Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest Post: My Sibling Rivalry with Food

Please welcome our guest, Hallie Sawyer, freelance writer and blogger (Write For Me).

family came for dinner again- utter joy!

* photo credit: kate hiscock on

I grew up with food as another member of my family. He was a self-centered bastard, too. Our days seemed to revolve around him, especially Sundays. After church, we either went to brunch with him or we had a special crockpot meal prepared. I spent my days after school concocting funky snacks with him, one of my favorites was saltine crackers topped with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.

Yes, I just wrote that.

My family was obsessed with food. We went out to dinner a LOT; there wasn't a new restaurant we didn't try. Chinese, Mexican, Italian, you name it, we ate it. And no dinner was complete without at least a couple of appetizers. If you asked my father...actually, you didn't have to ask him. He loudly proclaimed this after every restaurant meal, "That was THE best [fill in the blank] I have ever had." It became the running joke in the family which was one he never seemed to get. He still says it to this day.

Food was our connector. It was an easy conversation at the table, a way to keep things on the surface. Because we sure as hell didn't want to look at what was lurking below. A obnoxiously-stocked fridge, a packed cooler for the boat, a brand new restaurant to try, they were all just part of the family. A very dysfunctional one.

The lightbulb started to illuminate when I was a junior in high school and I was no longer hipless. Well, I still didn't really have hips as much as I had thighs. I was flabby and I still had my baby face. When my cheeks started rivaling my hair in size, I knew I was in trouble. I started to take my tennis seriously that year when my high school team started training with a tennis pro at a local athletic club. Our trainer had played tennis in college and his passed along his athletic training on to us. The club had a weight room and my mom allowed me to join. It changed my life.

I researched and purchased weight-lifting books and became a vegetarian. Visible fat completely grossed me out, therefore I boycotted eating meat altogether.Grizzle was the enemy. This drove my father absolutely crazy. My stubborn streak is wide and long and he eventually stopped harassing me about it. I got in better shape but something was still off.

In college, I continued my vegetarian diet but I didn't figure out that my biggest culprit to my continuing battle with my body was my love affair with carbs. As a vegetarian, carbs had become my new best friend. My thighs were stubborn,too. I started taking the first unofficial weight loss pill: aspirin, caffeine, and ephedrine. (A guy friend obsessed with his body image passed that little heart attack laden piece of advice onto me.) I lost weight but then I also lost muscle; I looked sick. Again, self-sabotage. Along with my stubborn streak, I also have a thick skull.

Now, at almost forty years old, my light bulb is burning bright. I have finally figured out what food is supposed to be. Fuel. That's it. Nothing more. Don't get me wrong. I still love food but I'm not obsessed with it. It has to be exactlywhat it was meant to be. Sustenance. My German genetics and a fourth of my life spent eating horrible are stacked against me but did I mention I was stubborn?

If I want to have a healthy body, inside and out, I need to have protein with every meal and every snack. Carbs are a bare necessity and veggies are my new bestfriends. If I had known then what I know now, I might have had a whole different view on life. I might have been a much more confident person growing up.

Food wouldn't have been my evil twin as much as it would have been my biggest fan.

Hallie Sawyer is a freelance and historical fiction writer, with publishing credits in KC Parent magazine. She grew up in northeast Nebraska but now lives in Kansas City with her husband and three children. As a health and fitness enthusiast, she now looks at her relationship with food as a partnership and no longer as a high school crush.



  1. Hallie! What an excellent piece. I can relate to every bit of this--I think many people can. I love the concept as food being part of the family, in a dysfunctional way of course.

  2. And ladies--the commenting is MUCH easier now!

  3. Thanks, Nina! The love/hate relationship mimics real life all too well. Thanks for the nice words. xo

  4. I definitely have not just a love/hate and dysfunctional relationship with food but I also think food was the most misunderstood child in my family (of origin). My mother criticized me for how much I ate in one breath -- then in the next breath ask me why I didn't like what she cooked -- next breath would say I was too fat -- then, my head still reeling, she'd say I wasn't eating enough... INSANE family dynamics. I'm just beginning to put them all in perspective...

  5. Yes, one of the many ways parents screw up their kids. A power trip with food. Grrr...sorry you went through that as a kid, Julia.

  6. Hey darlin! I've also been there...I still sometimes find myself obsessing over what I eat...or as I've gotten older, how much I exercise. It's a vicious cycle-- the other day, on the heels of vacation, I lifted, went to spinning, and then ran. Yeah! Sweat out all that nasty, salty vacation food! Bad call, since I was so hungry I was on a rampage all day long...sigh. Love how you're focused on food as fuel. Great way of thinking about it, great post! xo

  7. Hallie, thanks so much for this thoughtful post! Food is such a complicated issue at times, especially for women, and your point about how our early food habits affect our relationship with food for our whole lives is spot on.

    I grew up just north of you, 15 miles from the South Dakota/Nebraska border. :)

  8. Stephanie-I've done that, too! That is so frustrating when you have worked so hard yet was so easy to wipe it all out by devouring the pantry. Grrr...

    Lisa-yes, I totally blame my childhood. It always seems to come in handy! :) And how crazy that you and I were practically neighbors. My maternal grandparents were from LeMars, Iowa and I grew up in South Sioux City. What about you?