HALLOWEEN FROM AN INTUITIVE EATING PERSPECTIVE
Halloween is in the air – You gaze at bright orange pumpkins popping up all around you, you slowly sip on warm pumpkin spiced lattes, and you hear the crunch of leaves below you. However, for many, this time of year can bring about a lot of heightened fears and emotions… and not because of the spooky costumes! For those who have a challenging relationship with food, the food police has made us feel unsafe being around many of the traditional Halloween foods: Candy, chips, chocolate, and other Halloween staples.
You don’t need to be a nutritionist to know the difference between wholesome, well-balanced food choices that are part of a healthy daily eating strategy, and Halloween treats. And more importantly, your body knows the difference.
This brings us to intuitive eating: A self-care eating framework that aims to create a healthy relationship with food, your mind, and your body. It is a practice that you choose every day until it becomes both a mindset and a heartset. As someone newer to the concept of intuitive eating (or even someone further down the road!), Halloween can be thought of as just another day to put the principles of intuitive eating into practice. Below are the ten principles of intuitive eating:
1: Reject the Diet Mentality
2: Honor Your Hunger
3: Make Peace with Food
4: Challenge the Food Police
5: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
6: Feel Your Fullness
7: Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
9: Respect Your Body
9: Movement – Feel the Difference
10: Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
If you are following or working towards the principles of intuitive eating, returning to these guidelines may help you to re-center and bring you back to why you started your intuitive eating journal in the first place – To feel good in your body. To make peace with food. To free yourself from dieting. To rediscover that food can be fun!
What is Halloween really about? We can’t pretend it isn’t about food, because of course it is. But that isn’t all of it. Let’s remind ourselves that Halloween is also a holiday made up of nostalgia from childhood, carving pumpkins with family and friends, believing in a little bit of magic, dressing up in silly costumes, or bumping into neighbors while trick-or-treating. We can choose to zoom out and take the attention away from just food by looking at the big picture of what Halloween represents to us.
For those struggling, it may be helpful to identify either independently or with a health professional specifically what it is that makes this holiday challenging for you. For example, if it is the food police labeling food as “good” or “bad”, return to that voice in your head and challenge it (Principle #4). This voice inside is driven by diet culture and may be perpetuated by social media, family, and friends. In addition, by labeling food in such a way we may internalize this message thereby deeming ourselves as “bad” which only elicits further remorse and regret. Next time you hear voice policing, firmly say “no” and try to replace it with one that is soothing, compassionate, and gentle. The goal here is to establish a more neutral approach to Halloween foods.
The All or Nothing Trap
It is important to remember that an “all or nothing” approach on Halloween or really on any other day may only strengthen the negative feelings you have surrounding food. Free yourself to eat some candy on this day if that is what your body is feeling. Tricking your body into thinking that your homemade chocolate covered banana is the same thing as eating a Twix bar won’t necessarily do it! This is a form of food restriction and may only spur the restrict/binge cycle. Turn inward and satisfy your craving with food that you really want to eat, and enjoy it! This speaks to the fifth intuitive eating principle – Discover the Satisfaction Factor.
If you are finding it tough to tune into your body during October when every event seems to revolve around food, one technique we can use is mindful eating. This tool helps with principle #6 – Feel Your Fullness. When nourishing our body, we may ask ourselves, “On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not full at all and ten being extremely full, where do I fall?”. Aim to eat until you feel between 6 – 8. Beyond fullness cues, take note of how the food makes you feel. Sluggish or energized? Unsatisfied or content? Peckish or nourished? If this seems like a daunting task, start small. Try out this technique out for just one snack a day, and you will slowly begin to reconnect with your body.
Recall that Halloween is just 1 day out of 365! This day alone will not make or break any health habit. Plus, health is much more than what we put into our bodies. Health and wellbeing are also determined by our social connections, sleep patterns, joyful movement, and stress management. Stick to your intuitive eating foundation that you have worked hard to build, whether this be eating nourishing meals at regular intervals or turning to healthy coping mechanisms when you feel on edge.
At the end of the day, do what works for YOU and YOUR relationship with food.
Author: Emma Gangbar (she/her), M.S./ RDN Candidate in Nutrition Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Emma is working as an Intern at Integrating Nutrition.
Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2020). Intuitive eating, 4th edition: A revolutionary anti-diet approach (4th ed.). St. Martin’s Press.