Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Encounter With Chocolate

Yesterday I had a candy bar. I had one candy bar out of a CASE of candy bars that showed up nonchalantly with a slight, smug smile on my doorstep. In fact, said case came waltzing into my home unannounced over two weeks ago, and has been sitting hidden in my cupboard, wondering why I hadn't eaten it yet. Well, why hadn't I? And why hadn't I thrown them all out or given them away at Halloween or something?

When I was a little girl, I lived back east. I had a real affinity for candy bars. My mother did, too. I remember, as I've mentioned before, how my father would buy her a large box of chocolates and she would sit in her recliner with the open box tucked protectively beside her, one arm curled defensively around it as if to ward off any sneaky fingers who tried to pry a chocolate from her presence. I never understood it, as mine were the only fingers nearby, and were far from sneaky. Stealing or sneaking a piece of her candy was as far from my mind as shoplifting; after all, God was watching. My father didn't like candy, save for the very rare treat of Whoppers malted milk balls, so her chocolates were safe from him as well. Yet there she sat, looking like a crazed hyena tearing into a carcass that it didn't want to share.

I'd watch her for awhile, and then tentatively ask, "Can I have one, please?" I remember how she looked at me like I'd asked her to grant me three wishes or give me the keys to her kingdom, appalled at the audacity of such a small child. And then, she's scowl and pick through the chocolates, eventually handing me one. "Don't ask for anymore!" she'd say. "Your FATHER bought these for ME!" Is it any wonder that as an adult, I'd buy entire boxes of chocolates and eat them alone... even the ones I didn't like... in 15 minutes flat?

Anyway, as a child, at my school they'd have fundraisers. During these fundraisers, kids would sell Peanut Butter Meltaway Bars. They are what they sound like, and if you have never tried one I implore you not to EVER let one pass your lips. The ensuing insanity and addiction will haunt you forever. But I was a child, and I wanted candy, and I bought candy with my lunch money and ate Peanut Butter Meltaways every chance I got. They were my favorite candy EVER.

Fast forward to now. I live in the west, where 'real' Peanut Butter Meltaways cannot be found, unless you want to pay an arm and a leg for shipping. And that's fine with me. When I travelled back east this summer, I did, in fact, track down some Meltaways at a specialty store and bought a pound and a half of them "for old time's sake." I wanted my kids to try them and I wanted to enjoy something that reminded me of my childhood. Only, the pound *I* ate only lasted about 5 seconds. Yeah, it's like that. But I would never see them again, anyway, so it was okay.

Last month when a friend sent me a gift, I was excited. I love surprises! Until I opened the box and saw TWO POUNDS of Peanut Butter Meltaways, shipped from back east. Oh lord. Now what?? I could NOT throw away Peanut Butter Meltaways. It would be like a sacrilege to my childhood! But I couldn't eat them either. At 270 calories for ONE tiny, 1.25-ounce bar, it is just not worth the cost. And could I stop at one? Have I EVER? I knew I could easily eat a full pound, maybe even more, in one sitting. And that was 3500 calories I did *not* want in my body. So I stuck them in the cabinet and told myself to leave them alone.

I didn't even look at them for two weeks. I considered giving them to someone but there was this weird, emotional attachment to these dumb candies. The memories, the thoughts of my childhood. I truly have *so little* of my childhood that any scrap of familiarity is embraced in a rather unreasonable manner. I don't have my mom, or my dad, or any brothers or sisters or grandparents. I don't have much *stuff* and not many pictures. But I have candy bars. Candy bars that take me back somehow. I *could not* do ANYTHING with these candies! So they sat.

Yesterday, after successfully avoiding *all* Halloween candy (which was my goal), my mind once again went to those candies in the cupboard. I wanted to eat one. ONE. Not all of them. I considered it. I looked at my calories. I felt my feelings: stable enough. Nothing big going on to set me off. I figured I'd try it. I'd have a meltaway.

I waited until my kids were all in school. I wanted to *feel* any feelings associated with this candy. I wanted to experience it fully, not just inhale it. I sat myself down with this little candy and unwrapped it. I looked at its shiny brown surface and remembered how pretty I thought they were as a child. I took a small bite. It was good. I ate it verrrry slowly, taking small bites, letting it melt on my tongue and trying to taste every molecule. I wanted to make it last for ten minutes, but that was painfully slow for me. It took about 3 minutes to eat, which is probably a record for me. Less than a minute was the norm, long ago.

Something interesting happened as I was eating it. When I took the first bite, I looked at the creamy middle and for *just a split second* I had this raging "IWANTTOEATTHEWHOLEBOX" feeling come over me. It was the "binge" trigger feeling. I sat with it and let it go. I didn't hold onto it or let it overtake me. It drifted away quietly like a bottle on the sea. I continued eating the Meltaway, thinking about being a kid, thinking about whether or not it was as good as I remembered (it was not, although it was very good, it seemed too sweet and not as flavorful as I remembered). When I was done with it, I logged the calories, assessed what I would eat for dinner, and drank a big glass of water. And I did not even consider eating any more of them.

When my kids came home, I gave them each some of the candy. "This is very special candy," I explained. "You can only get it back east. It was my favorite candy when I was a child." They looked unimpressed, just wanting me to turn it over so they could eat it. It obviously was *just* a candy bar to them. But I pressed on, trying not so much to convince them of the Meltaway's intrinsic specialness as to convince *myself* that I could let it go and they would *appreciate* what a special gift I was giving them. Or rather, how difficult it was for me emotionally to let it go. "You can't buy these out here," I said. "Don't just gulp it down. Eat it slowly and enjoy it, okay? These were my FAVORITE." And with that, half of the candy was gone, turned over to kids who would probably treat it like a Reese's cup (blasphemy) because (thankfully) my kids have NO emotional attachments to food whatsoever. Food is food, you eat it, it tastes good, it fuels you. So what? It's just food. I wish I felt that way.

I'm getting better though. I see huge changes here. A couple of years ago I would have eaten all of that candy in a flash, in an emotional, mind-numbing binge. I would not have been "able" to resist it. Not for two weeks, not even for a day. And once I tried ONE I would not have stopped until I was lying on the sofa in a heap, surrounded by candy wrappers and smelling like a peanut butter factory.

I am different now. I am working through all of the weird emotional attachments I have to food and I am letting them go. A Peanut Butter Meltaway does *not* bring my parents back from the dead. It does not make me ten years old again, and it does not erase thirty years of painful events. It's just a candy bar, even if it IS kinda special to me. I can give it away. I can even THROW it away, now that I have processed the feelings, although I've decided to just let them *be* in the cabinet for now. They aren't bothering me. I stayed within my calories yesterday. I walked a mile and a half. I had my candy bar. I grew up a little bit.

Scale says: 232.

28 comments:

Lissa said...

Congrats SO much! Very grown-up, indeed, and I think it's fabulous that you're teaching your kids healthier habits than you grew up with.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your very, very thoughtful posts. I have never been a binger but the connection between childhood memories and food intake is very clear in my life as well. Thanks for articulating what I have not been able to, in this and many other posts.

Karyn said...

Good job Lyn! I am proud of you. I read your blog regularly and know how many struggles you have to face.

I am the same with chocolate bars. My mom raised my sister and I alone and we very rarely had treats. So a chocolate bar was very special. I, for many years, would not share with my kids. But, thankfully I am over that.

Unfortunately, yesterday I had a halloween candy binge that I just could not manage to stop. Today I am suffering. Very ill. So I am glad you had control and don't feel like I do today.

Georgia Mist said...

Another corner turned for you -- I'm very proud of you!

Steelers6 said...

Picturing the little girl asking for a piece of chocolate made me sad. I can't imagine almost literally 'hanging on' to the box and ignoring a child...and then the reply seemed harsh to me too..

I felt so proud reading what you are overcoming these days. It seems like a lot of ppl would need someone to talk with to help with the working through process, while u seem to be going it alone except for blogworld! And we are glad to have ya! I'm sure it is helpful to you to write your thoughts & feelings here. I think even private blogging is probably beneficial to the writer to really SEE things/feelings on paper. SO PROUD!

Melissa said...

That is AWESOME! I totally get everything you are saying! And the peanut butter meltaways better never cross my path! Reminds me of this caramel & chocolate candy bar from fundraisers when i was in high school. YUM!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog... but I have to say, that I can't believe that person who sent you all that candy is a 'friend'. Certainly they know your struggles with your weight.

Andra said...

OMG, Meltaways! That is definitely a blast from the past. It was the mint meltaway bars that were the favorite of my mom, my sister and me back in the day.

destinationathlete said...

THat is awesome - the fact you were able to eat one, just one, and enjoy it, and then let it be? Total and complete progress.

Hugs to you, my friend. Hugs to you.

DianaB said...

Exemplary writing. Exemplary progress.

Diana said...

I'm happy for you, Lyn. That was a great accomplishment even if that "binge feeling" threatened to appear.. it went away and that's what matters.

Vickie said...

You wrote:
"I wanted to eat one. ONE. Not all of them. I considered it. I looked at my calories. I felt my feelings: stable enough. Nothing big going on to set me off. I figured I'd try it. I'd have a meltaway."

I loved that you said you checked out your feelings/vulnerability in making this decision. I LOVED that.


AND WHAT KIND OF A FRIEND SENDS A BOX OF CANDY? CLUELESS? In denial themself?

Beth said...

My mom had stashes of Ding Dongs and other Hostess treats in her room that we were not allowed to have. I have spent many years hoarding that kind of stuff too. (Like mother like daughter). I feel happy for you for only having one and not eating the whole box. Hooray.

screwdestiny said...

It must be a pretty powerful thing to be able to resist something like that, something that you were never able to in the past. Good job, Lyn.

I also think a good way to prevent yourself from getting overweight is to share, like the way you did with your kids. The story of your mom hoarding her chocolates greedily reminds me of so many overweight people I've known who will have way too much of something that is really bad for them yet refuse to share it with anyone. Really, who needs to eat a whole tray of brownies, a whole box of chocolates? It will make the people around you happy that they get to have some of the tasty food, and you don't end up overweight. Everyone wins!

Anonymous said...

Lyn, I'd just like to say that I've been reading for a while, and your recent transformation has been wonderful.

I'm really inspired to see someone making such a great turnaround. Thanks for setting such a gret example.

Salted with Shadows said...

Great post...kudos to you for raising kids who don't "care"...chocolate is like heroin for some of us, and it's not an easy monkey to get off one's back, being legal, reasonably priced and readily available...

Autumnforest said...

Wow, your story is so familiar. I grew up with a mom who had a thing for sweets and a dad who would go west and buy 5-pound Mrs. See's. Ah... You really have come a long way, you can take a controlling breath and look at the food for what it is. I found if you don't look at it and shove it down your gullet, it loses its specialness. They say that's why the French stay thin eating eclairs and butter...they savor it, enjoy people's company, and push their plate away. When I used to model, we'd go to supper after a job and we'd all push the amount of food we would allow ourselves to eat to one edge of the plate and the rest we would douse with salt and pepper liberally so we couldn't eat it once we got a taste of the food. I probably would have eaten one and put the others down the disposal so I couldn't dig them out of the trash later. You really showed restraint and great insight. Thanks for being so revealing. You know, we all think we're so different than everyone else, but when you put it out there, you're saying exactly what we think and do. What a relief for us all to know we're not abnormal and alone.

Candace said...

Wow-it really is amazing how things from our childhood really affects things in the present. I'm glad you did have one just to take you back and to not make those bars bigger than life.

What a Splurge said...

Congratulations for not letting the binge trigger fire up to a big bender. You're clearly in charge.

Foodie Girl said...

Wow! I love this post!

Meggs83 said...

What I love about your blog Lyn is how I can relate to your struggles and celebrate your triumpths. You encourage and inspire me, even at my darkest moments. I'm rooting for you.

Tammy said...

Hooray for growth. Loved this post Lyn. I love the REAL change and REAL progress I've seen in you this last month. Inspiring to no end. :)

stephseef said...

this is incredibly convicting... i am experiencing some success in my journey, but oh, the times I have hoarded and hidden food from my children, and looked at them askance like 'who do you think you ARE asking for MY FOOD!!!'.....

thank for calling me out. your journey is helping me to change.

Anonymous said...

You're doing so wonderfully, my thoughts are with you! I loved your post on your 'blip' and thought that was great, too - whether we take a step forward or backwards is definitely an outcome of our attributions to situations! You are in control over this escape!

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you have been able to say "One is enough". That is real progress.

It's interesting though that you say that all the while they were in the cupboard, out of sight, you knew they were there, and you knew you'd have to make a decision about them.

It's strange, this power food has over us.

That's one of the reasons why I try not to (don't always succeed!) have food in the house which hasn't much nutritional value, but tempts me. I just don't buy it, because I know my resistance isn't very good.

I am not and never have been a binge eater, so a pack of ten chocolate bars wouldn't be eaten in one go here.

However, I am an emotional eater, or a comfort eater, so I'd eat and eat - out of boredom, loneliness, upset....or just because I felt I deserved it! I can't get through too much chocolate, I am not really that fond of it, but I am capable of going back to the fridge and cupboard at regular intervals, to see what I have in there...That is how I've become fat. I have over-eaten, but not had sessions where I binge. I have also become slightly more reclusive as I have gained blubber. I have lost confidence and have no desire to move this body about. The fat sticks even though I think I have my eating under control now.

I still think there is merit in the adage "If you desperately want it, have it" though. A little of what you fancy does you good, and if you know that you can at last control what you eat and when you eat, (as you find you can) then I think incorporating food treats into our eating once in a while is probably sensible.

Lyn, I love reading your blog. It really makes me think about my relationship with food, activity and weight-loss. It's a long journey back to 'normality' isn't it...but you've shown that the journey can be joyous and full of revelations about our own strengths.

DBee x

Anna said...

I'm so proud of you - is that weird? I've spent the last few days reading back through your journey and I have to say I hope I'm half as successful as you. I started my own blog this morning and so far I'm down 11 pounds over 5 weeks. Still another 112 to go though! Just wanted to say hello and let you know I'm following you, and that you're an inspriration.

happyfunpants said...

I don't even kind of know what to say because I don't even kind of know how you did it.

You're more than kind of my hero right about now.

Christina said...

I'm pretty shocked any friend of yours would send you 2 lbs of this candy that you have such an emotional attachment to. Though I shouldn't be - I see it happen all the time to myself and others who are working on a healthy eating change. It seems to make some people uncomfortable that I am working so hard to be healthy - it's almost like they want me to fail - but why? I think it's their own insecurities, but that's an entire post all to itself isn't it. Your posts are so descriptive, it obviously was very emotional to you. I wonder what would happen if you took one of those pounds of meltaways, destroyed them somehow (so they are unretreivable if you have regrets later) and threw them in the dumpster... what do you think would happen? Try it.