by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
I’ve been systematically pilfering Elby’s candy since we got home with her loot on Saturday night. Being that it’s now Friday, I’m sick to my stomach. I want to throw the rest of it out but then she’ll ask where it is and I’ll be outed as a thief. I certainly can’t have that. But, I’m not sure what to do. Just while I was writing those last three sentences I consumed a mini Baby Ruth, a mini Nestle Crunch, a red strawberry flavored hard candy, a vanilla tootsie roll and two small boxes of Dots. It’s all I can do to not go get more. I know candy isn’t healthy, you don’t need to nag me. Why the hell do you think there’s so much candy left over in Elby’s pumpkin? It’s because I don’t allow her to eat much of it. She’s only given two small pieces a night after she eats her “grow food” (a cloying term she picked up at school – but it’s stuck). She seems happy with this arrangement but I’m unable to enforce any such limits on myself.
I try to comfort myself in the knowledge that eating candy is certainly not as bad as say, drinking. At least you can’t get pulled over for driving under the influence of twelve Snicker bars, although it can affect your judgment. Ever try not giving someone the finger for cutting you off while hopped up on Pixie Stix? The bottom line is that large amounts of sugar are unhealthy and I’m a walking, talking hypocrite. I’m supposed to be all Captain Grow Food guiding my three children’s eating habits into healthy adulthood free of diabetes, obesity and other problems. If only candy weren’t so damn delicious!
I know better, people. I’m well versed in which foods are healthy choices and which foods are tough on our kids’ bodies. You’d have to have started parenting last week to not know that too much milk is unhealthy, strawberries should always be bought organic, light tuna has less mercury than chunk white, nonfat yogurt is packed with sugar and carrots have a high Glycemic index. Even though I do know which foods are unhealthy, it doesn’t make it that much easier to eat healthy all the time. Processed food calls to me from the shelves of my major grocery chain at every visit. Sugary cereals, processed lunch meats and frozen dinners crawling with sodium call to me like old friends from the freezer section. I’d be lying if I told you I don’t buy these foods for myself especially when I’m tired. And I’m always tired.
When I peruse the aisles at Whole Foods, although my blood pressure rises just from looking at the prices, I feel safe seeing the words Organic, Fiber-rich, Omega, Natural and Antioxidant vibrantly labeling the foods I’m buying. Hell, I can’t buy Splenda in this place if I want to! And yet, it’s still hard to make healthy eating a permanent way of life. I expect this has something to do with my upbringing where full-fat wasn’t an exception it was the only way. We were strictly prohibited from eating sugary cereals with hopping frogs or magical bunnies on the box but we were encouraged to add a few tablespoons of granulated sugar to our oatmeal to make it more palatable.
I remember hiking to the nearest 7-Eleven after school on a daily basis to buy as much 5 cent candy as my allowance would cover. I’d then sit in my room and devour watermelon Now & Laters, Jolly Ranchers and chocolate until I was ill. How much of this was not being aware of healthy choices and how much was simply eating my feelings? I may never know, considering it hasn’t been solved so far even with years of therapists’ input. What I do know is that I am armed with more information now that I have my own children and that even with all that information, I still let them eat sweets and I myself am still known to gorge myself on sweets. I guess the best I can do is vow to try harder, make a meal that contains broccoli tonight and go ahead and finish Elby’s candy. I’m all about taking one for the team.