Halloween: Trick or Treat or #worthit?

By Judith

Here in Salem, Massachusetts, Halloween is a month-long event.

Just a few days into October, my daughter had already collected a gallon-sized Ziploc bag filled with Halloween candy. There are Halloween parades and parties, downtown events, and of course, the big night of trick or treating on October 31. It’s a big deal around here!

I’m not alone in having a house full of fun size candy bars. Many of you are also in the swing of the season already. So, what to do? Halloween is pretty easy to handle during a round of Whole30. It’s cut and dry, black and white – no candy!

But what happens when you’re in your life AFTER Whole30, navigating your personal Food Freedom? Is candy worth it? One piece? Five pieces? How do you decide?

Before we run through the “worth it” questions outlined in Food Freedom Forever, I wanted to share some thoughts from members of our Facebook group. We asked them how THEY deal with Halloween candy overload – and how they stay focused on eating mindfully (not perfectly!) during this challenging month.

  • One local Salem friend in the group says: “I’d tell people — Do not ask yourself if you ‘deserve’ the candy. It’s a loaded question and one’s value certainly outweighs a piece of candy. It’s more: ‘Am I willing to deal with the consequences of this?’ It’s never just whatever calories, it’s usually disappointment in oneself for not having control, it’s a renewed sugar dragon, it’s a slippery slope. I have had the single piece of candy and only when I felt I just want one, and that was all. I look at my kids already partially filled baskets and have no interest. If I didn’t do a September round of Whole30, I’m sure I’d be dipping in. I may get tired and think if I have candy it will perk me up! But I get two times the crash. I don’t have time for the crash. So, for me the headache, is it worth the one minute of tasty candy? Never! I’d rather wait and have another homemade fall treat like cooked apples with cinnamon. It feels decadent and doesn’t give me a hangover. Fall flavors like pumpkin, spices and apple have many healthy and less processed ways to be enjoyed.
  • Another group member who’s enjoying her Food Freedom says she reminds herself that a craving lasts roughly 3-5 minutes. “If I feel like I really want a piece of candy (not just Halloween), I set the piece of candy on the counter and “busy” myself. Usually, when I get back to the counter, I’m like…nah. If I do still want it, I get myself a glass of ice water. I take my piece of candy and sit in my favorite seat. I take joy in unwrapping said piece of candy. I take small, savory bites and enjoy!
  • Being mindful is also the name of the game for another member, who has constant reminders of candy due to her job in a school. She says: “I work at a school, and right now (until the end of December, really) there are all kinds of candy and goodies around that people bring to share. One of the things I have learned about myself: If it is store-bought, it is never worth it (because it just doesn’t taste that great), so skipping those is never an issue. But Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my dragon…I always ask myself this question: Do I really WANT this right now, or am I just looking for a sugar fix? Many times, the sight of the candy has me just looking for a fix. Those are the times I MOSTLY mindfully walk by and do not indulge. Every once in a while, I really do WANT one, and I allow myself to eat it (slowly, so I can enjoy it) and then I am done. I do not think about it, I do not worry about it. The simple question makes me stop and think…and that is when I make better and more mindful choices.”
  • For another group member, her desire for Halloween candy has to be balanced with her willingness to deal with a consequence. She says: “Sugar wakes up my eczema in a big way. One piece of candy and my knuckles and ankles flare up first. Lucky for me, Halloween is the tail end of apple season here in Vermont. I have convinced myself I’d much rather bite into a crisp, tart Macintosh than have a painful flare-up. I also have a late October birthday and anniversary and instead of the traditional cake and ice cream, we usually serve baked apples with cinnamon or forgo a treat all together. Just don’t feel like I need it anymore.”
  • Another group member says it’s easier for her to keep the candy visible to remind herself that it’s always there if she wants it. She says: “For me, I keep the candy in plain sight. Weird, I know but if I see it and know it’s always there than I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself. I always have dark chocolate on my desk at work and knowing it’s right there and I can it anytime makes it easier to just have one on those days that I really want one. Plus, I get instant heartburn so I really ask myself IS IT WORTH the physical pain. Some days it is, some days it isn’t.”
  • On a similar note, another member says she doesn’t deprive herself of candy, but rather enjoys it with some self-imposed rules. She adds: “For the few candies that I have decided are worth it, I treat them like a dessert after a meal. If they are mini/fun sized, I will allow myself up to four pieces once a day, or one piece if it’s full sized. I only let myself have then AFTER a full meal to help prevent overdoing it. I also eat them very, very slowly. That way, I can truly savor it. I rarely make it through what my allotted amount is when I do it this way.”

For me, I love the list of “worth it” questions that Melissa shares in Food Freedom Forever (I definitely recommend this book if you don’t yet have it – it is SO helpful for navigating life after Whole30!) She reminds us that “a treat isn’t really a treat if it’s going to mess you up.” Here are the questions she encourages you to consider as you determine if something is “worth it.” (And yes – this seems like A LOT of work at first but trust me that it gets easier over time and with practice.)

  • Will it promote cravings or make my Sugar Dragon roar?
  • Will it make me feel lethargic or put me on an energy roller coaster?
  • Will it disrupt my sleep?
  • Will it mess up my digestion or leave me with gas or bloating?
  • Will it negatively impact my mood, attention span, focus, or motivation?
  • Will it make my symptoms (pain, swelling, fatigue) flare up?
  • Will it trigger an adverse reaction (asthma, migraines, skin breakouts)?
  • And the be-all-end-all question: “Will this mess me up?”

She reminds us that Food Freedom is “the perfect balance of healthy and less-healthy-but-worth-it foods eaten in a way that is totally sustainable and keeps you feeling amazing.”

It’s a lot to consider when eye-to-eye with a Fun Size Milky Way. But, at the end of the day, it’s all to help YOU feel empowered over the overload of candy. You call the shots. You make the decisions. Just because the candy is there in front of you doesn’t mean you have to eat it. You can decide how much you want and when you want it.

The beauty of Food Freedom is realizing that food isn’t go anywhere and that just because it’s Halloween, doesn’t mean you HAVE to have all of the candy. Maybe you decide that some of it’s worth it, or maybe you decide that none of it’s worth it. But, maybe on a random Wednesday in December, the candy is worth it. That’s fine. Because as Melissa says, you are an adult, you have a car, and you have money – so you can buy M&M’s any day you want!

However you decide to handle Halloween candy, I hope you feel peace. And if you don’t – don’t beat yourself up and consider it a lesson in Food Freedom. If you had some consequences from what you ate, jot them down so you can remember them for next time. This is a journey – and it takes a long time to figure it all out

I’ll leave you with Melissa’s description of the Food Freedom process, which I love – and return to often in my own journey.

“If it’s not worth it, simply pass. You don’t feel deprived, because the decision was yours…If it is worth it, you accept. You savor. You enjoy it so hard. You eat as much as you need to satisfy the experience…Whatever you decide, no matter how much you eat, you remain in control, because you’re paying attention the entire time. Your second bite only comes after you decide you really want more; your seventh bite is just as savored as the first. When you’ve had enough, you lick your fingers, sigh contentedly, and go right back to your regularly scheduled dietary choices. You successfully deal with any consequences of your choice. You don’t beat yourself up. There is no guilt…At some point, something will send you back toward the Land of Old Habits. You find you don’t feel as awesome and you’re no longer totally in control. But. You don’t panic. You don’t feel like a failure. You don’t wallow in your ice cream. You just return to your reset, already feeling better having taken the first step back towards food freedom.”

Whole30 Pop Quiz

Welcome to our Whole30 Pop Quiz. How well do you know the program? Take our quiz and find out.

1) Which is non-compliant?
2) When reading a label, you see that there's sugar listed in the nutritional facts but not in the ingredients?  Is it compliant?
3) Is fruit juice allowed on Whole30?
4) You go into a coffee shop and order a coffee, no sugar, just black.  You take a sip of it and realize that they put sugar in it.  Do you need to restart?
5) Which fat is non-compliant?
6) Is no snacking a rule or a recommendation?
7) Which is considered SWYPO?
8) Jumping on the scale and looking is a big no-no and would require a restart.  What about taking your measurements?  Do you need to restart?
9) Is Stevia LEAF allowed on the program?
10) Is Cauliflower Gnocchi Compliant?  Ingredients: Cauliflower, Cassava Flour, Potato Starch, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and Sea Salt.

How to Whole30 as a Teacher

I am an educator. It’s in my blood. It doesn’t seem to matter what I am doing because all of life seems to come back to learning and applying knowledge. Whole30 has been no different!

I am also a wife, mom to six kiddos (age range spanning 16 years – which means I will forever have teenagers – Lord help me!). I am a caretaker and as a school administrator in a large urban district working with at-risk students and families. I often do a fantastic job of taking care of everyone else, often at the expense of myself. But, my first Whole30 round in January 2018 changed all of that!

When you work in education, your entire world can be broken down into minutes and acronyms. You spend hours in PLCs learning about how PBL, RTI and MTSS are going to change your world. You work with students who are ADHA, ASD, EBD/LD or OHI and are tasked to create learning environments that are inclusive and differentiated to each individual, unique need. You debate if phonics or whole language is better and then agree on balanced literacy. The hours are of your day are full during the school year and your summer vacation is typically spent regrouping and preparing for the year ahead.

To be successful on Whole30, I focused in and fit it into my world….so let me share my Top 5 Tips for Educators in acronyms just for you!

1. MPLYLP – Meal Plan Like You Lesson Plan (Write it down)
Think about Whole30 in the same way you think about your lesson plans! Pull recipes, make grocery lists, shop and organize your food. I know I need breakfast ready for a quick reheat in the morning. Lunches need to be packed the night before so I can grab and go. I plan and make sure dinner is ready and available. Grab emergency items for when you are extra hungry or need a little something to make it through that afternoon staff meeting! Everything you pre-plan for the week sets you up for success during the day.

2. POW – Prep on Weekends (Don’t fail to prep)
I prep on Saturdays. I grocery shop first thing in the morning and then prep it when I get home. I roast or air fry veggies because roasted veggies are just as yummy cold as they are reheated. Poaching chicken ensures I have a quick protein to add to any meal and I make sure I have hard-boiled eggs on hand. I toss together things like Egg Roll in a Bowl or make easy soups packed with veggies. I keep big meals for the weekend when I have time to BBQ. Snack size bags work great for veggies or meat sticks. Portioning out food makes it ready to go because then there is no excuse.

3. FIP – Find Your Posse
Find your people and support each other. Most people are intrigued with my Whole30 meals and support me if I share my reasoning behind it. Yes, to some it sounds crazy, but people will still cheer you on. Find those people and hang on to them!

4. H3 – Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate (keep those fluids coming)

Water, LaCroix, Hot Tea, Iced Tea, Coffee – whatever it is, grab it! This keeps you going more than you know and is the easiest thing to keep in hand in the classroom or hallway. Buy a fun bottle or insulated cup and keep it filled. This helps regulate your hunger as well.

5. KISS – Keep it Simple Sister/Sir (cold meals, no reheating, grab and go)
Simplicity is key! When I first started, I was making condiments and fancy dishes. Now, the lazy deviled egg is the way to go. I know when I am home, having my tools close at hand makes my time more efficient. Cleaning out my fridge so I don’t have to think about what I am grabbing and if it is compliant is the best.

Following these few steps has made it possible for me to be successful during some of the most difficult times of the year. They also hold me accountable during breaks and summer vacation when the change in routine throws things off. Staying focused through the end will ensure your success and a long string of NSVs!

Here’s to summer vacation, fellow educators…!