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.”