I was having a conversation with a friend about holiday candy and how impossible it can be to resist without a lot of willpower. Personally, I have had to make uneasy peace with this fact. When a ‘holiday’ comes around I already know I‘m going to eat whatever candy is in front of me and I allow for that to be okay by adding a bunch of extra water if I’m near sugar. Important Note: in my Ideals, extra water fixes everything!
My friend was deeply bothered by what she had consumed, even several days later. She was tangled in a shame spiral so we began to clear out her roots to find the original seed. Knowing the overeating sugar feeling well, I empathized with the act itself and her feelings of shame around it, as she continued to beat herself up for a bit. I encouraged her to forgive herself and breathe through the feelings as we talked about our body images and how they have changed over time. We compared our body awareness as children and teens vs. how we feel about those same thoughts now, as adults. We were each able to trace some negative feelings back to family member(s) whose innocent and/or ignorant comments landed in an ego-crushing way that still resonates at the base of our self worth when it gets triggered. This has led me to many thoughts about my own Food Roots and the ways I have personally used sugar as emotional ‘nourishment’ through the years. Taking cues from both sides of my family as an expression of love, tradition and celebration, while unknowingly winding them around my own children. It feels strange in my body that I hadn’t really seen those patterns clearly before our discussion, because now I can’t unsee them. They continue to detangle in my memories, right down to the white and dark chocolate, walnut and cranberry cookie recipe I have enjoyed tinkering with every winter for a very long time.
It’s Food Week in this cycle of Our Raw Material, and though candy doesn’t qualify as food by any decent measure, for many of us, its roots are entwined with our concept of food in ways we barely notice or realize. In childhood, candy serves as a reward, a celebration, a holiday, a promise, a treat.. It also sits front and center among our earliest-formed addictive patterns. We might be told that if we eat too much our stomach will hurt or our teeth will rot, but for a lot of us, that isn’t enough of a deterrent. Depending on our early conditioning and how we have learned to handle stress and emotional situations, consuming candy (and other sugary foods) can easily find its way onto our list of coping mechanisms before we even know how to identify emotions, much less ‘process’ them. As we get older, our sugar-trained palettes elevate and we begin mixing it with butter, flour and chocolate, our consumption fostering an industry that currently touches nearly every place around the globe. Even in our grocery stores, the last things put in front of us are sugary snacks while we wait to check out, and I’m confident they sell a lot of them, because as often as they redesign the aisles of the store, the candy always stays in front.
According to an Allied Market Research Study from October 2020, “The global confectionery market was valued at $210.3 billion in 2019, and is projected to reach $270.5 billion by 2027”, even though as a global population, we are experiencing increasingly strong trends towards healthier choices and habits. The movement toward putting healthier food in our bodies is definitely encouraging, but it opens the door for feelings of shame around ‘food’ that isn’t good for us. Knowledge about food and its properties appears to be growing in our common curriculums, even though in many ways it is only because it has become increasingly easier to identify who among us is not thriving nutritionally as the middle class disappears with each passing year and our food banks struggle to keep resources confidently in place.
I’d wager that at least 90% of american kids living through the 1980’s have candy inherently entwined with their childhood roots, just like me. I was never so lucky, but several of our friends and relatives had a bowl of candy out at their house ALL THE TIME! I can still tell you which people and what type of candy they had. I can probably identify a specific sugar preference of most of my friends today. Unless you were diabetic, allergic, or it was against your religion, candy wielded a lot of power in your life on many levels. I would imagine the absence of it when everyone else was experiencing the perceived Joy had to be an emotional challenge in its own right. During the 1980’s and beyond, the Sugar Industry has grown as if on steroids. Around that time, children and teens became an exploding financial market in their own right, having largely outgrown the initial boundaries of Saturday mornings and well-worn questions like “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”
Very quickly, the candy aisles in stores got bigger as new flavors, forms and packaging hit the shelves each season. The choices in vending machines required some true deliberation, and the influx of grab and go portioning set the plastic industry’s ego en fuego. All of a sudden, we had entire stores; like real household-name chains dedicated to specialty candies. At the mall, parents would weave their toddlers through the aisles in strollers, engaging their eyes with the colors, shapes and dreamy promises of good feelings - visions of sugar plums dancing in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and such. As a teen, sugar was an actual passion for me and it pains me to imagine how much of my allowance, babysitting, and birthday money I spent on candy - or how much candy I have actually consumed in my lifetime! When I trace all of that back, I can see how often I have put this excess in my life in an attempt to stay one step ahead of my actual feelings, but it sure didn’t seem like it at the time.
Currently, the Pandemic has brought millions of big and small communities together to tackle food insecurities by pooling common resources, while also shining a brighter light on the many systemic issues we have created with our plethora of ill-considered Food choices. I’m specifically acknowledging the many political and business decisions related to our Country and the World’s Food Quality/ Availability that our businesses and government have collectively made in the US since the onset of the 1980’s, well after many natural thought leaders from the 1970’s clearly demonstrated that a whole lot of us definitely knew better. Instead, we made ego-heavy choices that from today’s perspective place our collective ignorance on full display. As the stock market boomed and middle managers became a dime a dozen, we outsourced our actual work and set about the business of making things like macaroni and cheese easier and faster to eat or how many ways we can season a goldfish cracker made with real cheese. No offense Pepperidge Farm, you have always been a consistent ‘friend’. We haven’t seen each other in a while, but I hear you have learned to Smile Back in a way that a real Goldfish never will - Wowza. Our 80’s-inspired choices continue to reflect our values around making money, to the degree that we use the label ‘Food’ around nutrition almost as loosely as I use it in the Our Raw Material framework to include our emotionally nurtured roots, as well as our nutritional roots.
As my husband and I plant and plan this year’s garden, I put healthy intentions toward my own food and send them out into the universe for the people who are hungry. I imagine an ideal where we all feel truly fed. My friend that inspired this strongly rooted topic? She’s smart and educated. She makes big efforts to do the right things and to eat the right things. I hope she will give herself a break for feeling like her personal willpower should always be strong enough to undo the lifetime of candy-based conditioning, that sits, invisibly, in the way of her food intentions. I hope our conversation leads her through her shame and into acceptance of wholeness. For me, it feels incredible to see and feel how far I have come. I am keenly aware that I have many more nutritional thoughts and roots to untangle and I look forward to the practice as it shows up in my life. For now, I am setting intentions to ‘consciously uncouple’ with any residual feelings of being undernourished and/or under nurtured. My choices from here will reflect the New Growth gained from clearing energetic debris from my Food Roots. Bon appetit! Next course? Rooted Ignorance.