Halloween is upon us. Are you feeling stressed about it? Perhaps you’re worried about having all that chocolate in your house, and you don’t trust yourself not to binge on it. Perhaps ‘Fright Night’ has a whole different meaning for you…
Perhaps you’re worried about your kids and how much sugar they’ll be consuming.
I know both of these used to be worries for me. Growing up in South Africa, Halloween didn’t feature. But when we moved to the UK, suddenly I was overwhelmed! We didn’t like the commercialisation of it: the specially made, themed and packaged confectionery, the disposable costumes, the cheap tricks; mostly though, I was scared of being around all that chocolate. In those days we had two small children – and I was still in the mindset of ‘sugar is poison and it should never touch their (or my) lips.’ I spent a lot of energy attempting either to avoid Halloween, or to make it more acceptable to our values.
Where we live, the tradition is to leave a lit pumpkin within view of passersby – this indicates the householder’s participation in trick-or-treating. Our first few Halloweens in the UK, we didn’t participate. This was definitely part avoidance on my part, but also we wanted to create traditions that were meaningful to us as a family. I would make pumpkin pie, and we’d sit in the dark, with a few lit candles and a carved, lit pumpkin, telling stories of our family history and ancestors. Those were precious, soft, nurturing experiences for our family, and ones I remember with tenderness and don’t regret for a second.
As our girls got a bit older and entered school, Halloween fever caught on and they wanted to be part of the action. Because I was still steeped in Diet Culture and still belonged to the Sugar-Is-The-Root-Of-All-Evil club, I tried all sorts of things to minimise their (and my) exposure to it. A few times I individually wrapped little parcels of nuts and dried fruit for the door knockers (they weren’t very impressed, and I’d usually find them discarded the next morning on the pavement outside our house). Once or twice I wrapped 5 pence coins in foil – that was very popular!
But when our kids went out trick or treating, that was particularly worrying for me. I didn’t want them eating so much sugar all at once… so we’d get them to select their favourites and buy the rest from them (with their full permission of course).
The trouble was we were then saddled with sweets no one liked. We could have thrown them away of course, and we probably did once or twice. But when we didn’t, guess who ate them?
Yep, me (if I wasn’t on a diet).
My husband would have one or two. He could take them or leave them.
But not me. I’d make my way through them until I was felt physically sick enough or disgusted enough with myself to throw them away.
Years down the line, I’ve learned so much – and I’m still learning.
If I were doing this all over again, knowing what I know now, what would I do?
The whole picture would look very different because I’ve learned that:
- Sugar is not poison and it’s not addictive. It is not the root of all evil, and avoiding it won’t protect us from disease.
- If we don’t interfere with our kids’ inner guidance system of what to eat, what not to eat, and when to stop, they grow up trusting their own bodies.
- I’m allowed chocolate too, and I can eat it without fear. I can trust myself to eat until I’m satisfied.
So – if my kids were little now, how would I approach Halloween?
- Keep the meaningful, cosy storytelling of our ancestors – it was fun, nourishing and connecting!
- Buy the best quality chocolates I could afford for the monsters and ghouls – so that they would be likely to actually enjoy them.
- Depending on their age, let our kids have control of their stash and trust them with it. If they were to eat to the point of nausea, or an upset stomach, then that’s an opportunity to draw the connection between the behaviour and the consequence, without making them wrong for it.
- Make sure I had things I like to eat, including any special Halloween goodies, so I wouldn’t be likely to steal from my kids!
Then, when eating the chocolate, here’s what I’d endeavour to do as much as possible, and something you can try this Halloween:
- Choose a chocolate or sweet you really like
- Look at it! Feast your eyes on the food before you – look at it as if you’ve never seen this before
- Smell it
- Put it in your mouth and gently move it around for a few seconds – notice what happens!
- Slowly chew it – notice how that tastes – notice how the taste changes as you have it in your mouth
- Gently swallow – and follow the action all the way down
- Notice how the taste lingers in your mouth
- Keep doing this till you’ve had enough!
When you can be mindful with it, the scary part of Halloween can be left to costumes and tricks. The food part of it can be fun and highly enjoyable!
Let me know how it goes for you this year.
Do you want to stop struggling with food and eating?
I help my clients create a joyful and sustainable relationship with food and deal with their eating issues. Learn more about hiring me as your coach.