It’s Not You, It’s Your Environment: How to Avoid Overeating Halloween Candy
By Pam Moore
While Halloween might be spooky, what’s scary is how you feel after a candy binge.
As an adult, I have the freedom to eat Halloween candy until I’m sick. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In fact, it is decidedly a bad idea.
The good news is, you don’t have to change the essential part of yourself that loves candy in order to ignore sugar’s siren call. The key to controlling your candy consumption is to take the emphasis off changing yourself. Instead, focus on changing your environment.
It’s Just Not Realistic to Stop Enjoying Sugary Treats
Science has repeatedly proved what many of us already know; sugar is addictive. A recent study in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care found that sugary sweets were even more attractive to lab rats than cocaine.
Additionally, the mechanism that causes our brains to release dopamine, the “reward” hormone, is much more consistent when the stimulus is sweets. The study authors conclude that this may be nature’s way of ensuring we seek and consume calorie-dense foods.
Biology aside, there’s no denying candy tastes good. For most of us, the sensation of crunching into an apple will never replace the mouth-watering rush of biting into the soft flesh of a Swedish Fish.
Avoid the Temptation of Halloween Candy Without Using Up Your Willpower
What’s more, science has proven we only have a certain amount of willpower to see us through the day.
It is no coincidence that stores display candy at the cash register. Marketers know that by the time we get to the checkout, we’re tired of making decisions and we’re more likely to buy something (i.e. candy) on impulse. This phenomenon, called decision fatigue, is real.
With so many factors compelling us to eat Halloween treats, what’s a health-conscious candy-lover to do?
Create an environment that minimizes or eliminates the temptation and makes it easy for you to make healthy choices. Save your energy for the decisions that matter, not willing yourself to resist the candy stash.
Here’s three easy strategies to take control of your Halloween candy cravings:
Get Rid of Halloween Candy
The Switch Witch is an excellent “helper” for parents looking for a way get rid of candy without being the bad guy. The friendly witch simply takes the candy and leaves a non-food present in its place shortly after Halloween.
Alternatively, you could have an “unofficial” switch fairy come to your house, akin to the tooth fairy.
The Switch Witch concept was designed for parents wishing to keep their kids from eating too much candy. But, it also ensures that the parents don’t break into the kids’ stash after they’re tucked in for the night.
Whether you are left with more candy than your trick-or-treaters could take or you’re looking to get rid of your kids’ candy haul, another great option is The Halloween Candy Buy Back program. Typically, a local dentist or other small business will pay a dollar per pound of candy, then ship it to American troops stationed overseas. Send your candy where it is truly appreciated instead of in the landfill, or worse, in your belly. To see if a local business is sponsoring a buy back in your community, visit the program’s website.
Plan Your Meals & Snacks
When you hit that late afternoon slump, it’s only human to choose candy at your fingertips over a bag of unwashed, unpeeled carrots at the bottom of your vegetable crisper.
But what if your carrots were ready to eat in an easily accessible Tupperware?
Prepping veggies as you need them only makes it easy to to let them rot before you get to them. Instead, find a time each week to prepare a variety of healthy snacks at once.
You could fill a gallon-sized plastic bag with sliced vegetables and take out a few when you want a snack. Alternatively, you could put trail mix or nuts into snack-sized containers to toss in your bag before you head out.
Similarly, a little meal planning goes a long way. While there are countless apps designed to simplify the process, choosing the “right” one might be overwhelming. (Remember decision fatigue?)
It’s okay to keep it simple. Your system could be as low-tech as sitting down with your calendar and a piece of paper. Start by noting which nights you will be eating out and which nights you will be available to cook. Plug in the meals you’d like to eat and the nights on which you’d like to eat them. Make a shopping list accordingly. Then, all you have to do is hit the grocery store or submit your order with your favorite online shopping tool.
As long as you ensure there is enough food for leftovers or a simple meal (e.g. salad or a tuna melt) on the nights you’re pressed for time, you will be well on your way to avoiding the temptation of going out to eat, grabbing take-out, or worse, filling up on candy.
As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail.”
Take Control of Your Schedule
When scheduling meetings or social engagements, take the opportunity to meet in places that won’t tempt you to overindulge. It’s just as easy to talk over a walk or a hike as it is over a meal.
Meet for coffee or tea in the morning. It’s a great alternative to happy hour, when the temptation to order a plate of wings or fries is strong.
Recommend a restaurant that offers healthy selections, or one that’s within walking distance from your office. And schedule the time it takes to walk there on your calendar.
If you’re meeting someone for a meal in a social context, you could suggest cooking together at your home or meeting for a picnic if the weather is good.
Bottom Line: Change Your Environment Instead of Yourself
While we may have outgrown the thrill of walking outside past our bedtimes, wearing gauzy princess gowns or superhero costumes, a taste for Halloween candy is something most of us never outgrow.
It’s normal to crave candy whether you’re nuts about Paydays, wild about York peppermint patties, or crazy for Kit Kats.
But, if you find it takes superhuman strength to resist sweets, try changing your environment and you might just avoid the scary sensation of going into the holiday season with a sugar hangover.
About the Author:
Pam Moore is a running coach, freelance writer, and a speaker, living in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two young kids. The author of “There’s No Room For Fear in a Burley Trailer,” she dreams of completing her To Do list, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and sleeping in. Follow her adventures at her blog, Whatevs…. , or connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.