Kelly Neilson, MDA RD LD
How to Avoid Binge Eating Halloween Candy
October is here and fall’s crisp, colorful leaves mean that spooky season is upon us! Many people are eager for all things pumpkin spice, cozy sweaters, costume parties, haunted houses, and fall decorations.
If you're in eating disorder recovery or your relationship with food feels complicated, you might feel uneasy about the huge displays of seasonal treats and Halloween candy everywhere you turn.
Anxious thoughts, feelings of doubt and guilt, and urges to resort to unhealthy coping behaviors are all common tendencies when you’re being challenged during a time like Halloween.
How to avoid bingeing on Halloween candy is a genuine concern, because ultimately you WANT to have fun on Halloween rather than fighting a battle with the Snickers bars and fun size M&M’S all night.
You deserve peace, and Halloween can be filled with food peace rather than binge scares.
Halloween: Trigger or Treat?
Halloween candy, October dishes that feel warm to the soul, and spooky desserts can bring up stress, anxiety, guilt, and shame, also known as fear foods.
The diet culture voice in the back of your mind might worry that the candy corn and marshmallow rice krispie treat from the fall festival will result in weight gain or that the Halloween candy overload will end in an out-of-control binge.
Yes, Halloween can potentially trigger you, especially if you have a history of bingeing on Halloween candy in the past. This year, however, Halloween CAN be the start of new positive experiences that ARE a treat!
If you’re trying to heal your relationship with food, approach Halloween with zero expectations or judgements and instead do your best to lean into this time. Remain curious and open to the idea that there are possibilities for learning more about yourself and building upon your recovery!
How to Avoid Binge Eating Halloween Candy
These tips for how to avoid bingeing on Halloween candy align with the intuitive eating principles and help you reject the diet mentality, honor your body, and find satisfaction from both the yummy Halloween candy and the fun experiences.
Overall it’s best that you come up with a plan with your own dietitian or treatment team that fits your goals, personal needs, and circumstances. Each person’s recovery is unique and all that matters is that your plan for Halloween suits your recovery and the areas you’re currently working on.
Regularly Nourish Yourself Throughout the Day
It might seem appealing to skip meals, fill up on “clean” foods, and “save” calories to compensate for the Halloween candy and party foods later on, but avoiding sugar will backfire eventually.
Restricting in some way shape or form to make up for Halloween candy is really only keeping you confined to the eating disorder and you’ll likely be in a deprived state that will make it far more difficult to connect with your hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues once it’s time for the Halloween festivities.
Physical restriction and mental restriction tend to result in the “last supper effect,” meaning your body will want ALL the candy it can get its hands on once the opportunity presents itself. Your body will sense scarcity and a drive for uncontrollable cravings and impulses to eat NOW will hit.
Bingeing on Halloween candy is the proper biological response because 1) your body searches for quick energy to meet its needs FAST as a survival mechanism and 2) chaotically eating is the only way your body can force you to feed it when it’s unsure if food will be available again.
Eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day and continuing to properly nourish yourself will help you feel energized, balanced, and away from a state of “hanger” so that you can enjoy Halloween candy in a way that feels good according to your natural cues and cravings!
Let Go of the “Halloween Candy Is Bad” Mindset
Labeling foods and thinking that you’re “good” for eating a salad or “bad” for eating Halloween candy is a disordered thought process and only continues to perpetuate restricted feelings that can lead to bingeing.
Food has no moral value, period. Salad is food and Halloween candy is food. Food is just food and all foods serve a purpose.
Try to become aware of your thoughts as Halloween arrives. Black-and-white thinking around food can set you up for extremes. Yes, even thinking you’re bad for eating Tootsie Rolls and labeling them as forbidden creates feelings of deprivation.
Practice rewiring the way your brain thinks about food and shifting your mindset to view foods as neutral. This will help lessen the power food has on you!
Give Yourself Unconditional Permission to Eat Halloween Candy
In order to “not feel crazy” around Halloween candy, the key is to call a truce and end the constant tug-of-war! You do this by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.
Without any hidden agendas of future restriction such as I’ll work out extra hard tomorrow or I’ll eat it just this once, fully allow yourself to eat the Halloween candy that you desire. The intense pull to binge on Halloween candy diminishes when you get rid of rules and release the “off-limits” mentality around it.
Work on normalizing Halloween candy and incorporating it into your daily life. When Halloween candy doesn’t feel so rare and you know that you can eat candy whenever you want, there’s no urgency or rush to eat it all in one sitting.
Establishing food habituation, where you’re exposed to a Halloween candy long enough to the point it doesn’t become as exciting as it once was, also makes it easier to honor your fullness in the moment and recognize when you’re satisfied from it.
Focus on the Big Picture of Halloween and Candy
Food is not only about hunger and fullness, it can be enjoyed for pleasure, nostalgia, tradition, and culture. You might not eat a gobstopper on Halloween out of “hunger,” but rather because it reminds you of childhood and it’s a fun food to enjoy when trick-or-treating.
Eating intuitively allows you to approach Halloween with less of an all-or-nothing mindset and instead experience Halloween candy by feeling satisfied from all the tastes and flavors and appreciating Halloween for what it is as a whole.
When you can truly taste the candy because you’re not concerned about judging the food anymore, you also might discover that a specific candy you used to binge on is no longer as good as you remember.
Intuitive eating helps you live in the grey, where you can honor your hunger and fullness cues while also finding pleasure, satisfaction, and enjoyment in Halloween candy. Ultimately, with recovery, more brain space opens up for you to get excited about making memories and all that Halloween entails!
Worried About a Halloween Candy Binge? Let’s Talk!
This Halloween, lean on your support system, and most importantly, take care of yourself and your recovery. Of course Halloween is a great opportunity to challenge yourself, but if it feels too overwhelming there’s nothing wrong with staying home or arranging small plans with trusted friends.
If you’re worried about how to avoid binge eating Halloween candy, now is the perfect time to connect with a dietitian skilled in treating eating disorders and disordered eating. I offer a one-on-one approach to help you heal your relationship with food and your body. Let’s work together to make this Halloween one with food freedom!