Last year I posted how Halloween is the only day of the year that I do not regulate my kid’s sugar intake and actually allow our kids to eat as much candy as they want. I received a lot of comments on social media and I liked learning about how other families approach such a big candy holiday.
Halloween is such a fun and memorable holiday and my family loves it. As a kid, the concept of dressing up and just knocking on your neighbor’s door and getting FREE candy? Amazing. Halloween used to be a one day holiday but now it seems that there are endless trunk-or-treat events and other Halloween themed activities. With all that fun comes so much candy. Though I am not a huge fan of the endless amounts of candy, it is the reality of the holiday. Yet, for many, with all that candy comes a lot of guilt.
My ninja and Batgirl (who is actually nocturnal) at a Trunk-or-Treat Event.
The days after Halloween we often hear about parents sneaking their favorite candies from their kid’s baskets or how all the candy is going to be thrown away because of the temptation to eat it. We are then inundated with pictures on social media of how many burpees we have to do to work off the bite-sized Snickers bar. Some of us might overindulge and experience guilt and feel that we have to increase our exercise time or we stay completely away from the candy because we are too worried about the extra calories, fat, and sugar.
We all know that healthy food is critical for our overall well-being. However, having a healthy relationship with food is also very important. One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children how to take care of their bodies with good food and movement. What our children learn, observe and eat as young children can have an impact on their preferences later in life. Just as they learn about healthy food from us, they also learn what kind of relationship to have with food. Most of our food choices should be nutritious and fuel our bodies but some foods are eaten occasionally and though maybe not best for our bodies, taste good, are fun and part of holidays and special activities. If our children never see us eat a piece of candy or eat it and then feel riddled with guilt what are they learning on how to approach treats? Can we simply eat a few pieces of our favorite candy once in a while and enjoy it without shame and guilt? Don’t get me wrong, I think as a country we consume way too much sugar and do really think it is linked to many, many of our health problems. Most of the time, I think we should eat a low sugar diet. However, I think constantly restricting ourselves from small indulgences can backfire as well.
It took me years to get over the guilt and even sometimes shame with certain food choices. In past Halloweens, I would often overindulge because I was ALWAYS restricting and then the next day feel guilty and feel that I need to workout harder or longer to burn off those extra mini-candy bars I consumed. As I have talked about in the past, now I approach my nutrition with a much more moderate approach and consume small treats more often but probably much less overall. I no longer feel the need to eat an entire bag of candy because I have not had any in months. I honestly have a small sweet almost daily which I believe is much better for me physically and mentally.
So how do I approach special occasion eating differently now?
First, I acknowledge just that. It is ‘special occasion’ eating. I do not eat like this all the time. I eat very well 85-90% of the time. The rest of the time is for enjoyment. Second, I no longer correlate exercise with burning off any specific foods consumed. Exercise should not be done solely to burn off what was eaten. Exercise should be done to become stronger, move our bodies in ways that feel good, for stress reduction, mental health benefits, among countless other benefits. I do not workout the day following a holiday because I ate one too many mini Butterfingers, I workout because I love to exercise. Sure, calorie burning is a benefit of exercise but trying to burn a certain amount of calories based on what you consumed the previous day is making exercise punishment. As a fitness professional, I will no longer make comments to my class or clients about working out extra hard because of an upcoming special day or after the holiday to burn the calories off. Again, exercise should not be a form of punishment. If you view exercise as something you have to do because of the choices you have made, how likely are you to stick with it? Will you truly enjoy it? Lastly, if I do feel guilty about overindulging, I acknowledge it but I am not going to waste mental energy berating myself or feeling guilty. I remind myself that it is simply time to move on and get back to making good choices most of the time.
So as I approach one of my all-time favorite holidays, I am not ridden with anxiety that I will either not be able to control myself with all the candy around nor will pretend that I do not want any candy. I will simply go through my kids trick-or-treat buckets and pick out a few of my favorites and enjoy them, no guilt, no shame.
Hope you and your family have a very happy and safe Halloween!
The entire Batgirl/Ninja Gang!