Do These 3 Things To Have More Treats And Less Tricks This Halloween.
October 26th, 2019 by Sara Upson
“The thing I hate most about this time of year is walking into every store and the first thing that you see is a huge display of Halloween candy,”said my client.
It’s a common theme that I hear from clients. On one hand- you really want to be able to enjoy candy, to eat it without anxiety or guilt, to savor it and then move on without dwelling on it, feeling the need to “make up” for it, or getting “out of control” but on the other hand- it can be so scary, anxiety provoking, lead to a binge, and evoke a lot of shame and guilt. Ugh- it really can feel like a dilemma!
Because it can feel so overwhelming, instead of working on peace with candy, it can be really tempting to follow the diet culture suggestions: eliminate, restrict, cleanse, forbid, and then beat yourself up for feeling out of control.
While this might be tempting (and even what most people do…and probably a pattern that you’ve done before) it doesn’t work. It’s a guaranteed way to make you feel even more out of control with candy, lead to restriction, negative self talk, guilt and shame. This is the cycle that you want to break- so that you can walk into a store and not even notice the candy display, or notice it and be excited for your favorite candy, notice it and not care, or notice it and think- “Ooooh Halloween- I wonder what I’m going to be this year” (where candy isn’t the primary focus).
So instead of jumping on the diet culture bandwagon that says candy is the root of all evil- I encourage you to work on permission, to find freedom and peace with candy.
What does that even mean? It means that you can:
- Eat candy- as much or as little as you want
- Buy candy
- Keep candy at home
- Keep candy at work
- Keep candy in your purse
- Not eat all the candy at once
- Eat all the candy but not feel guilty about it
- Enjoy the candy- taste and savor it
- Find old candy later that you forgot about
- Not be thinking about candy just because it’s there
- Feel calm around candy
- Buy more and not feel guilty
- Throw candy away because it went bad
- Share and not feel deprived
- Candy is just another food
So how do you do that?
1. Eat. Eat Adequately. Eat Consistently. Eat enjoyable food. If you’re dieting or restricting your eating, candy is always going to sound better and feel out of control. Why? A hungry body will always crave energy dense food that provides a quick burst of energy (glucose) over anything else. A hungry body will always prefer candy (or high energy foods).
Know that if you restrict- you’ll likely eat more. When you’re in a restricted state and you do eat candy- you’re more likely to eat a lot of it because your body needs fuel. This will probably make you feel out of control, like you’ve “messed up” or done something wrong, but this is your body working to keep you alive. This is also true even if you’re eating enough food- but have forbidden foods or a “bad” food list that candy falls on and you restrict candy.
Restricting candy creates a vicious cycle of feeling out of control- and reinforces the false belief that you must restrict. When you feel like you’ve messed up, this just reinforces your belief that you have to restrict and control candy which creates a vicious cycle of feeling out of control It goes like this: restriction–> deprivation–> reactive eating –> guilt. If you’re focused on your body, weight can also easily become part of that cycle–> increased body focus/ desire to lose weight–> restriction–> deprivation–> reactive eating–> guilt–> increased body focus
If you’re giving yourself permission to nourish your body (including candy + forbidden foods) and still struggling- remember- this is a process and it takes time. Even if you’re eating enough food- if you’ve previously restricted candy, labeled it as bad, or have food rules around candy (at any point in your history) the thoughts alone can create deprivation that leads to reactive eating. This is where permission, eating candy, and building body trust will help you move forward- but it is a process.
2. Explore your current relationship with candy. Consider your thoughts and beliefs about candy, your food rules around candy and sweets, what candy was like in your home growing up, both your strongest and earliest memories of candy, how you feel when you eat candy, what your current experiences around candy are like.
Your history with candy can keep you stuck in feeling out of control or provide valuable insight into why you feel the way you do around candy. So often you got stuck on how out of control you feel which leads to restriction. Usually this leads to all or nothing candy eating. You’re either eating all the candy or none. When you’re in this space- you can’t seem to find the neutral ground or see the bigger picture. You’re trapped in your past experiences, food rules, beliefs, and family patterns. It’s important to explore this more because it will help you find freedom!
It’s not the candy- it’s your thoughts and beliefs about candy. Try to keep in mind that it’s your thoughts around candy that aren’t neutral. Candy is neutral- but your thoughts aren’t. When you can explore your history, food rules, thoughts, etc- then you can begin to understand your behaviors and shift your thinking to neutral. As you do this, candy will become more neutral too.
3. Eat Candy. There’s no way around it. To feel at peace with candy- you have to eat candy! This works on permission and creates habituation with candy.
Because candy has so many unique flavors, textures, memory associations, etc. I recommend starting with just one kind of candy or flavor of candy. This is so that you can work on permission and habituation one candy at a time- otherwise candy will stay novel and exciting- which makes it harder to find peace with candy and likely lead to feeling more out of control.
The goal is not to become tired of candy- the goal is to know that you have permission to have candy whenever you want it. This builds habituation and candy loses that forbidden allure. Now, if you’re comfortable- you can certainly start with eating all candy! I’m not saying don’t do it- just that in general if you’re feeling really out of control a way to feel safer is to start with one candy and treat each different candy like a different challenge food.
So give yourself permission to enjoy the candy. Have the candy whenever you want it. You can even experiment with what it’s like and how you feel only eating candy (I know that sounds scary or unbelievable) but just for an instance- imagine it- imagine how you’ll feel. Imagine giving yourself permission to do that. Maybe even do it and see what really happens.
As you eat candy be present and enjoy it. Notice the tastes, textures, flavor combinations, how it feels in your mouth and in your body, the thoughts you have, the memories associated with it. Notice how you feel before, during and after eating.
It’s this awareness and radical permission that gives you freedom. And again, ironically what you’ll find is that the more you know and truly believe that you can have candy whenever you want it- the less you’ll want it. You’ll still have it, but it will be so different than when it’s been restricted or forbidden.
As unbelievable as it may seem- it’s not about changing your food (aka eliminating candy) its about changing how you think and feel about food.
If this sounds or feels overwhelming, I recommend checking out Intuitive Eating, The Intuitive Eating Workbook, or The F*ck It Diet. I also encourage you to reach out for support from a haes dietitian who can help you challenge your thoughts about food and body so that you can find freedom. If you’re looking for support in dropping out of diet culture, check out my free guide: The Ultimate Guide To Become A Diet Culture Dropout.
What candy will you try first?