Why Candy Is the Least Scary Thing About Halloween
Halloween is synonymous with many things; dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and yes, candy. Candy has become something that many people, whether they are struggling with disordered eating or not has become something that the general public fears or thinks is “bad”. The truth is there is no reason to fear candy. All of the things said about this food are simply not true. Let’s examine the most well-known myths about candy so that you and your kids can enjoy candy this Halloween, or any time!
Candy is unhealthy
This is something that people typically think so let’s break it down. If we look at the phrase “candy is unhealthy” then we deduce that all of the foods considered “candy” will cause health risks for you. In order to figure this out we need to look at each ingredient in a piece of candy. Let’s look at my personal favorite Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups©. The ingredients are: Sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skim milk, milk fat, lactose, lecithin, peanuts, sugar, dextrose, salt, TBHQ, Citric acid. In my work with my clients with eating disorders in Denver I will often spend time going through each one of these ingredients and examining the science and research of each ingredient, and if there are known reasons for each ingredient to be inherently health- promoting or disease- promoting.
This is a lengthy process but usually proves to be worthy because we break down these sweeping generalizations we hear about foods being villainized. For sake of brevity here I want to make the case that even if we discovered that all of these ingredients were, in fact, disease-promoting, we know that candy is a small part of our overall diet (the foods we eat in a day) and that the food we eat is one part of our overall health picture. Believing that candy has the power to make you a healthy or unhealthy person is not based on any research or science.
Candy makes you gain weight
If you eat a shit- ton of candy every day, day after day, along with not listening to your fullness cues and consistently overriding them then, yes, you might eventually gain weight. However, simply eating one food will not make you gain weight. Do you ever think to yourself after you eat a low calorie food that you instantly lost weight? The answer is probably no. So saying that a food that is more calorie-dense makes you instantly gain weight is irrational and has no scientific basis behind it. Additionally, our bodies do a remarkable job at maintaining their weight due to our set point. I discuss this a lot more in this blog post, but essentially your body wants to maintain its weight, and if you eat more than usual for a few days your metabolism will say “cool you gave me more calories, let’s just speed up a bit more now and burn them so we can maintain our weight”.
I can’t let myself have any candy because I won’t be able to stop at a few pieces
This is the restrict- binge mentality. The only reason it’s difficult to stop ourselves from eating a moderate amount of candy is if we restrict ourselves or tell ourselves we shouldn’t be eating it. If candy is not off limits to you until it’s a “special” time like Halloween, then when it comes around it will not be a big deal or feel like ‘I’m only allowed to have this now so I have to eat it all before it’s off limits again’. If I thought this way (which I used to so I understand that it is SO hard to overcome the all or nothing mentality around food) I would binge on candy as well. But if it is a normal food and one you can eat whenever you feel like it, it takes the power away from it. And then you will be able to have a few pieces if you want them or none if you’re not feeling it that day.
It is easy to avoid candy so I’d rather do that
Candy is in our lives no matter how hard we try to avoid it. It is at the grocery store checkout counter, on our co-workers desk we pass 20 times each day, at our friends’ house, and a part of many celebrations and holidays. Believing that you can simply avoid it for the rest of your life is next to impossible, and more importantly just unnecessary. I would ask yourself how much energy are you putting into trying to avoid candy? If it feels like a tug-of-war in your mind about the desire to eat it on one end of the rope, and your brain telling you that you shouldn’t eat on the other end, I wonder what would happen if you dropped the rope and you could let the battle go? My guess would be that there would be less tension, and the candy would take up less space in your mind, and in your life.
Candy is addictive
There is a lot of fear mongering in the media about sugar being addictive. The research (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5174153/) on sugar addiction was done with rats as well as under forced deprivation. If you deprive yourself of anything it will become addictive. Also, candy is not 100% sugar. How often have you sat down to a bowl of pure sugar with a spoon? Candy has many different ingredients in it, and saying that all of candy is addictive is taking one small study with a narrow focus and generalizing it. There’s simply no research to back this up.
I hope that you realize that candy is just one food and it doesn’t need to hold any more power to it than any other food. There are far scarier things about Halloween, so try to allow yourself some candy this Halloween if you want some. I know I will be!