you can take the stomach out of the girl, but you can’t take the girl away from her stomach

Tonight, Jayrad brought us all home treats from the convenience store–chocolate milk for E, a packet of peanut M&Ms for me. Peanut M&Ms: not known for their nutritional value. Me: Very, very full from a Chinese food dinner, not hungry at all, a little depressed and downtrodden by the most depressingly bad movie ever in the history of them (Red Dawn! a young Patrick Swayze! Jennifer Grey reminds me of my friend Harry!), and generally, just not in the kind of place emotionally where anyone with a healthy relationship with food would find themselves wanting to add peanut M&Ms.

Part of the reason I know I have a problem is because I am aware that I have a problem; I am aware of how a regular person would react to an unexpected packet of M&Ms–“Thanks!” they would say, and they would put the M&Ms away for later. So that’s what I did. “Thanks!” and I tucked them into my bag. And then, when no one was looking, I pulled them back out of my bag, tore open a corner, and shook out two. Then I put them back into my bag.

Rinse repeat, for what felt like hours, but was probably say, 30 or 40 seconds. Then it is time for me to head out. I shoulder my bag, and what I am thinking is “Now I can eat my M&Ms, when I get home!” and it is such an exciting prospect. Except as my bag shifts, I hear the candy rattle, and then spill across the bottom of my bag. At the same time, an existentially angsty NOOOOOOO rings out across the barren plains of my heart.



I am aware of my candy all the way out to the car, in the car, on the
short drive. E’s got my hand and we are talking about something nice,
and I am thinking about my candy. Candy candy candy in my bag, candy
clean it up, and then eat it up. I shift over to kiss him, and I hear a
rattle and then a tiny plop. NO MY M&MS THEY FELL OUT OF MY BAG
THEY FELL ON THE FLOOR.

“Wow,” E says.

I hadn’t meant to say that out loud.

“I really like M&Ms,” I say, as I peer down between my ankles at the filthy floor.

“I can see that,” he says, bemused.

“Aha!” I pounce. It’s a green one, and before I can stop myself, I am putting it in my mouth.

“Honey, no!” He watches me crunch down. He says, “You’re going to get diphtheria.”

“It will have been worth it!” I say. It’s almost totally a joke.

Weight loss surgery doesn’t solve all your fancy food issues, any kinds of complicated relationships, helpless-in-the-face-of dynamics, any
kinds of unhealthy patterns . . . no no, it does not. I am willing to suggest that it can
exacerbate them–would I have been crawling around on the floor for an
M&M when I was fat? No, because there’d be no way I’d be able to
live with the possibility of the vitriol, and opportunity for
humiliation, that it would provide the world. My relationship with food
had always seemed terribly public when I was fat–everyone was chiming
in and judging, I thought, and oh, the hoops I went and the secret
eating I did.

Now I am convinced, with that same odd,
internal logic that used to tell me (still tells me) that skinny people
are allowed to be publicly weird about food, because they’re skinny!
And no one is judging them harshly for it, that–well, exactly that.
There’s something entirely different about a fat girl scrambling after
M&Ms and a skinny one. Except for the way that there’s something
entirely fucked up about both situations. Food–candy, no matter how
delicious it is–shouldn’t have that kind of hold over anyone. Why is a
healthy relationship with food so hard?

  10 comments for “you can take the stomach out of the girl, but you can’t take the girl away from her stomach

  1. pixifer
    November 14, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    You are being too hard on yourself. I would bet that most people would eat the M&Ms even if they were full, regardless of their relationship to food. I see it all the time in my office. It is the rare person who turns down free candy.

  2. Jean
    November 14, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    First, ahem: Wooolveriiiiiiiiines!!!!

    Sorry. It had to be done.

    Second, I agree that you’re too hard on yourself. I admit I totally would have picked them up off the floor as fast as I could – 5 second rule! – and dusted them off for consumption. Nobody has a healthy or dignified relationship with M&Ms.

  3. Anonymous
    November 14, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    ok, I’m the one always prattling on about overeater’s anonymous and how that has helped my food obsessed thoughts, but this is about our primal selves:

    took my 4 year old to the ymca to have fun in the pool. always take a snack because pool fun= major munchies afterwards. she dropped a piece of cheese on ohmygod the LOCKER ROOM FLOOR and reached down, picked it up and ATE IT ANYWAY!
    ( I did actually scream a little bit when it happened! )

    It was one of those horrible slow motion while it’s happening and you can’t possibly form the words “drop that NOW ” while you are watching in agony.

    blearg. my point is, I think the giant id of a four year old magnifies our own primal wants for food.

    I dropped it. I want it. I will eat it. doesn’t matter if it’s a car mat or a locker room floor. you just want it!

  4. anon
    November 14, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    I’d answer your question but my mouth is too full with (post-big lunch) cajun nuts.

  5. November 15, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    What a regular person would do? I consider myself a regular person and here’s what I would do. If I wanted me some M&Ms, whether I’d just eaten or not, I’d have some, yum. If I didn’t, I’d stash the bag. End of story. Regular people eat in all sorts of weird ways…and they even eat candy off the floor. True story.

  6. manda
    November 15, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    i understand 100% of what you wrote. that it’s not about the effing candy. its about the thought. the fact that the food consumed those moments that should have been about something else. i get that. writing about it is a wonderful thing to do. cheers to you for sharing!

  7. Anonymous
    November 16, 2008 at 11:11 am

    I’m post-anorexic and I do the same thing sometimes. Say “I’ll put this away for later” but then take a few/cut small pieces off until whatever it is is prettymuch gone. But sometimes I actually forget about the food now, which is certainly a new experience for me.

  8. November 19, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I eat candy off of the floor. Sorry. I do. I don’t say no to candy.

    And Red Dawn? OMG, I love Red Dawn. That scene in the field where they pop out of their camo trenches? They don’t make cinema like that no more.

  9. Anonymous
    November 23, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Peanut M&Ms are what my parents hid from me and I now have such an unhealthy relationship with them that I will not eat them at all.

    You are being too hard on yourself though.

    Stupid M&Ms.

  10. December 3, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Yesterday I ate an entire box of cookies at the grocery store’s food lounge. I’m pretty sure a couple people noticed me binging, but I decided to do it anyway, which I probably wouldn’t have done when I was huge.

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