The Case of Unintentional Weight Gain and the Killed Off Chips

Early Sunday morning, I discovered a killed off bag of Trader Joe’s Cornbread Crisps Sweet and Salty Cornbread Snack in the kitchen garbage pail. Using Judson Brewer’s work on addiction as a basis, I set out to investigate the chain of events that led to this crime of unintentional weight gain and snackicide.

The bag was killed off Saturday between the hours of 11:00 PM and Midnight. The guilty party, E. (who confessed on the condition that her name be withheld), had devoured the last of the chips after returning from a post-concert happy hour with a friend where the food options had failed to entice.

E. was not ignorant of the crime. She knew that the habit of late night snacking came with a sentence of bloated belly, unintentional weight gain, and clothes feeling snug around the waste. Unfortunately, the law-abiding, calorie conscious part of the brain tends to go off line when the the chips are down. In addiction acronym lingo, it’s advisable to HALT when Hungry-Angry-Lonely-or-Tired. As a crime prevention strategy, E. had placed a restraining order on having sweet and salty snack items in the home. So how did this bag sneak into the house and harm’s way?

At about 8:30 PM, Bruce, E.’s co-defendant, who didn’t attend the concert, opted to have a beer and watch the movie Kansas City Bomber instead. Bruce had had a light dinner, so he decided to eat some of the Cornbread Crisps, whose sweet saltiness complemented the beverage.

At 5:00 PM, Bruce had had a “dinner” consisting of Cornbread Crisps, a jalapeño cheddar roll, and an apple. Anticipating a happy hour menu later that evening, E. tried to avoid unintentional weight gain by eating a light supper of Cornbread Crisps, curried carrot and cashew dip, and a jalapeño cheddar roll.

At roughly 3:30 PM, after completing her 10,000 step walk, a hungry E. was shopping at Trader Joe’s, when she was entrapped by this copy. “Enjoy the flavor of freshly baked cornbread wherever you are–without turning on the oven. Made with fragrant cornmeal and a touch of sea salt, these slightly sweet, take-anywhere snacks are baked to a gold crisp. Crumble them into soup or salad for added crunch, serve them alongside warm chili & cream cheese dip, or simply eat by the handful.”

Though not admissible as evidence in this case, E. had been sentenced to unintentional weight gain for a prior conviction involving toast addiction. Her defense attorney at the time had pleaded clemency on the basis that when E. made toast to stave off hunger during her work day, her brain had formed a secondary habit, seeing toast as a relief from one or more job-related stressors. An expert witness testified that it’s this craving, seeing food as a pleasant way to relieve (or at least stop thinking about) some stressor other than hunger that turns eating into addiction.

At about 2:30 PM, E. paid a visit to Helen Bernhard Bakery, reinforcing the craving trigger for the crisps. She didn’t want to buy something that she’d have around for late night snacking, but committed a minor parole violation by purchasing the aforementioned jalapeño cheddar rolls. At this point, she stipulates that she was hungry. She had completed roughly half of her intended 10,000-step walk.

Aiding and abetting her entering Helen Bernhard Bakery was October’s  photo scavenger hunt. One of the prompts was “baked,” which further reinforced the craving for bread. Once inside the bakery to take a photo, the chances were slimmer that she’d escape without buying something. She could rationalize that it would be a misdemeanor to go into the store and take a photo of a “baked” good without buying it.

The piece of circumstantial evidence in the case of the killed off bag was a book E. checked out from the Staff Picks shelf of the library entitled The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America.

Even if E. had been able to resist the prompting from the photo scavenger hunt cue, the memory of past bread pleasures reinforced by this book’s food porn photos and recipes would have likely enticed her to her criminal act.

In the end, we both plead guilty for knocking off that bag of Cornbread Crisps Sweet and Salty Cornbread Snack in less than a day. We know that it won’t bring it back to say that it was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but are repentant none-the-less. We both plead temporary insanity and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

Ten Minute Verdict

As punishment, we were sentenced to watch Justin Brewer’s Ted Talk: A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit.

Author: Bruce Cantwell

Writer, journalist and long-time mindfulness practitioner.