Saturday, June 13, 2009

Candy coated memories, and they're not all sweet

When I was a kid, the only times that candy was allowed in our home were Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. At Christmas, my mother made the candy. The divinity was the purest of white and had a a softly crusty surface that yielded to an interior that just seemed to dissolve in a mouthful of sweet bliss. Her divinity had the same effect on me that Scooby snacks had on my favorite cartoon dog. Her fudge was heavy and creamy. Two pieces were enough to teach this budding chocoholic the meaning of too rich. The bourbon balls I never cared for until I was older. To tell the truth, mixing paraffin into food turned me off more than the taste of the bourbon. I couldn't get over eating wax.

That is, until Halloween came around and candy wax vampire fangs were a standard 60s treat in my neighborhood. I loved those things. The good ones dripped red when you got down to the fangs. (I've had a vampire fascination going on since before I read Dracula.) The best part of Halloween for me was sorting out the loot after I got home. I was one of those kids that had to rank their candy. At the top of the heap were full sized candy bars, rare even when I was a kid. Next came the mini chocolate bars. I had a particular fondness for Three Musketeers. Candy Corn and Smarties were somewhere in the middle. At the absolute bottom of the heap were those chewy peanut butter things wrapped in orange or black paper. The paper never fully came off and they didn't really taste like peanut putter. Plus they took forever to chew and stuck to cavities. When all I had left was the peanut butter, it was almost time for Thanksgiving and pies, so I didn't mind throwing them away. Now, on Halloween, I only give away the mini chocolate bars to honor the kid I once was.

Easter was jelly bean heaven. The red and purple ones were my favorites. Orange came next. Black was at the bottom of the heap. I've never gotten the appeal of licorice. Black just isn't a good color for foods, unless you can get some black truffles, the earthy fungus kind, not the chocolate ganache kind.

As soon as I could earn money of my own, being able to buy a candy bar was a thrill. That's a problem with making candy or sweets associated only with fun or special occasions. The presence of candy can then make any occasion special. Rough day? Here, have a Snickers and have a little fun. You deserve it. Let it make up for whatever slough you had to crawl through today. It essentially transfers emotions to foods, where they simply do not belong.

A healthy diet gives the body food it needs to satisfy nutritional needs, provide the body with sufficient energy and just as importantly, provide the body with pleasure. With a lifetime of obesity and yo-yo dieting behind me, candy is more than just an occasional treat for me. It's an issue and a sore spot. At times, it's been something I've regarded with fear. Other times, it's been the visual symbol of what I though were my failings.

Every time I ate a piece of candy as a child, I heard that if I simply had the willpower to leave it alone, I could have a better life. Not only that, if I chose to eat candy, it meant that I would never have what other people consider a normal life -- friends, boyfriends, any kind of social life, cute clothes, decent jobs. As an adult, I've heard that I wouldn't be treated rudely, be ignored, earn less money, be charged more for clothing and travel, have things thrown and shouted at me or even be regarded as less than normal if I wouldn't just stuff my fat face with sweets.

There's a problem with that. I lost 135 pounds with a diet that included candy and other sweet treats. To lose the weight, I had to learn that food was just food, and that deriving pleasure from eating was just fine. In fact, it was excellent. When I learned to take the emotional weight off certain foods, they became foods I could enjoy every now and then. I didn't require food to have special events or pleasure in my life. When I could quit demonizing sweets, I could take the time to savor them and know my body well enough to know when enough was enough. For me, it took a diet, specifically the right diet for me, to learn this. For other people, any diet has just the opposite effect.

It's a difficult line to tread. I'm working out the answers for myself with every meal, every snack and every drink. I've had to learn what should make up the biggest part the food that I eat and what I only really want and need every now and then. That can change almost daily if I really listen to my body. It requires a lot of attention, and I'm not going to pretend that I have the answers for everyone.

There's one thing I'm absolutely sure of though. If you want your kid to have food issues, weight problems (whether it's not enough or too much) and body image issues that last long past childhood, put them on a diet. Make your child's body proportions the most important thing in their life. Demonize all sweets and fun foods. Make them so taboo, they become the most desired thing in your kids' world. Personally, I'd rather just let a candy bar be a candy bar.

This entry was written for Women On and has been cross posted here.


Blogger Magdalene6127 said...

Oh boy. Have you hit a painful spot for me here. After a weight loss of 110 lbs (with significantly more to go-- perhaps another 80) I amstill struggling with the place of sweets in my life-- if there is one. I've been working within the addiction model, and so avoiding them like poison, but I have a very real fear that I'll get to goal and be too terrified to eat them ever again (which is the norm for people in my program) OR that I'll go absolutely nuts and not be able to stop and get bigger than ever.

HOW DO I DO THIS? It's so hard. Thank you for your typically wonderful, painful honesty.


June 14, 2009 11:38 AM  
Blogger a corgi said...

hi;first time commenting on your blog (I think). Thank you for this entry; I fight 30-40 pounds, up and down we go with them, I'm currently on the side of having to lose them. Certain foods were my friends and I was/am emotionally attached to them. I need to put them in their proper place as just food for my body, perhaps not the best food either, and learn how to work around binging on them and just having a taste of them now and then and being satisfied with that. I told my hubby I'm good at losing weight but not maintaining it; I think allowing food to be food and taking the emotions out of it will be a step in the right direction.

thank you for posting your thoughts about this oh so delicate subject


June 14, 2009 6:49 PM  

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