Sunday, July 26, 2009

Testing my mettle

There is a great line from the movie Magnum Force (the second Dirty Harry movie) that has always stuck in my head: "A man's got to know his limitations." When he used it at the end of the movie, Harry Callahan was talking about the importance of the police not assuming they can act beyond the boundaries of their badge and the law (and Hal Holbrook's character paid a dear price). Unlike Dirty Harry, I don't walk the streets with a giant handgun seeking justice, so I employ the line for a different lesson: I should never assume that I can reliably rise about my greatest food temptation.

And what temptation is that? Peanuts.

My behavior around an open container of peanuts (particularly wasabi coated) is oddly similar to a shark swimming through chum. Everything goes fuzzy, and my brain begins to get blurry leading to a rapid hand-to-mouth repetition until the nuts are gone. I suppose everyone has a food that has this kind of effect on them. The trick is to know what it is and then make a plan of defense.

The first line of defense: don't buy them. Easy, simple, and cheap.

However, I do not live alone, so the first line of defense does not work. My wife uses peanuts for cooking a few different dishes. Therefore, I need a second line of defense built around the reality of cohabitation.

So, the second line of defense: don't open them. Harder, but doable. If I can manage to leave the seal on the can, I obviously cannot grab the odd handful.

We have had two cans of nuts sitting menacingly on a shelf for the past four months. They stare at me, taunting me with their pictures of pretty, perfectly formed peanuts. For the past four months, I have not opened the seal to either can. Victory has been mine. So what do I do if my wife opens one up to use for cooking?

Employ the third line of defense: ask her to hide them. Sad, but also effective.

BTW, I still manage to work in a nut fix, but I do it in a way that manages intake. Specifically, we get pre-packaged packets of almonds from Trader Joe's. They give me my nut rush, but I am much less likely to open a second pack.

My seemingly odd and undue focus on my battle with these cans of peanuts sheds light on a broader principle. The nuts are symbolic of my efforts to get myself out of situations where I am tested to fall back on a bad habit. This speaks to the importance of being aware of my food environment. If I create a safe environment, I am more likely to stick with my better habits.

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