As the holiday season begins with Halloween, it can be frightening to think of all the candy and sweets that will be everywhere; at the office, stuffed on store shelves, at your child’s school and probably in your own home. It can be overwhelming for anyone who has been raised in America’s diet culture, but especially for those who are in recovery from disordered eating.
Because of this onslaught, the desire to police your food or your child’s food arrives to help you cope and ends up adding to your stress. This blog is here to help you support yourself and your children through the food frenzy of Halloween and the upcoming holidays.
Give yourself permission to enjoy “forbidden foods”. Restriction creates binging. All studies document that when you restrict a food or food group, the thought of it permeates through all else and will eventually cause you to binge on that food. It can be hard to deal with all the rhetoric that “sugar is unhealthy,” but stress is unhealthy and restriction causes a lot of undo stress. Most nutritionists don’t recommend restricting candy, but do recommend including it with meals. Eating the sugar with protein, fat and carbohydrates is a bit easier on your body and blood sugar. However, this is NOT A RULE. Eating it on its own is perfectly acceptable. You are far more likely to eat less candy when you satisfy your craving than trying to substitute with fruit, veggies or water. ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY!
The same is true for your children. Allow them to enjoy and eat candy freely. The more you restrict it for them the more they will want to eat in a single sitting.
Check in with your body
After eating candy or forbidden foods, check in with your body. Not your feelings, your body. Our feelings of shame or rule breaking can be overpowering, but try to get still and experience your body. Ask yourself how it feels? Where are you feeling things in your body? Does it feel the same, different, better, worse, or content? Are you satisfied? Was that the candy you wanted? Was it the taste you wanted? If you were/are going to have another, would it be that candy or would you choose another?
As a parent, you can support your child with this same process. Have them investigate their body and how it feels after candy. Help them decide if they want more or are done. Help them choose what taste they want and if they even like the last candy they ate. Help them savor and enjoy their holiday. Allow them to eat as much candy as they want on Halloween night and explain that this is a holiday. Then when they have had their fill, let them put away their candy in some place accessible and choose candy to eat at meal times. Help them claim autonomy in their food choices and decisions.
Remind yourself and your family that there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Food has no morality, but we all know that there are foods that serve us better than others. It can be helpful to phrase it this way, there are “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods”.
Everyday we need foods that make us feel good and support us both physically and emotionally. Sometimes we crave other things. Sometimes we need to adjust how we eat based on how we’re feeling. Sometimes we eat (or don’t eat) things for specific holidays, celebrations, religious ceremonies and many more reasons. This is normal. Changing how we eat throughout the year is normal. Always has been and always will be. Try slowing down and enjoying the now, the sometimes, the holiday with your loved ones and the food around you.