When I was little, one of the things I most looked forward to on Halloween was candy corn. You know, those little orange, yellow, and white triangle-shaped candies, super-sweet, with kind of a waxy texture, that came in little cellophane packages? I know a lot of people find them pretty awful, but I loved them. Every Halloween, I’d eagerly pull the tiny packs of candy corn from my Halloween Haul, eat candy corn one after another, enjoying the texture and flavor, and then… bleh! I’d get sick of them, wonder what I was thinking, and would vow to never to eat them again.
But by the next Halloween, I’d have forgotten that promise and would look forward to candy corn once again.
This cycle happened year after year.
Then I grew up, becoming a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and my focus was on promoting diets to people. At first, I firmly believed in the concept of “good foods” versus “bad foods.” In fact, at Halloween, I even advocated that parents use the “Switch Witch,” a sort of reverse-Santa figure who would magically take away Halloween candy and exchange it for toys or books while children slept. My intention was to encourage healthier eating habits, but as time went on, I witnessed the profoundly negative impact of food restriction on my clients. As I’ve pointed out in earlier blogs, I eventually realized that for many people, eating issues were less about diet than something deeper: their relationship with food.
These days, when Halloween comes around, I tell my clients that denying so-called “bad foods” doesn’t just deprive us of things like candy bars at the moment; it can take a toll on our mental and emotional well-being. Restricting foods ultimately creates a sense of scarcity and longing, which in turn can lead to a cycle of resentment and deprivation… even resulting in binge eating when we finally give in to our cravings.
Food should never be a source of shame or self-judgment. It should be a source of nourishment and enjoyment. This is why I embrace the “all foods fit” model, which encourages us to shift our focus from strict nutritional rules to emphasizing that there are no inherently “good” or “bad” foods (unless there are allergies or specific medical conditions.) All foods, in fact, can have a place in a balanced and healthy diet.
Of course, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when Halloween arrives. Suddenly there’s a plethora of tempting treats within arm’s reach. However, the key to a healthier relationship with food is learning to listen to our bodies. So as you consider trick-or-treats, I suggest you keep the following three points in mind: