Halloween… The most adorable holiday on the planet. Kiddos everywhere dressed up, having enormous amounts of fun, deciding whether or not it’s too scary to walk up to your door, then ringing the bell and screaming “Trick or Treat” as loud as possible anyway. All to get to those tiny pieces of goodness they’ve been waiting for… candy!
Then the fun really begins. The candy binge. Dentists say don’t eat it because it’ll rot your teeth. Doctors say don’t eat it because it’ll cause Diabetes. And because we listen to our practitioners most of us do our darndest day in and day out to live a healthy lifestyle, limiting candy by telling ourselves it’s not good for us, it’s too high in sugar, chemicals, food dyes, calories, fat, and the list could go on.
So, if you know all that, why then is it so darn difficult to refrain from eating half the kids candy bucket after they go to sleep!?
It’s called food habituation.
The Science Behind The Binge
Habituation is a psychological term that describes situations where people (or animals) become desensitized to certain stimuli after repeated and long term exposure to them. Think about the last time you accidentally burned popcorn in the microwave and how badly it smelled. After 30 minutes, you don’t smell it anymore. Then your partner gets home from the store and the smell is overpowering to them. Your sense of smell because habituated to the smell of the burned popcorn and you stopped smelling it. Food habituation is similar. It means the more often you are exposed to a type of food, the less your brain cares about that food, decreasing your desire to eat it. This can be true of any food, but it’s most notable in “indulgence” foods like pizza, candy, chocolate, chips, etc.
Now think about it this way. Imagine that you were told you could eat your guilty pleasure food every single day. You’d probably be ecstatic the first, maybe even the second and third day, but by day 6 the luster will have worn off and you’ll eat significantly less of that food, or maybe even none at all.
Your brain also keeps records of the opposite. It’s called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) creates filters for the things you focus on and seeks information to validate your beliefs on subjects. When you label foods as “bad” or “not allowed” your RAS attaches that tag to those foods, but what also happens is that your brain will fixate on them. This is what causes cravings.
So, by telling yourself you can’t have pizza, cake, cookies and candy, when you end up in a situation where those foods are present, you’re significantly more likely to overeat them since you won’t be “allowed” to after that situation.
Back To Halloween… The Instigator Holiday
Since you’ve deemed candy public offender #1 and you avoid it most of the year, there’s a high likelihood you’re going to end up in a situation where your plan to have “just one piece” turns into a Cookie Monster style candy- fest that’s known as a deprivation backlash- rebound eating.
Your RAS tipped your brain off to the fact that “those things we love” are in the vicinity and when you eat one you get a huge dopamine hit that then reinforces to your brain that “we like this and we want more of it!”
This situation of overindulgence then cascades into a shame spiral because you ate so much candy and now you’re going to gain weight, not lose weight, be less healthy, lose all your progress, have to make up for it, etc.
None of which could be farther from the truth.
But how do you break the cycle?
How To Change Your Mindset To Prevent Halloween Candy Binges
- Lose The Food Rules & Give yourself unconditional permission to eat.
It’s time to throw in the dieting towel… for good. Create food freedom inside your life by allowing all foods into your world whenever you truly desire them. Halloween isn’t the only day of the year you can enjoy a piece of candy. Working to detach the rules you’ve placed on food and strip them of labels like good and bad is a big first step. By letting go of the limits you’ve previously held around food, the desire and drive to eat them will drop dramatically.
- Eat what you really want.
When you give yourself unrestricted permission to eat anything you’d like, you provide the opportunity to ask yourself, “Do I actually want this?” What you might find is that the candy you used to crave and fixate on is no longer as good as you remember it being.
- Don’t “save up.”
You should never eat starvation for breakfast so you can have overindulgence for dinner. This means no more skipping meals to bank more calories or eating super clean or doing an extra workout at the gym tomorrow to “make up for” what you eat. These are punishments that only further the mindset of restriction which leads back to cravings and overindulgence.
- Self depreciation never worked for anyone.
Willpower, motivation, self control, and restraint have nothing to do with it. This is proven science, there’s no refuting it. Remember that the definition of diet contains the word restriction and that living constantly restricted sets you up for certain failure. failure. You’re human, and perfection doesn’t exist.
Life is meant to be lived to the fullest! Follow these guidelines and enjoy your Halloween. If you eat too much, great. There’s always next year. Either way, pick yourself back up and keep moving forward.