I associate Autumn with a lot of things. Fall leaves, crisp evenings, fuzzy sweaters, fireplaces roaring…I also associate the Fall with my favorite holiday: Halloween. Halloween didn’t really lose it’s luster for me even though I despise the “Fun-Sized” Candy temptations. I still love the holiday and everything about it.
In 1997 I was 17 years old. My grandfather passed away unexpectedly and it was a difficult time. I was a senior in high-school and also going to college at the same time. He passed away at the beginning of August and when September rolled around the stores became flooded with Halloween candy. It was everywhere. And I worked in retail. There was no avoiding it. Not only was it right in my face all day at work, I got an employee discount. As you can imagine I was giving in to the temptation almost every day. I’d buy bags of Halloween candy on sale with an employee discount and I’d take them home with me and eat them.
In the year after my grandfather’s death I remember eating a lot. That was how I dealt with grief. I ate. I ate candy mostly. I had my favorites.
Candy corns were one of them. It was like eating pure sugar. I loved it. I’d eat them two at a time and I’m not even sure if I tasted them after awhile. During this time, 1997-1998, I also ate a ton of hot tamales:
I’d buy the fun-sized hot tamales that came in a tiny box and I had them in my pockets, my car, my purse, and I’d eat them all the time. If I was driving to school I’d eat a box. I’d eat them until my mouth tingled.
Fast forward a few years…I’d left home, I was living with a boyfriend. I still had a candy addiction. It was just different. I had a candy dish in the living room next to the couch. I’d pour the candy into the dish–often times they were candy corns, hot tamales, M&M’s, or my favorite: Reese’s Pieces.
I’d walk by the dish probably two dozen times a day and I’d grab a handful on my way. I remember one time that my mom and brother came down to Portland to visit.
“Those are just fat pills,” she said to me.
I was hurt and angry by the comment. It was just another in a long line of criticisms about my food, body, habits. It was a comment meant to be helpful but instead it made me angrier and I turned even more to food.
It didn’t matter that she was right; that those candies I popped into my mouth two servings at a time were indeed fat pills. Even to this day, with a healthier outlook on life, eating, food, and exercise, I still resent those comments. And I still have that voice in my head. If I walk by the candy isle I hear somewhere in the depths of my brain “those are just fat pills.”
This doesn’t mean I don’t eat them still on occasion. I do eat candy once in awhile (usually at work, rarely at home) and there are times when I feel like I’m a failure for eating any candy at all. If I “give in” and have some candy I sometimes feel like the day was a wash. It doesn’t matter if I ate within my calorie range including the candy, or if all my other meals for the day were healthy and balanced. If I’m in that kind of mood I will feel like I failed for the day. This is something I struggle with. I don’t feel like that all the time. My goal is to not feel like that any of the time, but it’s hard work to change those feelings and shaming.
As we head into what I call “The Eating Months” I know I will struggle with this temptation. The struggles will be mostly at work, where there is always tons of candy. Always. I’m starting to see the Halloween sized treats popping up at work. My goal is to avoid eating them as long as I can. I know at some point I will give in and have some, but I can prolong it as long as possible.
QUESTION: What’s a food shaming memory you have? How do you overcome those feelings?