Monday, August 29, 2011

Little Debbie and The Ugly Side of My Relationship with Food

Everyone’s journey with food starts somewhere different; mine started on the curb outside my childhood home eating my third pack of Little Debbie Peanut Butter Bars. That’s the first memory I have of someone pointing out my problem with food. I was devouring bar number six (because everyone knows each pack contains two bars-yum, yum) while a neighborhood brawl was taking place.

No, my hometown wasn’t Harlem or inner-city Philadelphia. I grew up in the tame little town of Troy, OH in a very middle-class neighborhood. But it just so happened that evening that newbies on the cul-de-sac, two gutsy and foul-mouthed sisters, started a little war with the rest of the kids on the street. I don’t remember the exact divisions, who sided with who, and whether or not there were any significant casualities (ie, bloody noses or bruised egos), but I do recall standing on the curb watching it with Little Debbie keeping me company all the while. That night, after the street lights turned on and beckoned us home to teeth brushing and bedtime, my mom intercepted me in the kitchen and confronted me with Deb’s half empty box.

“Maile, from now on, one pack. That’s it. Or else I won’t have these around the house anymore.”

I still feel a twinge of guilt when I walk down the snack aisle in the grocery and catch a glimpse of that signature box out of the corner of my eye. It’s probably been a decade since I’ve eaten one of those bars, but I have a feeling it wouldn’t taste nearly as good as it did when I was balancing on the concrete, fingers covered in chocolate, watching the drama of teenage girls unfold before my eyes. Because even back then, at the age 7, it was more than peanut butter covered in chocolate. It was safety. It was security. It was the one thing I could control in the midst of all the things I couldn’t.

Looking back now, I see it clearly. I, like many people, turned to food to ground me when everything around me was shifting and changing. Of course, I was 7, but new neighbors, my mom’s new job, my best friend moving to a neighborhood across town, all those things left me unsettled and the only way I knew how to make myself at ease again, if only for a moment, was to eat, and to eat a lot.

This is something new for my blog: reflections on my relationship with food. Having a food blog, I understand that food is a highly charged subject for a lot of people: we love it and hate it, sometimes both at the same time. From now on I will be devoting Mondays to talking about my journey/struggle with food and body-image. I’m not sure why I’m doing this, but somehow it feels important to my healing… and perhaps to yours. I’d love to have you join the conversation.

What’s your earliest memory of food? Is it tinged with guilt or joy?


  1. uggh My mother looked under my bed when I was probably 10 and found a whole pile of fun size snickers and milky way wrappers. My dad was a pastor and someone had donated a large amount of these to the church and I had "helped myself" to them and just didn't know when to stop. embarrassing!

  2. Reading your blog today takes me back to to 2nd and 3rd servings of Hamburger Helper and ring baloney and cheese chunks in front of the TV as a child. The thought and feelings rage within me now, a trapped imprisionment, a body wanting change but even more, a mind wanting freedom and healing. Until the mind can recieve that healing the struggle will always remain no matter what your size. I am looking forward to reading your blog ever Monday, and pray through this time of reflextion and confession we may be healed!

  3. Amber, thanks so much for sharing that story--hilarious and definitely one I can relate to. Jess, thanks for your encouraging words and I look forward to us traveling this road together. Thanks for opening up and sharing today; it means a lot.

  4. And here I thought I was the only Little Debbie hoarder! I used to buy boxes of Swiss Cake Rolls and Milky Ways with my allowance. I was never much of a saver, but I WAS an eater. An emotional one, and I still am. How do I get away from this?

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this, Maile. I can remember being 13 and letting myself only have one cookie because I was fat. Unfortunately, sometimes I still think the same way. I look forward to further reading.

  6. Ah, Brenda, it is good to know another victim of Little Debbie and her dastardly treats. I'm really intrigued by this notion of emotional eating and hope to shed some light on the topic for myself and anyone else who struggles in that area. Thanks for being a part of today's conversation.
    Andi, I so appreciate the honesty of your comment and my heart ached as I read it because I was that same 13 year old girl. Is it possible to turn this tide of poor body image for all the little girls out there? I sure hope so...

  7. Maile- thanks for sharing this part of your story. I look forward to reading more.
    My earliest memory is the night my parents sat me down to tell me they were getting a divorce. This came right after a nasty argument between them. After the news and the tears, my mom and I stayed up late watching TV. (I was in 3rd grade at the time.) Together we ate chocolate pudding she had made and chunky peanut butter by the spoonfuls. Later when she put me to bed, I told her I didn't feel so good and then leaned over and threw up on the carpet. My mom felt so badly that we had overeaten and I had gotten sick. I still can't eat chunky peanut butter to this day.

  8. Wow, Laura, what a story! I think your memory is perhaps the definition of emotional eating--I really appreciate you sharing it. I always love what you have to contribute to the conversation on my blog--thanks so much for reading, my friend!

  9. I never over ate until I went to college. At that time I saw the unending buffet, already paid for, so why not eat it. I was lonely and scared and starting a new chapter in my life. Can't wait to journey with you on Mondays! Love ya sis! Kim