Taking the Scary Out of Halloween (Candy)

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. When we were kids, my brothers and I would get back from trick-or-treating and immediately tally up our pieces (to see who “won”, obviously).  We would also create piles and categorize the candy from least to most favorite.  Anything we didn’t really enjoy (for me that meant Tootsie pops/rolls, Almond Joys/Mounds and Whoppers), would be traded for candies we did love (York Peppermint Patties, Twix and Reese’s Cups were my jams).

As an adult, I still love everything about Halloween. I love a good costume (not counting “sexy” anything–I hate those). I love scary movies, handing out candy and of course, enjoying some of it myself too. Reese’s cups are still in my favorites pile.  Most of all, I look forward to dressing Rocky up every year.

The last few years on Halloween, I’ve also participated in The Teal Pumpkin Project. If you haven’t heard of it yet, The Teal Pumpkin Project is an effort to allow kids with food allergies to still be able to participate in Trick-or-Treating, by offering up non-candy treats, such as tattoos, bubbles, stickers and toys. 

While I participate as a way to acknowledge and accomodate little ones with (potentially life threatening) food allergies, I also appreciate the opportunity to give kids options for their treats.  We all know there is plenty of candy to be had at other homes, so if my trick-or-treaters want to choose a toy at my house instead, I’m all for it. 

Last year, someone in our neighborhood saw that I was giving away toys and (accurately) guessed that I must work in a health and wellness field. She was correct, but I hope the assumption was because I was accommodating kiddos with allergies, not because it seemed I was discouraging sweets.

I don’t want to be put in the category of houses that give away apples or toothbrushes at Halloween. I’m most definitely not anti-sugar or sweets. I have plenty of candy to offer too, and no it’s not organic, low-sugar or otherwise “healthified”. Here’s where I stand on treating yo-self (or your kids) on Halloween:

The bigger deal you make about candy and sugar, the more your kids will see it as something that is “bad” or should be feared. 

 

A key principle of Intuitive Eating is unconditional permission to eat. All foods. The sugary kinds, too. Rather than allowing this super fun holiday to become a memory of fear and rules surrounding food, I encourage you to try encouraging a healthy relationship with sweets and maintain a focus on the costumes and fun with friends. This Halloween, test out these tips for a non-diet approach to trick-or-treating:

  • Relax with the rules. Setting rules and restrictions surrounding candy creates a mindset of rebellion and may encourage secret eating or binging. 
  • Talk to your kids about candy. Ask what their favorites and least favorites are. Talk to them about how it makes them feel. See if they maybe want to trade or get rid of the candies that aren’t their favorites. Consider donating some candy to organizations like Operation Gratitude or Soldiers’ Angels.
  • Create some structure. I’m not a parent, but I do know that a key function of parenting is providing structure for children. Allow your kids to work on self-regulating by encouraging them to choose what candy they’d like at snack or dessert times.  Suggest they think about how many pieces may be “enough” for them to feel satisfied, so they can enjoy their stash for a longer time period or determine what else they can do with it.
  • Think before you speak. Model intuitive eating principles by giving yourself permission to eat candy and taking your time to truly enjoy it. Avoid talking about how “bad” sweets are or how you “should” only have one piece. Kids are smart and they’re always paying attention. 

And my favorite…

  • Calm down, please. One night (or even a few nights) of sugar “overload” is not going to cause harm, while instilling fear around foods and encouraging restriction can set your child up for years of unhealthy behaviors. Let’s keep the fun in Halloween (and all other holidays), shall we?

Happy Halloween! Tell me…what is your favorite treat this time of year? What goes in your trade pile?

An Apology

An Apology

I’m back! It’s been over 4 months since I last shared here and I have to say I’m so thankful for that break.  I appreciate y’all sticking with me during my blogging silence, but can’t wait to get back to sharing, ranting and creating conversation in this space.  In my time off from blogging, I’ve done a lot of growing, learning and reading. I immersed myself in ANTI-DIET culture and am now a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.  In the coming months, you’ll be seeing a lot more on Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size here, but today I want to start with an apology.  I’m sorry for the things I’ve said, done and recommended when I myself was caught up in diet culture.  You see…dietitians aren’t immune to some of the influences of the media and popular culture. Our education and experience as “nutrition experts” was supposed to empower us to help others, but too often I think it functions to fuel diet rules and restrictions. 

Looking back, I cringe thinking about how many times I told people to ask for a to-go box immediately upon ordering at a restaurant, sending the message that they should ignore hunger and fullness cues and only eat half a meal.  I can’t tell you how many times I suggested someone brush their teeth right after dinner to avoid sweets or eating more. Eek. Worst of all, I would recommend clients pass up the warm bread baskets at restaurants! Do you know how delicious fresh bread (with butter) is?!

But when you know better, you do better. And now I know not only that diets don’t work but that there is another way, so I want to spread that message.  I want consumers to recognize (and truly believe) that the diets are failing them, not the other way around. I want other dietitians to be willing and open to look beyond their training and become non-diet, weight-inclusive practitioners. So here I am, spreading the word and apologizing for not getting on board sooner.

If you’ve seen the words “anti-diet”  and thought, what the heck is that?, you’re not alone. As a dietitian, it’s a given that we prescribe diets–right? WRONG.

The first (though not necessarily most important) principle of Intuitive Eating is Rejecting the Diet Mentality. For many of us, dieting has simply become a way of life and it’s tough to remember what it’s like to NOT focus on weight management or controlling our food intake in one way or another. It does seem as though the tide is shifting and people are starting to recognize that diets simply don’t work. However, diet culture is still flourishing, especially with companies maneuvering around the term “diet” and re-branding their programs as sustainable, “lifestyle changes”.

If you’ve gotten to the point of being frustrated, angry, annoyed or just plain sick of diet culture, welcome to the club! Learning to tune into your body and rediscover true health is not easy. It’s not a simple switch. But it’s possible. Here are my top 3 tips for ditching diet culture and getting started on your intuitive eating journey:

  1. Unfollow and stop supporting people who are engaging in or pushing diet culture. Their messages are what normalizes dieting and tricks you into believing you should be on a diet.  Some telltale signs to look for: before-and-after photos and posts about Whole 30/Shakeology/Macro Counting, etc. As soon as I see one of these things in my social media feeds, I hit unfollow! 
  2. Do not engage in conversations that involve negative body talk, fat phobia, food shaming, etc. You may even have become immune to these types of conversations by now, but try to start paying closer attention…The woman at work who is talking about how “fat” she feels after missing a few days at the gym, your friend you’re out to dinner with who says she is going to be “good” and only order a salad. You don’t need to “correct” these comments/statements, as the person may not be ready to hear it, but you can choose not to engage.
  3. Let go of judgement. In order to change a thought or behavior, we must first be aware of it, so noticing your tendencies to lean into diet culture or participate in the above conversations is key. Pay close attention, but be gentle with yourself–no need to judge, belittle or beat yourself up.

Ready to work on this? I’m here to help and so are lots of other anti-diet dietitians. Check out my resources page for a few of my fave fellow IE/HAES dietitian friends.

RD Real Talk Round Table

Also, if you happen to be an RD, Dietetic Intern or nutrition student who wants to learn more about the Anti-Diet Approach, don’t miss the first RD Real Talk Round Table event (affiliate link), hosted by Heather Caplan.  I’m honored to be participating, along with Christy Harrison, Anne Mauney and Robyn Nohling. You can sign up to attend a live discussion or purchase the recording and listen in later. Early Bird Pricing ends TOMORROW, so register now!