I’ve had it. I’m working out of my home from now on so I can get things done. The office temptress has stocked her candy bowl with leftover Halloween treats. I casually wandered by about four times a day, hoping she was in the bathroom or a meeting so I could snag another mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup inconspicuously.

Of course, I worry that my office foraging packs on the pounds. But what’s really annoying is that I simply can’t concentrate around free miniature candy. And for those of us trapped in this love-hate relationship, the days after Halloween mark the beginning of a long, agonizing season.

“The candy torments me,” confessed Chicago marketing consultant Peter Duckler, who often unconsciously raids colleague Lisa Nottoli’s bottomless candy dish as he strolls to the printer, the bathroom or the conference room. Duckler, 40, who is especially vulnerable during Thin Mint season, suspects there is a direct correlation between the stress level in an office and the amount of candy supplied by his colleagues.

“It’s not until I do my laundry that I realize I have a candy problem,” he admitted. “All the little wrappers hidden in my pants pockets fall onto the kitchen floor when I remove my keys and my wallet.”

Evanston, Ill., Northwestern Healthcare once had a free gumball machine in the reception area of administrative offices that was consistently stocked with Reese’s Pieces and M&M’s. Before meetings, employees joyfully filled foam cups with the candies, but soon there were complaints that the machine made it too hard to stick to diets.

Then there was the 327-pound receptionist who wrote to Dear Abby complaining that the candy jar, which was in her line of view, was distracting. When she moved it, her boss laughed and moved it right back. Abby’s response was that the woman was a compulsive eater and needed to exercise self-control.

But is it our problem or should office candy dealers back off? Why do they do this to us? And more important, how do they keep from eating all the candy themselves?

Chicago’s Nottoli, 37, a receptionist at HLB Communications, explained that she uses candy to offer comfort to stressed-out co-workers and encourage communication. “It gives me a chance to talk to my colleagues about their lives; their weekend and kids,” she said.

Still, this strategy often backfires. Every office has its candy “stealers,” the people who swoop in only when the dealer has vacated the desk because they don’t know the person or they’re embarrassed they’re eating so much. And some deadbeats – usually the ones who never refill the bowl – actually take candy without saying “hello” or “thank you.”

Like many suppliers, Nottoli avoids overindulging herself by putting out treats that she doesn’t like, a technique recommended by Cornell University researcher Brian Wansink, author of the new book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” (Bantam, $25).

“The candy dish is a social magnet,” said Wansink, whose work has shown that our eating environment can have a significant effect on weight gain. “If you want to keep it around, fill it with candies you don’t personally find tempting.”

Still, everyone knows Jolly Ranchers pale in comparison with Fun Size Snickers, so Wansink also recommends two other techniques: moving the candy dish and ditching the see-through container. His studies have shown that when a candy dish was placed 6 feet from a person’s desk, he ate half as many Hershey’s Kisses as when it was placed on the desk. Wansink also has demonstrated that women eat twice as many Hershey’s Kisses when they are in clear containers on their desks than when they are in opaque containers.

Other strategies: Keep the empty candy wrappers on your desk as grim reminders of how many you’ve eaten. Think about what you had for lunch. (British researchers say this helps prevent bingeing on afternoon snacks.) Or, if you really need help, try what chocoholic Mark Forstneger did in his previous job with a non-profit health-care organization.

“I had to tell the woman with the bottomless candy dish to NOT let me have any,” said Forstneger, now with the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, where a bountiful supply of food is always available in the reception area. “I would also tell co-workers nearby to yell at me if they heard me fidgeting with a wrapper. For some of us, externally generated guilt is effective.”

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