If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, Halloween might be the most dangerous. Sure, there are goblins and vampires (often, very cute ones) taking to the streets in droves. But I’m talking about candy. Eating too much Halloween candy can give you a bellyache and a cavity or two, but it can also set you down a slippery slope as you head into the holiday season.
In this post, I’m going to share how you can keep yourself from eating too much Halloween candy. But first, I want to just talk about that slippery slope.
One-Time Thing, or the Start of a Habit?
If you know me at all, both personally and as a dietitian, you know that I don’t believe in “good foods” and “bad foods.” Food doesn’t have moral value.
You also know that I’d NEVER tell someone to avoid candy altogether if they enjoy it. In fact, I believe that constantly white-knuckling your way through candy cravings will likely result in a serious candy bender.
But (and I say this with love), there is a pretty big difference between enjoying a piece of candy or five on Halloween night and grabbing a couple of pieces from the candy stash one or more times per day.
Most of us buy our candy at least a few days in advance, if not a couple of weeks. And when you get into a pattern of daily dips into the candy bowl, you set up a habit that can be hard to break long after the trick or treaters stop ringing your doorbell. But why is that the case?
Habits form in a cycle that consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward.
Let’s say you spot the candy dish on the kitchen counter every time you walk through. That’s your cue.
So, you grab a piece of candy. That’s your routine.
Immediately, you think, “this candy is delicious!” That’s your reward.
Do you think your brain just forgets how delicious that candy is the next time you pass through the kitchen? If only! Instead, that memory of delicious candy only makes you more likely to take another piece. This is the beginning of a habit.
Now, you might be thinking, “eventually, I’ll run out of candy and be in the clear.” And that might be the case, but it’s usually not that simple.
Here’s why: Because that cue of walking through the kitchen isn’t going to go away. And once you get into the routine of satisfying your sweet tooth in response to that trigger, you’ll find other ways to get your fix. Holiday goodies, anyone?
How to Keep from Eating too Much Halloween Candy
When it comes to your health and fitness, we’ve established that a daily candy routine probably isn’t in your best interest.
So how can you keep yourself from eating too much Halloween candy?
You could keep it out of the house, of course, or hide it in your tallest cabinet. And if Halloween candy is your only vice, that might work. But if you have lots of food cravings, hiding the candy is just slapping a band-aid on a much bigger issue. Working with a dietitian (like me!) can help you to get to the root of your food cravings and help you to feel in control of them even when you’re around your trigger foods.
But let’s say you don’t regularly have food cravings–you just want some candy during the Halloween season.
Here’s my advice to you:
- Eat it only when you’re truly hungry.
- Remember the law of diminishing returns with food–the most enjoyment comes from the first 2-3 bites. Try to really savor those first couple of bites and stop there.
- When you’re having a craving and you’re not hungry, create some space between you and the candy. Urge surfing is one tool that can help with that.
- Plan out your indulgences, keeping the habit loop in mind. If you want a single piece every day, fine. But try to vary your routine a bit so you don’t start to semi-consciously grab candy every time you walk through the kitchen.
- Be aware of your cravings and behaviors after Halloween is over. Have they gone away? If not, what’s your plan?
Hopefully, this helps give you some ideas to keep you from eating too much Halloween candy. But if not, I can help! Email [email protected] and let me know all about your candy cravings.