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Posts Tagged ‘Halloween candy’

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I am 10 years old, sitting cross-legged on the rug by my bed, finishing my homework in eager anticipation of the evening. I am filled with excitement and a sense of possibility. I think I remember this moment and feeling so well because it was the first time I experienced that rare joyful bubbling that exists on the edge of a long-awaited event, a feeling that often, in retrospect, is the best, happiest moment of whatever is about to unfold.

It was Halloween, and my family was having a lot of people over – my friends from the neighborhood and their parents. There was going to be dinner and a pinata and, of course, trick-or-treating. Halloween was my favorite holiday, even edging out Christmas (because it contained no anxiety about the arrival of Santa Clause). In that moment in my bedroom, I felt safe and excited at the same time, like I was at the beginning of something and in the middle of it too, surrounded by life, an eager participant.

I remember nothing else of that night. I can guess the generalities based on years of similar celebrations: people filling the kitchen and den. The moment when the dads assembled all us children in the front room, flashlights in hand, family dogs on their leashes to begin our expedition into the night. The way the neighborhood divided itself into houses we knew, like lights on a grid, and houses we didn’t (which we didn’t go to). The counting out of candy from my plastic orange pumpkin, separating it into piles and trading it with my brother and friends. How I could eat whatever I wanted and how all that sugary treasure was mine, just mine, for once in a year to do with as I chose and not as I was told.

I always ate a lot of my candy at first and then savored it for weeks, drawing out the preciousness of my own private stash. Years later, I remember being shocked at one of my college friends coming back from the grocery store on November 1st with bag after bag of mini candy bars and Skittles bags – all that precious candy purchased easily at a steep discount. Despite having been past trick-or-treating age for a few years (although I held onto it longer than most), it seemed amazing to me that those hard-won treats could be so easily gotten. It was a strange realization that I was an adult and could do whatever I wanted, including buying giant bags of fun-size candy bars and eating them all.

I never did that in particular, but I found a lot of ways to eat food that had been forbidden to me growing up. It was not to my benefit, that compulsive consumption of sugar cereal, ice cream by the pint, king-sized bags of candy every night with my homework, but I kept doing it for years and years because it felt like freedom to me. I saw it as the place I got to break away from restriction and choose what I wanted and when. And not just for one holiday a year.

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Yeah, you, my old friend. My new(ish) nemesis. I showed up at work today – Halloween – to be confronted by trays of orange cookies and bucket after bucket after bucket of Halloween candy. Seriously, that shit is everywhere. Pretty much everyone with a clean surface area has filled some kind of plastic pumpkin with candy, and those who aren’t offering it at their desks are often bringing it around. Bringing it to me! Which is NOT what I need.

I went to get my coffee this morning and found this:

Just hangin’ out. Thousands of empty calories, piles of disgusting, deadly sugar.

Of course, I wanted all of it.

Back when I began this process of lifestyle transformation a little over a year ago, my trainer told me that first I would overcome my addiction to sugar – which I have – and then I would lose my taste for it altogether. She said, “You’ll find that it doesn’t even taste good to you anymore. That really it’s actually pretty disgusting and has no appeal to you.” I am here now, 15 months later, to say, “Wrong.” That was wrong. Sugar still has a very clear and definite appeal to me. Not every day, mind you, and certainly not in the same way. I can look at it and know that it’s bad for me and pointless to eat, that having it will give me a moment of pleasure followed by a lot of completely unpleasurable feelings – like guilt, sluggishness, moodiness, and weight gain – that last much longer. Most of the time, I can see a sugar-laden product, a piece of candy or a cupcake, and understand that I don’t want it, that it really will do nothing for me. Occasionally, even, I think it’s gross. But just as often – if not more often! – it still looks completely enticing.

I was at a birthday dinner last night where the birthday girl got a free sundae. It wasn’t even a very good sundae, dinky and small, more whipped cream than ice cream and severely lacking in toppings. I knew I didn’t want it and that it wouldn’t be good, and yet, it still looked awesome to me. All those colorful sprinkles on top of that white mountain of coolness, ringed by a dark chocolate lake. I had a visceral desire to squash my hand into it, so I could somehow still feel it, become one with it, while still not eating it.

This may be the difference between a person without food issues who has a well-regulated diet (my trainer), and someone (cough…me) who is a food addict. Mother-fuckin’ cupcakes are always going to look good to me! They just ARE. I associate them with joy, like all desserts. Hell, I get excited by drawings of desserts. I just like the way the stuff looks – all happy and layered and multi-colored. Desserts are festive, and often geometrically compelling (a slice of three-layered cake? Lines and triangles? Come on, it’s a great visual!) And so, even though most days, I can genuinely say that not only do I not eat candy, but also I don’t WANT to eat candy, there are still some days – days like candy’s very special personal holiday where it’s hard to feel that way. Today, I remember the joy of accumulating a plastic orange pumpkin full of treats that I could then take home and organize into varying categories of desirableness, with candy bars at the top, sweet tarts (too tart!) on the bottom, and skittles always with their special place in my heart. Today, I cannot separate the nostalgia and the emotional associations from the food. So my best option? Is just to stay the hell away from it. Some day I may be able to have just one mini Snickers and then stop. But it is not this day. This day, I toast pumpkin seeds and tell myself it’s totally as good. It mostly is.

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