I want my kids to walk by the candy jar. I want them to see it, and walk on by.
I don’t want them to be the kids who dig in every time they walk by. I don’t want them to be the kids who stuff their faces at a party or while they trek door to door on Halloween.
I don’t want that for them because I was that kid.
And sometimes I still am that kid.
Candy in My Childhood
My mom was on a budget in the 70’s and a mom of four, like me, who cooked every dinner, packed our lunches and let us self-serve our meal items. She was on top of the structure of mealtime, and family meals were a priority in our house. I am not very different from my mom in this respect.
My mom bought very few sweets. One package of cookies each week and rarely any candy, ice cream or other sweet treats. She made homemade sweets and desserts for parties only. Sweets were definitely scarce, I felt, and I grew to place a high regard for them.
Scarcity around Sweets
Not surprising, my three siblings and I would inhale the package of cookies within two days– sometimes in a day. The same happened to the one bag of Lays potato chips. Gone in a flash.
My mom routinely bought herself a bag of candy–peanut M & M’s– which she stowed in her lingerie drawer. I suppose she did this because she knew the M & M’s would suffer the same fate the cookies and chips did. It was years before I discovered those M & M’s tucked in her drawer.
And when I did, you can guess what happened.
I was sneaking back to her bedroom almost daily, grabbing handfuls of those peanutty-chocolately goodies. Taking just enough to satisfy my cravings, while careful not to tip her off to my regular panty raid. (She’s probably laughing right now…I bet she knew all along.)
This childhood experience taught me several things that still haunt me today: To get candy when I could. To eat it fast, or it’d be gone. And to hide candy if I wanted to enjoy it.
Food Restriction Outcomes
Sometimes I catch myself stowing candy from my own kids. Hiding it in the tea drawer in my kitchen, a place where they are unlikely to go. Sometimes I think I am hiding it from myself—placing it out of sight, so it will be out of my mind.
I know all too well that hiding sweets only fosters a desire for them.
Like it did for me.
Now, if I buy candy (like the sour cherry and cinnamon Valentine’s hearts that I bought yesterday), I put it out on the kitchen counter in a bowl, or in the candy dish in the dining room.
Yesterday, my kids walked by those bags of candy—several times. My Little Man tasted one and said he didn’t like it. The girls weren’t even tempted to taste. I guess it wasn’t something that interested them. Or maybe they weren’t hungry. They certainly weren’t compelled to eat it, like I would be.
You know what I have learned about my kids?
Intuitive Eating with Candy
They are better self-regulated with candy than I am. While they like it and eat it—sometimes too much of it—they don’t need it. Candy isn’t laden with other feelings, like scarcity, as it is for me. Candy is a food they can take or leave, unlike their mom sometimes.
While it may sound like I am a nut case around candy, I have worked hard to be neutral around it in front of my kids, and to have it around more than my mom did. I think this has removed the forbidden aura that can co-exist with candy and other sweets.
The good news on my end is I have come a long way in my relationship with candy. I understand why I have the relationship that I do and from where it stems. And, for the most part, I manage myself pretty well.
But truth be told, I love candy. And that will probably never change.
How about you? Can you and your kids walk by the candy jar?
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: February 11, 2014
Updated on: May 9, 2019