Halloween is a fun and festive time of year, but for anyone who struggles with emotional eating, it can also be a touch bitter sweet. (See what I did there. 😉) If you’ve ever found yourself passing by the candy jar a few (dozen) times more than you meant to, or polishing off a bag of candy meant for 20 trick-or-treaters, here are some ways to avoid overeating Halloween candy.
Eat three well-rounded meals and two healthy snacks.
Inside your beautiful brain, you’ve got a watchful little reptile. She’s not scaly or creepy anything; in fact, she’s actually quite nice. Her entire focus is keeping you alive. She dates back to the very first humans, who were always on edge about famine, starvation and, you know, becoming lion food. Although our brains have evolved and you would think our superstores would calm her down, you just can’t talk any sense into her — one little whiff of restriction or deprivation, and she goes nuts. If you’ve ever wondered why your cravings get so intense when you diet, you can thank her. But if you know how to keep her happy, you can keep cravings at bay.
One way to do that is to ensure you’re not firing off any of the alarms for famine or starvation by eating whole, balanced meals at regular intervals throughout the day. If Halloween is a notoriously challenging day for you, swap a day of snacking for a full breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pack plenty of protein and healthy fats into each. For example, breakfast could be a few scrambled eggs with avocado and turkey bacon. Lunch could be a big power bowl with cooked sweet potato, brussels sprouts, kale, quinoa and apples. And dinner could be a hearty stir-fry with grass-fed beef and broccoli sautéed in ghee or olive oil. If you get hungry between meals, don’t deprive yourself — simply have healthy snacks on hand like smoked salmon with cucumber or an apple with peanut butter. A lot of emotional eaters are also dieters, because the two go hand in hand. Until you eat whole meals, it’s going to be challenging to quiet that voice demanding sustenance.
Make sure you look forward to the foods you’re eating.
By the way, those meals above are just suggestions. If any of them don’t get your tastebuds dancing, they’re not your thing and here’s the key: they don’t have to *become* your thing. Instead, think of whatever actually sounds appetizing to you, and find a healthier way to make that. One of the most tempting pitfalls is forcing yourself into eating a meal you don’t enjoy, just because it’s quote-unquote healthy. In reality, that’s the fastest way to get your body (and little reptile upstairs) to rebel.
So make sure your meals actually get you excited. If greasy pizza does it for you, don’t make salad; instead, try to find a way to make a less processed, more green-filled pizza. You could purchase a cauliflower pizza crust and dress it up with fresh mozzarella, garlic, zucchini, bell peppers, artichoke hearts and savory sausage. Or if Chinese food is really what sounds good, maybe you could saute some cauliflower rice with scrambled eggs, shrimp, green onions and soy sauce. You’ll satisfy your mind because it gets a flavor that it actually finds delicious, and you’ll satisfy your body because the ingredients are more nourishing and filling than their processed counterparts.
Check in with what you’re really hungry for.
Resolving emotional eating entirely can’t be boiled down to a few sentences, and usually takes a proven process and mentorship, but one thing that can help when you feel a craving come on is to check in and ask yourself: what am I really hungry for? What’s your body and heart really needing? Food can be an effective way of regulating icky emotions because it does, biologically, help you feel better. But if there is something going on under the surface, food is at best a temporary solution. And at worst, something that never addresses the root cause, and only makes you more frustrated with yourself.
So when you sit with yourself and ask that question… what comes up? Are you stressed and maybe hungry for relaxation, where a night off and a warm bath would feel more soothing than food? Are you worn out and hungry for rest, in which case going to bed early would actually feel more satisfying than a bag of candy? Or are you hungry for connection, where calling a girlfriend, scheduling a date night, or having an honest conversation might actually alleviate the hankering for some goodies? It’s rarely a one-and-done scenario, but with some careful attention to when the cravings creep up and what they might actually be pointing to, you can soothe with self-care instead of food.
Indulge and enjoy.
The keyword here is ENJOY. Often, emotional eaters have so much anxiety around eating that when they finally reach for a piece of candy, they wolf it down without even really savoring it. Have you ever scanned a book, then had to go back and re-read everything to make sure you understood it? Eating quickly is kind of like that. If you eat something without slowing down to really savor the moment and release your anxiety around it, it’s no wonder your body is going to feel unsatisfied and want more — it didn’t get the experience and taste the first time, or the second, or the third. When you do indulge, enjoy the moment. Slow down and be present. Notice every flavor, and how they change throughout the bite. Release the guilt and shame and funky feelings you have around indulging. And see how much different the experience (and your satisfaction) becomes.
So you ate the entire bag…
If you still find yourself elbow-deep in candy, the only thing that turns it from a minor slip-up to a total catastrophe is your mind. If it starts running rampant about what that binge says about you, your health, your future, your ability to eat well, don’t be afraid to call BS. Simply ask yourself: what is the meaning I am bringing to this? And… is it true? For example, if after a binge you start spinning up character insults like I’m the absolute worst and am going to gain 10 pounds after this, check yourself. What’s the meaning you’re bringing to this? That overeating makes you a bad person? That one bag of candy on the lips equals 10 pounds on the hips? Now ask yourself… is it true? If you said no, you’re right my little smart cookie. If you said yes, take a closer look. There are still hundreds of things that make you a good, warm-hearted person no matter how much you eat. You wouldn’t look at your children and think they were bad humans just for over-indulging. And it takes thousands of calories to add up to a single pound, most of which we burn in a given day just by being alive. So while you may feel full and uncomfortable, there’s no way that bag is verifiably setting you back 10 pounds. By checking yourself with those two questions, you can stop the overeating spiral, and choose to start fresh. Because you can do that any time you wish, and that is the truth.
By filling up on food that nourishes at a body level, and taking care of yourself at an emotional level, you’ll be less likely to overdo the Halloween candy, and more likely to bounce back quickly even if you do. One of the beautiful parts about rediscovering a balance with food is that you can enjoy the holidays for what they are meant to be: fun with friends and family, and delicious in a way that satisfies instead of deprives.