It can feel very tempting to “diet” if you’ve eaten too much because dieting can erase the memories and shame of overeating. But research shows that dieting is followed by overeating, weight gain, slowed metabolism, and feelings of depression and moodiness. It’s not worth it! So what’s the answer to overeating?… enjoy the candy! And then move on to normal eating.
I’ve been talking and preparing clients for Halloween all week! This time of year is the start of the crazy “holiday eating season” which starts at Halloween, continues with Thanksgiving, and lasts all the way through Christmas and Hanukkah. But for people who struggle with binge eating and emotional eating, this time of year can feel very up and down. For clients in the restrict–>binge–>feel bad–> repeat cycle, the holidays feel like eating can go from one extreme to the other. If you’re in the cycle and happen to overeat, it’s very easy to say “I will be good”, or “I will watch it” or “I will diet” in order to undo the damage. Once you’re in the dieting phase, your body WILL play catch up and cause intense cravings and urges for the sweets and carbs that are usually “off limits”, just fueling the overeating cycle. It may happen right away, or build up over time. Well, so what’s the answer to overeating if you shouldn’t diet?
Enjoy the candy! I know, it’s a crazy idea. But when we sit down and enjoy the candy we’re eating, we get satisfied. Sometimes our bodies may even tell us we’ve had enough, but don’t worry if that’s not you – it make take a while. This is especially hard with refined food, like Halloween candy! If you’re struggling with this, try eating candy after a meal or try pairing candy with something nutritious like fruit or milk. If we eat this kind of fun food in a healthy way, all it is is FUN food!
3 Tips for Eating Candy in a Conscious Way
1. Eat what you love. Do you love M&M’s or Skittles? Do you like chewy candy like Starbursts or crunchy candy like Butterfinger? We all have favorites and we should eat them! Eating what we love will give us satisfaction.
2. Give away what you don’t love. I’m not a huge fan of the “Switch Witch” (taking all of the child’s Halloween candy away the next morning) but I’m all for giving candy away if it’s candy you don’t love! Donate candy to a homeless shelter, bring it to the office, or simply just throw it away. Nothing is lost if it’s not what you want to eat anyway.
3. For parents: Don’t forget to be excited and enjoy the holiday! Halloween is so much more than just the candy. If you’re concerned about all the sugar, practice Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility for your kids. This gives them structure around food but isn’t restrictive. Halloween is great practice for them to learn about how all foods fit into a healthy lifestyle, and will also help them learn about hunger and fullness. Don’t interfere! Present them opportunities for eating Halloween candy and let them eat as much as they want in the beginning. Have your child store the candy and get it out at appropriate times. This will help the learning process and will reinforce that all foods fit. If you are extremely worried, remember to serve the candy with something nutritious! It’s much easier to listen to cues from your body if you’re eating protein and fiber with sugar.
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Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of Eat With Knowledge in Nyack, NY. She is on a mission to help people heal from diets, and find peace and balance with their food choices. She leads a team of dietitians who support the philosophy, “Feel Fabulous about Food!”
Start your own healing by downloading her Free Stop the Cycle of Binge Eating guide or her Free Hunger – Fullness Scale.