I Work in Candy Land
If there was a time in my life where I could stop the clock and demand a do-over, it would be when I got my first job out of college. At the time, life seemed fun and exciting, but I didn’t realize that I had unwittingly spun a dial that landed me on the starting square of a trail of bad decisions.
I worked in Candy Land.
In Candy Land you eat your way to the top. Let’s play.
“Welcome to Candy Land, a world of sweet adventure! Come and visit some very special friends! Travel the path and stop along the way to explore the Den of Donuts, Vendor Valley, Birthday Cake Canyon, Lunchtime Lagoon, Russell Stover River, and Candy Jar Junction. As you go, don’t forget to visit Coffee Creek with its forest of flavored creamers, Elevator Island because stairs and breathing are over-rated, and watch out for the ever-menacing Emperor Elastic and his Waistband Pants.”
Object of the Game:
Be the first player to reach Candy Castle and kick your feet up in our first floor Morbid Obesity Suite. Roll the dice to eat your way to glory and redemption!
My weight gain had nothing to do with getting older and the slowing of metabolism; it had everything to do with the sheer quantities of crazy decadent food heaped upon me day after day. I had never seen anything like it and I didn’t really consider the option of simply having willpower because willpower doesn’t taste like cake.
When I started working at Candy Land, it was a roller-coaster of food glory from the moment I arrived in the morning until the moment I weeble-wobbled my way out the door at night. The change came almost immediately. I went from wondering why everyone rode the elevator to go up one or two floors to thinking that walking was the worrrrrrrrrrst. I went from not even eating breakfast to breaking a sweat over whether to have a donut or a bagel. And then I discovered that I could have a donut with a bagel on top. Things escalated quickly.
Typical Day in Candy Land:
Cram into the elevator with the other Candy Land sausages. Make pit stop at the cafeteria, home of the world’s greatest scrambled eggs. I had never considered adding cheese and green onions to my eggs before. At least I didn’t douse them in Hershey’s syrup. Small victories. Eventually I discovered the mammoth muffins. These were muffins the size of a bus tire, glittered with sugary streusel topping, and the joy of a thousand unicorns flitting about in a field of sunflowers and children’s laughter.
I liked them.
We’ll call this 8am. But let’s face it, it was closer to 8:15 because traffic. Also that strange unhealthy feeling that causes one to experience near constant fatigue and excessive neck sweat. By 9am my boss was arriving with donuts. Always donuts.
I was good at resisting donuts longer than just about everything else. I had been raised to believe that donuts were basically the devil’s starchy asshole. Eventually, though, that yeasty pastry stench would get to me and in a moment of weakness, that doughnut was mine. This would be about the time that someone would excitedly pop their head around the corner and announce that one of our art vendors had just arrived with a veritable treasure trove of bagels and flavored schmears.
Donuts are great and all, but I love me a bagel and some schmear. I couldn’t bear to miss out on this, even if it was my third breakfast. I think this is around the time that I lost all sense of what it means to be “full.” Satiated. NOT. HUNGRY.
It was almost like a challenge. I was a goldfish. I would have continued eating until I imploded. The only thing stopping me was the fact that I occasionally had to produce something akin to work. And even then, it was mostly just a way to pass time between coffee breaks.
The worst part was, we all did it. You would think that there would be some reptilian part of my brain screaming in agony as I systematically destroyed my body with an unweilding arsenal of carbohydrates.
But you would be wrong!
And we haven’t even made it to lunch!
Lunchtime was a saucy safari into the depths of Tourist Country. I worked next to International Drive. That’s Disney World, in case you aren’t hip to the street names in the Magic Kingdom. Every restaurant known to man and mouse was located on this strip. If you wanted gourmet burgers, there was the country’s top-rated gourmet burger joint. If you wanted to slurp down some pasta, there was a five-star Italian restaurant complete with the local Mafioso. Margaratville. Right there. Emeril. There it is. Buffets. Themed restaurants. Sushi. Seafood. Murder-Mystery Theme Dinners. IT WAS ALL RIGHT THERE. If I was still working at Candy Land I don’t think I would have made it to all the restaurants yet.
Brown bagging it was simply unheard of. Skipping the appetizer was simply unheard of. This is the first time I ever noticed that it is possible to sweat while you eat. We would spend an hour in the most hedonistic places on Earth and we weren’t even hungry…
As time passed, I eventually started to notice that pants were no longer my friend. I started seeing the very real repercussions of moving up the colorful path of Candy Land whenever I looked in the mirror. I smelled fast food all the time… but then I realized that was just me sweating and that my body had simply taken on the unmistakable musk of onion rings. This is when I finally started learning a little bit about the food I was shoveling into my body as if the apocalypse was nigh and I must live off endless scores of ho-hos that I could only store in my ass and upper arms. Here was the first twinge of a heart attack reaction to the “shouldn’t have been but totally was” alarming speed of weight gain: I started looking up the nutritional information of the things I had been eating.
Grande White Chocolate Mocha from Starbucks: 470 calories
Everything bagel with cream cheese from Einsteins: 430 calories
Queso blanco from Don Pablos: 1,080 calories
Slice of birthday cake: 240 calories (who knew cake was the healthiest thing I’d eat in a day?)
22 ounce Dr. Pepper: 250 calories
Bahama Breeze Calamari: 480 calories
It wasn’t pretty. But that still didn’t stop me. It was as if I was scared that I was going to miss out on something. Like 15 years from that moment I would look back with soul-crushing regret that I didn’t eat a piece of Sally Johnson’s birthday cake. It’s like I was terrified that if I didn’t actually eat the pizza with the group I would lose a turn and somehow miss a vital part of the human experience. Which is ironic because eating your way to a spherical shape is a great way to miss out on valuable human experiences… like living an extra ten years or walking to your mailbox without wheezing.
I was simply compelled to spin the dial and see where my mouth would land next. And it was usually around a piece of cheesecake since the afternoon is when the really fancy vendor gifts arrived. And vendor gifts were always food. Because Candy Land.
Let’s say it’s 3pm now. We’ve had the breakfasts. We’ve dined like Viking kings, mocking the peasants and pillaging the dessert trays. We’ve even had threesies (which is the lesser known, but equally important afternoon hobbit variation of elevensies) and now we’ve consumed enough calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium for 2-4 players without ever setting our lips on a vegetable.
AND IT’S NOT EVEN OVER.
My life was an actual typhoon of food. One of my coworker’s had a husband who worked for Russell Stover. The candy company. More often than not, extra candies… the ones that were too repulsive to garnish a consumer profit, were passed around the ol’ fourth floor. This would pretty much carry us to the home stretch. 5:00pm. Quittin’ time. More energy was expensed in the eating of food than in the making of any product. At the time, it seemed kind of awesome.
Now it makes me feel sort of sad and uncomfortable, like my skin is covered in bacon and I just want to scrub it off with a cucumber…
Following my day at the office, gorging my way to high-speed heart disease, I would spend two hours sitting in traffic. This was the final step to the elusive Candy Castle. The rest of the path may not have candy-stops, but it does feature an extensive and debilitating period of immobility. I would arrive at the finish line feeling exhausted and bloaty. The thought of preparing dinner was nauseating.
Oh no. No, no, no. Not because I had already consumed 85,000 calories in the course of 10 hours. No. Silly rabbit. Because the idea of doing things was just too hard. Any things. Rinsing a head of lettuce? Grilling some chicken? I could MAYBE convince myself to do those things, since food had become my ultra-mega-super-specialty in life, but then there would be dishes to do. That would simply not happen. My inactivity had reached an impressive high. Not to mention husband-at-the-time was in a similar boat as myself.
We had both just graduated and, with good jobs, had money for the first time in our adult lives. We could go out to eat.
So we did. Whether it was grabbing a combo meal at the Wendy’s that was conveniently located in the parking lot of our apartment complex, or hitting up yet another restaurant (because getting our fix at lunch was impossible), it felt so good to be able to go out and eat. It felt like we were adulting like god-damn professionals. We had spent four years at college eating canned tuna and making a meal we affectionately called “mash” which was just what it sounded like: a skillet of crap we had left over in the apartment from questionable ground beef to jelly beans. Now, we could say: “Let’s dine yonder, this evening, shall we?” and go forth and order decadent pastas with fancy alcoholic beverages featuring paper umbrellas and very little actual alcohol.
This was a bad idea.
This was a bad idea that we kept having over and over.
And then we would reward ourselves on the weekends for making it through the workweek by having movie nights with pizza and chips and the sporadic visit to the gym.
So, I worked in Candy Land. Then, I came home to the Candy Castle.
Winning at Candy Land can only mean regret, and boy did I win at Candy Land.
Years later, I find myself still struggling with the repercussions of my time spent in Fatty Falls. I have to watch what I eat with a vigilance that often gets an eyebrow raise from friends and coworkers. I have to work out. I simply have to. My weight bounces from acceptable to questionable, but I’ve never come anywhere close to my days as a player in the winding, rainbow path of Candy Land.
That’s the thing about board games. You always get another turn.
Note: This has been revised from the original post, sometime in 2006.