By Selina MacLaren, 16, West Valley Christian Jr./Sr. HS
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Selina said the hardest part about giving up candy was constantly explaining to people why she didn't want any.
Managing Editor Libby Hartigan

On New Year’s Eve 2004, I decided that I would make the ultimate resolution—no candy for one year. There is always candy in my house, and my mother, blessed with a good metabolism, considers candy an essential food group. I wanted to avoid this addiction, so I kissed good-bye to Reese’s Pieces, lollipops, Hershey’s Kisses and Jelly Bellies. Giving up my indulgent habit was the price I decided to pay for the sake of a healthier lifestyle that could improve my mood (after the sugar withdrawal, you have more energy and fewer mood swings), running skills for cross country, self-discipline, and eventually, long-term health.

One of the most tempting experiences I had was immediately following New Year’s, when I was staying with relatives in Denmark. People in that country are notorious for having a sweet tooth, and it was an extreme test of my discipline to turn down the mounds of marzipan, chocolate and licorice candies offered each day. Usually, the Danish cookies were enough to satisfy my cravings since I still allowed myself to have cookies, cake and ice cream. But sometimes candy was the only dessert offered, and I would sip my water and desperately try not to look.

Temptation was everywhere

I struggled to stay up all night at sleepovers, surrounded by Reese’s wrappers and Red Vines, but forced to eat fruit, which definitely does not offer the sugar high that the candy gave my friends. My family went to the Jelly Belly factory when the company had just created its new M&M-like candies, and the overwhelming scent of chocolate on the tour made it agonizing to refuse the free samples they handed out. My family had to get used to the fact that chocolate wasn’t a present or souvenir for me, and in their flexible tolerance of my decision, they felt obligated to buy me unique presents. They usually decided upon tea, and consequently, fed my newly acquired tea addiction.  

The strict and enduring resolution was the subject of many conversations among my friends. All summer, my friends debated whether chocolate-covered strawberries qualified as fruit or candy, only to draw more people into the debate and never reach a conclusion. And for some reason, friends found it amusing to try to seduce me by annoyingly waving candy in front of my face, occasionally jabbing it between my tightly sealed lips.

At first, I had to fight the temptations by substituting candy with soda or ice cream. But after five months, I lost my cravings for candy and stopped viewing it as food at all. After eleven months, I forgot what certain candy, such as candy canes and white chocolate, tasted like. Candy was inedible in my mind—artificially flavored, with unnatural textures and colors made in factories. Of course, much of the food we eat today is "factory-made" rather than nature’s true child, but candy even more so. After months of watching the bowl of sweets pass me by, those sweets became like plastic in my mind.

During Easter, my sister gladly took my candy, and I avoided trick-or-treating during Halloween. But as soon as I thought I had overcome my cravings, Christmas season came and candy was everywhere. When my school sold fudge in the cafeteria, I watched with adoring eyes as my friends licked the soft, sticky brown sweetness from their fingers. Teachers handed out candy canes, and I would politely say no over and over until I was tired of the puzzled reactions and took the candy to give to a friend. The biggest obstacle was no longer my craving, but the pressure from other people and the constant explanations I had to give.

New Year’s came—success! Ten minutes after midnight, I held a green M&M in my hands and stared at it with anticipation. A crowd gathered around me, wanting to see my reaction to my first bite of candy in a year. At first I wasn’t sure how to eat the M&M—was I supposed to chew it and get that chalky chocolate feeling between my teeth or suck it into disintegration? The taste was familiar and brought back memories of the careless handfuls of M&Ms I used to eat. But not wanting to gorge right away, that M&M was the only candy I ate that night. Since then I’ve only eaten candy on Fridays (to make sure I don’t become addicted again).

I’m proud of my willpower

Not eating candy didn’t make me a better runner, help me lose weight, or improve my mood like I had hoped it would, probably because I was still eating other sweets. However, I now have more confidence in my self-discipline and I know that I can fix my bad habits if I really dedicate myself. And apparently I’ve also affected others—two of my friends are trying the candy boycott this year.

Many people were amazed that I did it—or that I even wanted to try. Of the many motives I had, honestly the main reason was that I wanted a really tough resolution. I am a resolution addict. Since my childhood, I’ve filled notebooks with lists of "Habits to Break" and "Habits to Make," seeking eternal improvement. I believe that everyone has this drive within them—babies want to speak and walk, children grapple with reading and writing, adults rejoice over a raise at work or lost pounds—and we continuously want more of ourselves. Resolutions teach people how to remember their goals, focus on them, and work toward them. Not only do they change your perspective and give you a sense of achievement, but they also teach you to forgive yourself for the goals you could not meet (example: the 15 times I’ve stopped biting my nails for a few weeks, only to resume during a stressful test).

New Year’s is by far my favorite holiday for all the obvious reasons—a time to start anew, appreciate the last year, leave behind regrets and, of course, the parties. But most of all, I am delighted that the entire Earth can join in the human desire to be better. New Year’s is a time to forgive oneself, test oneself, and ultimately, experience eye-opening lessons. This year, I have a new challenge: I’ve given up chips and French fries. I don’t even have cravings for that salty crunch … yet.