "shield" of Ketosis, as well! I've no doubt that there are people who can regularly eat sweets in moderation, though. But many cannot & must guard their ketosis religiously, almost.
  33. ZellZ
    Of course, I'm not SO in love with Ketosis that I'm going to completely deny myself some water melon this Summer. Love the stuff, but can eat it in strict moderation & buy only a small package of it, pre-sliced. I'm not about to sit at the table w/a big water melon in front of me, though. Dr. E says fruit is nature's candy & must be eaten sparingly. That makes sense to me. I remember having a bit of water melon at a party. Some one who was munching down on cake & other party treats seemed rather eager to inform me that my water melon was as bad for me as the cakes, candies & other processed party treats, since sugar is sugar. Well, not so fast. The nasty stuff has tons of bad things added in & tons of good stuff taken out (like fiber). So, just from my own experience, I can have a slice or 2 of water melon, enjoy it & move on. I don't obsess over it or plot & plan when I can have it again. Even so, I Am careful w/fruit. (And I've decided to Definitely nix the whole grains & beans, at least for now). But none of that stuff is addictive to me, like CANDY & cake is. There IS a difference! I have noticed it in my own life. There have been times I have had a slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter & bacon. Or even some thinly sliced potatoes fried up in good oil. Or beans in my tuna salad. These times don't last long: I feel better w/a much stricter diet, the ketogenic diet, but these times have proved to me that when it comes to whole foods, even ones high in glucose, I usually don't go all ape sh*t crazy over them. Cereals are different. I tend to eat them like a binger, so they are Definitely out. Forever. I guess we all have to experiment w/what works best for us.
  34. roro
    Yes , the exposure to candy makes it difficult to deal with, however it is a personal choice. I mean what would you prefer a government controlled diet? And then what I have the most difficulty with is giving everyone another reason to not accept responsibility for their own actions and decisions.By the time a lot of women have a third child without benefit of job or husband , i'm a little tired of paying the consequences for their actions.Temptation is meant to be resisted not necessarily avoided, since that can't always be helped. Should we remove all children from playgrounds because the pedophile can't resist? Should we require women to wear Blankets because men can't resist? I know why don't I become a scared little rabbit and lock myself away in a hole until Big Brother tells me what I can eat and what's good and bad for me and where I can go and where I can't go because IT IS TOO HARD TO BE A RESPONSIBLE ADULT and eat a little candy today and not eat the whole bag tomorrow. and on and on and on
  35. Lynne
    I was wondering what to do with all the beads I collected at Mardis Gras. When Halloween came around, I put them in the candy bowl - the kids were thrilled and chose them over the candy.
  36. Inna
    I've received some cosmetic stuff by mail and seller has put a handful of candies in the package (perhaps just to be sure I would leave good feedback). I'm not used to throwing food away so those candies remain lying on the shelf in the kitchen. Really got no idea what to do with them.
    Reply: #38
  37. Robert
    To quote one of my favorite movies:

    "Inna, toss it into the fire!"

    ...only there can it be unmade!

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