On Trying To Give Up Candy For My Kids

by Eliana Osborn

It was cute when my ten month old crawled across the whole house to chase the crinkling sound of a candy bar opening. It’s less cute when he shoves a whole packet of fruit snacks in his mouth all at once now that he’s in elementary school.

Though my two sons are thin and lanky, I gave up sugar for them. This despite and because of my lifelong love affair with the sweet stuff.

I’ve struggled with weight my whole life, coming to terms with my body when I was pregnant and amazed by the miracle of life unfolding in real time. Like too many women, I had been chunky, anorexic, and a healthy weight without ever having been satisfied. The fifty pounds I gained during pregnancy were amazing not just for the reward at the end but for the peace I found thinking about the benefits of my body rather than how it looked.

But I love treats. A brownie and Diet Coke are my ideal breakfast, though a chocolate glazed old fashioned donut works too. I cook most nights, quite healthfully with a whole lot of stir-fry. We do regular breakfast and lunch, a little low on vegetables but otherwise solid. It is the in-between food where the problems lie.

My siblings and I have vivid childhood memories of weirdness around sugar, leaving all of us unable to consume it in healthy amounts. My grandfather was diabetic for my father’s whole life, so my dad had a justifiably ingrained fear of sugar. I remember a family challenge of my childhood: we were only allowed one piece of candy or cookie or sweet during a week. I went to a slumber party and felt incredibly guilty for partaking in ice cream floats and other snacks, confessing in tears when I returned home.

The ice cream once the kids are in bed, the stop for a seasonal sugar cookie at our favorite bakery after a school day of standardized testing. A roll of Mentos in my purse in case we are stuck in a long line; the add-on cookie dough at the pizza place: such a good deal, of course we’ll take it.

I started to notice my boys asking for treats first thing in the morning. I scoffed at the ridiculousness of such an idea, but know it came from somewhere. We began having dessert more nights than not. At the store I let them choose a treat; it changed from something for the whole family to share and morphed into each child wanting their own candy bar.

I’ve gained weight in motherhood. Not the seemingly inevitable spread of a freelance writer aging, but the weight of someone who eats too much and doesn’t exercise enough. It has taken years to recognize the depth of my problem and come face to face with the truth that I can’t handle sugar.

The kids pushed me over the edge to switch from disliking but accepting my flab to realizing I can change and must. If I don’t, they’ll continue to accelerate their unhealthy habits. Thin or heavy, they won’t have the muscle and stamina to grasp every experience life has to offer.

If I want something different for my children, a life without food obsession or, yes, addiction, I have to change. I suspect that my renunciation of sweet treats will have to be a lifelong commitment. That used to scare me: the idea of never having a piece of pie again? But, like any addict, I see that I am unable to eat two Girl Scout cookies. A package is not supposed to be a serving size.

Besides, though a candy bar just costs a buck, generally, when you start having occasions that demand bakery stops or ice cream, we’re talking about at least $10 a pop. Small expenses add up, especially when they become daily instead of once in a blue moon. I hate to think about how much money I spend on food that is doing nothing good for me. In a summer month in Arizona, stopping at a convenience store everyday for a fountain drink adds up to $30. If I get a cookie for myself and a bag of gummy worms for the kids to share, that jumps up to nearly $150.

That’s money that I’d much rather spend on doing something.

Eliana Osborn is a writer and part time English professor living in the desert southwest. She’s raising kids, obsessed with sunshine, and trying to stay out of home improvement stores for the sake of her finances.

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