Casual Calories: How You Can Avoid Them This Summer

Casual Calories: How You Can Avoid Them This SummerMemorial Day is the first of the three summer season holidays. With more picnics and parties to come, this is a perfect time to reflect on the most common food trap of all:

The Curse of the Casual Calories.

No it’s not a fifth installment in the Indiana Jones series, rather it’s a real issue that bedevils all of us in our daily lives, and challenges us more during family and holiday events.

This week I was interviewing an elementary school principal about a new college prep program for students in grades seven and eight when a campus emergency called the principal away for twenty minutes. I was invited to wait for her in the teachers lounge. I found a comfortable spot. Classes were all in session and the room was blissfully peaceful, so I popped open my laptop and started to work on my notes for the story. However, I noticed on a table in the center of the room a huge bag of crackers, next to a pot of coffee. Next to that was an equally huge bag of corn chips.

My first thought was to grab a cracker or two. Why not? They’re just sitting in that big bag almost calling out, “Eat me.” Then I stopped myself and thought, “Why should I do that?”

Certainly it’s what I would have done in the past: taken three or four crackers, munched away for a minute or two, and maybe thought about taking some more. After some further thought, though, it occurred to me that most of us do this: reach for something to munch on when we’re not really hungry. And if we were, it wouldn’t matter because casual calories, like crackers and chips, do nothing to satisfy our appetites.

We take because it is there.

This is good thing to keep in mind as the season of summer picnics begins, and we are tempted to put out that bowl of potato chips with that nice tasty dip sitting beside it. Or that extra can of soda, or beer. Oh, and don’t forget that one more serving of that potato salad.

So often what we eat is simply a matter of mindlessly reaching for what is within our grasp. Some say it’s simply nervous energy, others say we don’t want to deprive ourselves of whatever is available so we take and take until our stomachs send a one-word message to our brains: “Enough!”

I think of it as casual calories, and whether you find them in the teacher’s lounge, the office kitchen, a picnic table, or dozens of other locations, beware. If we set our intention on satisfying our actual hunger and not on grazing our way, from sun up to light’s out, our lives would be changed profoundly. This is never so true as it is during holiday events.

So this Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and all those summer picnics in-between, give a little extra thought to that very moment between when you reach for some of those extra calories and when they pass between your lips. I know I will. Perhaps together we can beat the curse of the casual calories.

Martin Brown
SMW Health Editor

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