Cream Puffs, Gum and Fried Chicken: Confessions of a Self-Sabateur
I remember the first few seasons ofThe Biggest Loser—me on the couch, chowing down on some mint chocolate chip ice cream, thankful I wasn’t THAT BIG. And I’m not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have “food issues” or “body issues”—it just means I’m a bit more private about them…
I remember when I was in kindergarten, yes kindergarten, living in Green Bay, Wisconsin—the first time I thought about weight being an issue I had. Unlike my sisters, I had a little potbelly. I was a vegetarian, never ate any sugar or ingested any caffeine or soda for that matter. My parents were strict when it came to what we ate, and believe me when I say it sucked. With none of my siblings having a little belly, they’d tease mine. I began to detest this causal of shame. I was six.
The same year, I had been invited to a little girl’s birthday party, which surprisingly my mother let me attend. At the party the mother was passing out pieces of Juicy Fruit. I’d never had a piece of Juicy Fruit before, and it looked and smelled so delicious. When the mother handed me a piece, I refused to take it, letting her know I’d have to ask my mom first. I remember the baffled look on her face and she reached for the phone to call. My mother said no, I couldn’t have the gum. The others began to whisper about the weird girl who couldn’t chew the gum, or the drink the soda, or eat the cake, or the pepperoni on the pizza. I was different. And I didn’t like it. The cool kids ate the junk. Obviously. I remember watching these same kids at school with envy, eating hotdogs piled with ketchup and mustard. I wondered what it would be like to eat a hotdog, to drink a Coke. It seemed so forbidden.
When I was ten living in Milwaukee, WI, we had a next-door lady whose name was Frieda. She was from the old country, and made the best puff pastries around. She’d invite my sisters and me into her home, where she always had a new homemade outfit for our Barbie dolls and cream puffs or candy displayed. We learned to sneak the treats from her, stuffing our pockets with as many candies as we could the moment she left the room, knowing we’d never see chocolates from our parents. On this particular day, she had five creampuffs sitting beautifully on a china-patterned plate in front of us. My two sisters and I gathered around the plate, each waiting for Miss Frieda to give us the okay to take one. With her nod, I reached for one—we all did—leaving two sitting upon the plate. I wanted to savor mine. I licked the cream that was spilling over, taking small bites, wanting the treat to last forever. My sisters, on the other hand, ate theirs with one bite. I looked at the plate with the two creampuffs sitting there, and looked at my sisters’ chewing away. It was a moment of sheer panic. I knew I wasn’t going to get one more. Taking my time meant missing out. And I did.
It’d be no surprise to learn my relationship with food changed that day. I no longer ate to satisfy a need, it became to satisfy a want—a “have-to-get-it-before-she-does”.