17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mormon Chocolate Addicts Anonymous

Last night DH and I were watching a news story about presidential candidates and how they relate to their public through food. They showed old footage of former President Clinton at McDonalds, as well as more recent footage of Barack Obama eating corndogs in front of a crowd and Mitt Romney at the grocery store shopping for Fruit Loops. The broadcast journalist doing the story questioned whether Romney, who apparently has a reputation as a health nut, really liked sugared cereals or was pandering to the public.

DH and I had the same reaction: Of course he loves sweet cereal....he's LDS. I am much more skeptical that he regularly or even occasionally does his family's grocery shopping than of the fact that he has a sweet tooth.

This news piece really got me thinking about the brownie and jello salad culture of our religion. So, my questions to you my friends, are three-fold: First, does the stereotype of sugar-addicted Mormons really hold true? If so, where exactly did it come from? Is it simply a socially acceptable vice to be a sugar addict, or are there other contributing factors? And finally, are we really keeping the Word of Wisdom (at least the intent of the law, if not the letter of the law) if we truly cannot get through our day without something coated in chocolate?

As one who falls in the category of needing chocolate every day, please don't confuse my tone as one of passing judgment. Also, please keep your comments free of political leanings because I don't want to hate you if I disagree with you. Ready. Set. Discuss....


  • My name is Chloe and I am addicted to chocolate. There, I said it. Wow, that didn't feel too bad!

    No seriously, I AM that person who can't get through the day without liberal doses of chocolate. It's probably a vice...but so far seems to be a socially acceptable vice - I'm not harming anyone, not really harming myself...?

    But I think that giving into any vice/addiction prohibits us from keeping the W of W (in the true intent of the law).
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 11/29/2007 08:19:00 AM  

  • Mormons like good food. It's because we're brilliant. Or it could be because we don't drink booze. :)

    But I think the stereotype began only because of this:

    Mormons gather together in big numbers many, many times. There are ward parties, primary parties, YW/YM every week; in college there were munch-n-mingles and break-the-fasts and ward prayer. RS has enrichment night and activities; there's always some kind of book group or girl's night out. And EQ parties and HP parties and ward adult dinners. And bring-your-scriptures-to-church-and-you-get-a-brownie sunday school classes. Then there's the RS lessons with a treat; and the primary kids having that special treat in sharing time.

    We are a religion that thrives on company, and with that company comes food. And we can't just give out any old plain food --it has to be good food. Dang good food.

    So, yeah. I think the culture thing is there. If we didn't get together so much, then we wouldn't eat so much. :) :)

    Oh, and fwiw, other people get together and they drink (and usually get drunk). So, we're not any different. Just high on sugar. Ha! :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 11/29/2007 08:50:00 AM  

  • Although the Word of Wisdom does not condone gluttony, it is really the only vice that is acceptable in our church. In the big picture of things, a chocolate addiction isn't so bad.
    posted by Blogger Nancy at 11/29/2007 09:35:00 AM  

  • i think cheryl is pretty much spot on.

    i went on a family vacation with in-laws (non-Mo) and there was very little snacking but lots of drinking. a few weeks later, i went on a vacation with my family and it was out of control snacking. mmm...

    here is a WoW story that i think fits in with this post: i was vegan as a teenager so i wouldn't partake of the bread during sacrament (i didn't know if there were animal products in it). i had a conversation with my bishop and then i started bringing the sacrament bread each week. anyways, shortly after this conversation with my bishop, our HT came to the house and gave me a lecture how i wasn't obeying the WoW because i wasn't taking care of my body (i.e. denying it nutrients). he said that the church used to deny temple recommends to the obese because they "obviously being gluttonous and not taking care of their bodies." i've always wondered if this was true and if so, when this policy was laid to rest.
    posted by Blogger brenbot at 11/29/2007 09:48:00 AM  

  • I have a friend who said her severely overweight BIL went for a temple recommend interview, when it came to the WoW question his response was - "Look at me, what do you think?"
    Totally agree with food being Mormon's vice of choice. Its a hard line because we need it to live, you can't cut it out completely like other vices. How hard is it for us not to have food at church just once a month (fast Sunday). Hey maybe that is why we appreciate good food so much, we fast and gain gratitude for eating!
    Plus why would Heavenly Father give food taste if he didn't want us to enjoy it?!!
    posted by Anonymous jendoop at 11/29/2007 10:56:00 AM  

  • I think our sweet tooth is a cultural remnant of the Church's bid to take over the Sugar industry at the turn of the century with sugar beets and cane in Hawaii. But then I am biased, I grew up in Sugar City, Idaho, after all.
    posted by Anonymous Doc at 11/29/2007 11:01:00 AM  

  • Loving the comments.

    I had a beloved bishop who told me he wasn't sure he was temple worthy (in all seriousness) because he couldn't give up junk food no matter how hard he tried. For him, it wasn't a health issue so much (although he had a nice gut), but it was obviously hurting his self-esteem to know that he was having trouble taming his urges to eat food that was bad for him. I think that those who said that its a victimless addiction are mostly correct, and that is why it is OUR addiction, but if you start feeling real guilt over your inability to put down the brownie to the point where it is damaging your self-worth, then there is a problem.

    I have never heard of obese people being turned down for temple recommends and I really hope that has never happened!!! There are so many factors that can contribute to obesity besides gluttony....if a bishop or bishopric member were making a judgement based completely on someone's weight that would be so very wrong...esp since your worthiness is essentially between you and the Lord.

    I have to disagree, however, that Mormon food = good eating. There aren't a lot of true lds foodies...esp with the economics of raising larger families. I would say in general Mormons like a LOT of food and they like it rich and sweet.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 11/29/2007 11:57:00 AM  

  • jen-
    Perhaps the geography would have more to do with good eating than it just being LDS? For example, the food I ate in Idaho at church activities wasn't as great as what I ate in Provo. But so far, the food in the Bay Area at church functions is the best I've ever had.
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 11/29/2007 12:24:00 PM  

  • I tend to eat entirely too much sugary food. It tends to make me feel sick a lot more often when I'm eating too much of it. And then occasionally I get totally sick of it after binging on it, and then I avoid sugary stuff for a few weeks and feel much better. Until I start eating it again and remember just how darn good it tastes.

    Interestingly enough, I have not enjoyed chocolate at all the whole time I've been pregnant. I miss being able to make myself feel a little more comfort and happiness just by eating a little bit of chocolate. I'm hoping my lovely enjoyment of it will return in full strength post-baby.
    posted by Blogger kadusey at 11/29/2007 01:30:00 PM  

  • This is funny. I never even heard the stereotype of Mormon's being sugar addicts. I guess I heard all about the jello salads, but I guess I thought that was just a throw back to what our moms and grandmas (especially grandmas) used to make. My gma made tons of jello and she wasn't even LDS. I don't know about it meaning that we break the word of wisdom??? I mean, anything that could become a serious addiction I think is something to look at. But the scriptures also say to eat meat sparingly, and I don't think we, as a culture in general, do that (can you tell I just taught a YW lesson on health?). And wouldn't eating too much sugar be kinda in the same boat as drinking diet coke, watching rated R movies and things like that?? Sort of a gray area that it seems Mormons have very different points of view on. Interesting post though, Jen. It's crazy what the news will point out about political candidates.
    posted by Blogger beth at 11/29/2007 02:12:00 PM  

  • I am embarrassed to say I have never heard sugar cereal or even chocolate being an LDS problem. I've heard the jello and brownie jokes - but I think that doesn't stem from people liking good food, it's more of a "what can I make for 60 ppl that won't cost me lots of time and money?" Oh, jello and brownies.

    I think the Mormon prob is Diet Coke. Does everyone talk about DC the way LDS women do? Don't think so.

    And yes you are still keeping the WofW if you eat lots of chocolate, my sugar eating habits have never even made me think once about WorW. Am I in denial?
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 11/29/2007 02:49:00 PM  

  • Eat good dark chocolate. Not that much sugar. And it tastes considerably better albeit more expensive. Of course I'm biased since I'm a chocolate maker. Try mine at Amano Chocolate. We've been trying to figure out a good holiday special for all the regular readers of the bloggernacle but haven't come up with a good one. But if you email me directly clark at amanochocolate dot com then I can probably hook you up with a bit of a discount - especially if you're local to Provo.
    posted by Blogger Clark Goble at 11/29/2007 04:52:00 PM  

  • One of my favorite stories from college is the one about my history professor who received a visit from her PhD mentor from the University of Chicago. They took a little stroll through the Wilk, starting in the Twilight Zone with its rows of candy bars and ice cream treats and then passing the candy counter that dominates the middle of the main floor of the bookstore - heavily laden with a dozen varieties of freshly-made fudge and all sorts of treats available by the pound. Exiting the bookstore, they walked past the Cougareat, the Sugar Shack front and center with its endless pastries and ice cream. Finally they came to Zuka Juice (this was a while ago), at which point her mentor turned to her and deadpanned:

    You Mormons may not smoke or drink, but you've definitely got your vices.
    posted by Blogger Jo Gram at 11/29/2007 05:09:00 PM  

  • I certainly do NOT think that Mormons are specifically more sugar/choclate prone than any other American out there. I have never heard that before. I will admit to loving sweets (when I am not pregnant), but I usually don't allow myself to be out of control.

    I do think it's an American thing though to be addicted to some form of food, whether it's sweets, salty junk foods, or fast food.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 11/29/2007 07:13:00 PM  

  • I've only had a minute to skim the discussion and I think my thoughts are similar.

    I think that humans get together and like to ingest things. In non-mormon world it tends to be alcohol, coffee, or tea. So we replace it with something else. It just happens to be sugar. Because sugar is fun.

    I just thought of this exact subject tonight as I made myself a vanilla shake for no reason at all.
    posted by Blogger Katie at 11/29/2007 08:44:00 PM  

  • I was watching the Today Show yesterday and they said that addictions are hereditary. i.e. if your parents love sweets, you probably will too. This was a proven study, not just an idea, so it makes sense if us LDS are passing down the "sugar" gene from generation to generation.

    I for one don't love that ALL our activities revolve around the "refreshments at the end." Don't get me wrong, I love brownies just as much as anyone, but the idea of members attending activities just because there are root beer floats after is a bit bothersome to me.

    We have been instructed to keep moderation in all things. I am going to choose to believe this also includes food. Just because we don't drink is no excuse to overindulge ourselves in food.
    It may be a part of our culture, but have we crossed the line? Is there a line?
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/29/2007 11:36:00 PM  

  • Ops,sorry...what I meant to say is that our CRAVINGS are hereditary. Obviously additions are hereditary, but the segment on the Today Show was specifically talking about our cravings. Just a little fyi.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 11/30/2007 12:07:00 AM  

  • I can attest to cravings being hereditary. I got mine straight from my father who also does not like chocolate but loves candy.

    As far as the WofW I think just about everyone can do better in living the spirit of the law. But the big "infractions" are obviously the ones that keep people from temple recommends (and brenbot I really hope that story you told never really happened, but as you get older, you realize crazy stuff like that does happen).

    And finally, I think "good food" can have a few different definitions. There can be "good for you" good, "food snob" good or "makes me feel all warm inside comfort food" good. I think Mormons really enjoy the latter as a matter of tradition.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 11/30/2007 03:19:00 PM  

  • A lot of what we eat, Mormon or non-Mormon, in America is based on several factors.

    First, fats and sugars taste good to most of us. There are chemical things that happen in the brain when we eat them.

    Second, this country produces too much food, especially corn, soy, and meats, and so we all do our patriotic duty to eat and drink it up.

    Third, the food that our mothers and grandmothers served (1950s on) was a reaction to the deprivations of the great depression, followed by food rationing during World War II. Just like skirts became very full in the 1950s (think Audrey Hepburn) as a reaction to clothes rationing during the war, diets became "full" after the war. Think potatoes drowned in cream sauces. Creamed everything, for that matter. For several decades it was almost impossible to serve a vegetable without it being creamed. I even ate creamed peas while I was growing up. Goodness! (Part of that can probably be blamed on Julia Child, too.)

    Fourth, as technology pressed forward, eating patterns changed due to advances in packaging and transportation.

    There may be reasons why we eat this way. (Cook up some white noodles. Fry up some ground beef. Dump over a can of cream of something soup. Stir it all up with some cheese and top with buttered crushed potato chips. Serve it with canned green beans to the side.) But just because we were raised to eat like this, doesn't mean it's good!

    We all need to look seriously at what we eat. I grew up in an active middle-class ward. When you look at the ward cookbooks, you could rename them "1001 ways to use cream of something soup or cake mix". Cute perhaps, but the dads in the families I grew up with are suffering heart attack after heart attack. Many deaths among 60-something males. Heart failure is not a fun condition. Neither is decades of widowhood. And then there is that other complication of rich food: when the gallbladder gives out.

    I imagine I'm preaching to the choir here in blog land but I've been thinking about the subject seriously (since my gall bladder gave out before I was 30 actually) and now that I have a child born with a severe congenital heart defect (corrected by three surgeries that allows one side of the heart to do all the work) I am very interested in making sure that everything we feed him is part of a heart-healthy diet.

    By the way, my name is Amy and I'm addicted to chocolate too.
    posted by Anonymous East Coast at 12/03/2007 10:33:00 AM  

  • I know I'm a little after-the-fact, but I stumbled on this page and have an opinion, so there! I've never actually heard of the stereotype that Mormons have sweet teeth. In my experience, I don't think the fact of being LDS makes a big impact on our tastes. Although I wasn't raised Mormon, my external family is mostly made up of members, and I've noticed no difference in LDS versus non-LDS relatives. For my part, I decided to be pretty much vegetarian when I joined the church, based on my feelings regarding the Word of Wisdom. I enjoyed several healthy years of that before I served a mission (I didn't think it practical to restrict my diet with a missionary lifestyle). Since then, I eat meat when I'm someplace where it's served, but I generally avoid buying it. My wife is about the same way, and since her body doesn't respond well to sweets, it's easier for us to avoid much of those, too.

    I agree, though, that if Mormons do indeed eat more sweets than other people, it's probably due to all the social events at which refreshments or treats are often provided. It might have something to do with our neighborlyness, too, since I often get so many sweets as gifts on holidays that it takes months of moderation (and serving it to guests at parties) to whittle it down.
    posted by Blogger  at 8/24/2008 03:12:00 PM  

  • I'm an April 2010 LDS convert but after attending church every week and the many church events, I had to cease being involved in the church due to the copious consumption of sweets by LDS members.

    Prior to joining the church, I ate almost no sugar/carbs because I have Sickle Cell Anemia. Eating junk food causes my blood to sickle, which leads to extreme joint pain. I'm addicted to sweets so I'm unable to be around junk food (widely available at LDS events) and not eat it. Plus, I'd then go home and binge on it.

    Six months after being baptized, I wound up in the emergency room in a Sickle Cell Crisis. Fortunately, I recently found a 100% natural amino acid supplement called ANINOKIT Recovery Formula and it has stopped my cravings for sugar.

    I hope the product will work even when I'm around lots of sweets. If so, I'll be able to regularly attend church again, something I miss dearly.
    posted by Blogger Sophy West at 7/04/2011 07:26:00 PM  

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