As a child, Halloween was my holiday. I've never really cared about finding an awesome costume to wear, but I loved collecting candy while trick or treating. Yup, my sweet tooth used to be strong. I'll be honest - my candy would be gone within a few days, at least the chocolate ones. Then, I would try to trade my fruity candies with my sisters...or their candy would mysteriously go missing. Children are naturally intuitive eaters. They will stop eating when they are full, and some days are hungrier than others. When it comes to Halloween or candy, that may depend. Some kids - like me - ate a ton of candy and got that sugar crash, as well as a stomachache. Some kids can keep their candy around for months or even forget about it.
Unconditional Permission to Eat (Anything)
A key principle of Intuitive Eating is giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want. Including candy. When you give yourself permission to eat, the food loses some of its power. It's no longer the food you're not "allowed" to eat. You're not trying to eat as much as you can fast because in your head, it's the last time you'll eat it (aka the diet starts again tomorrow). Food rules are simply no fun, and if you're struggling with your relationship with food, they make you feel crazy around food. There's always a mental battle before you eat over "am I allowed to eat this?" and "I deserve this - I've been soooo good." Instead, it's simply, "I'm allowed to eat whatever, whenever."
I've seen a lot of people try to skip over this step and just "listen to their body." However, giving yourself unconditional permission to eat comes first. You have to get out of the diet mentality in order to listen to your body and its cues. Otherwise, Intuitive Eating becomes another diet where you judge yourself for eating when you're not hungry.
Eat for Pleasure & Enjoy Food!
Eating is more than fuel and satisfying physical, biological hunger. Food can be enjoyed for pleasure and in social situations. That's why we eat candy on Halloween. We don't eat it because our bodies need sugar every year on October 31. It's a tradition, fun, and can be pleasurable. By embracing food as pleasure, we can actually enjoy it. Then, we can listen to our body and notice a stomachache, headache, or another body signal when you eat too much sugar. You can tune into this wisdom from your body, and start to make conscious decisions on what you want to eat for your body to feel good.
You can also remind yourself that Halloween is not the only time you can eat candy all year. I've seen people go crazy on Halloween with candy because it's one of the only times during the year that they truly let themselves indulge and enjoy the candy. It's like a rebound from trying to control yourself and "NOT EAT ANY SWEETS" the other 364 days of the day.
People who are "normal eaters" still eat candy. My man - who has absolutely no sweet tooth at all - still eats a Reese's or two around Halloween because it's pleasurable. The difference is he eats it, enjoys it, and moves on. There's no inner judgment about if he should have eaten it or not. It's just food.
Let your Weight Naturally find its 'Set Point'
When you treat Intuitive Eating as a diet, you still have a lingering thought in your head that "Maybe this time, I'll lose weight." Holding onto the weight loss goal doesn't allow you to let go of the control around food. How you eat is still partially controlled by your weight or body shape goals. Instead, by letting go of the weight loss goal, you can start to tune into your body. You can let your weight settle at your individual natural and healthy weight, for you.
(By the way, I'm not saying this is an easy thing to let go. There's a lot of reasons - media, health professionals, societal messages, etc. - that play into our idea of the 'perfect' body shape or weight. What I am saying is by slowly letting go of control around your weight, the easier it becomes to eat intuitively.)
Enjoy Food Guilt-Free + Listen to your True Hungers & Cravings
By starting to allow your weight settle where it wants to naturally, you can actually enjoy food without guilt or shame. The shame around eating candy usually comes from the idea that we'll gain weight and feel out of control. By trying to use your 'willpower' and swear off the candy bowl forever, it usually backfires into binging on it. Then, you'll feel guilt because you're worried about your weight and what that means for you.
When you can let go of the weight as your ultimate goal or way to control your life, you can start to truly enjoy food without guilt. Then, you can tune into your body's cues. You may realize the real reason why you don't want to binge on candy - because it makes you feel crappy inside.
You can also start to introduce pleasure, joy, connection, and essential "nutrients" of life into your day without relying on food for them. Instead of eating to find a quick burst of pleasure (followed by guilt), you can play around with taking a bath, planning a regular girls' night, or turning off the email and climbing into bed early. You'll start to satisfy your life hungers and cravings and listen to your desires and needs.
4 Simple Steps to Enjoy your Favorite Treats
- Buy your favorite candy. I'm going to pay a little extra for dark, delicious chocolate rather than waste my money on Hershey's chocolate that will never satisfy me.
- Eat a piece of your favorite candy, slowly and truly enjoy it. Make it a pleasurable and mindful experience.
- Move on. Don't plan how much you will or won't eat. Enjoy it. Feel satisfied. Listen to your body and what it needs.
- Add pleasure into your day in other places. Dress up like Captain Kale for Halloween (hah, just kidding...but maybe next year). Laugh with friends. Write. Go for a walk.
I hope this helps you get an idea about how to eat intuitively around sweets.
If this works for you, I'd love for you to share with a friend to help them out too.
Share below in the comments:
- How can you bring the ideas of Intuitive Eating to help you enjoy Halloween or other holidays?
- Where are you still 'stuck' when it comes to Intuitive Eating or body image?