Halloween Survival Guide

We sent this out last year (if you want to receive our free e-newsletter, you can sign up here), but there are probably people who haven’t seen it before and/or people who would benefit from reading it again! Here are some Halloween-specific strategies that will help you stick to your plan this October 31st and the days surrounding it.

Remember: Candy is available year-round! Dieters tend to load up and eat lots of candy on Halloween, saying to themselves, “Well, it only occurs once a year.”  That’s true, but Halloween is once a year, every year, and candy is available every day of the year. Drug stores and supermarkets sell fun-sized candy bars year-round, so you don’t need to load up now. You can buy candy any time.

Don’t buy candy until you need it. This may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but it’s an important one. Many people buy Halloween candy a few weeks in advance, perhaps rationalizing that “it will be good to have that task over with,” “I won’t have to worry about stores running out,” and “I can get the candy on sale.” And then what usually happens? They end up eating some (or all) of it before the big day. Even when dieters are able to wait to break into the candy until Halloween itself, it can be a daily struggle to resist. There is a very simple solution to this problem: Don’t purchase candy in advance.  Even if it adds a small amount of cost or an additional chore on your already busy October 31st, isn’t it worth not having to worry about giving in and expending the mental energy to resist until it’s time?

Buy candy that you don’t like so much in bulk and just a single serving of your favorite candy.  You’ll obviously have the most trouble resisting your favorite candy, so buy candy in bulk that you don’t enjoy as much—you’ll have an easier time resisting it, and when Halloween is over, it will probably be easier for you to throw away the leftovers, give them away, or donate them. You can and should buy a single-serving of the candy you like the most. This way, you’ll be able to savor your favorite candy without worrying about having to stop yourself from going back for more.

Remember, the Halloween experience lasts for longer than one day. Even though the holiday itself is just a day, it is highly likely that you will come in contact with Halloween treats on the days leading up to and following October 31st.  Be on the lookout for the common sabotaging thought, “I’m going to eat a lot of extra candy on Halloween, but it’s okay because it’s only one day.” This thought does not take into account the candy that you come in contact with before Halloween, the candy you might have left over, the candy in your office kitchen, at your friends’ homes, and at the parties and events you attend, before and after October 31st.  If you’re making a plan for Halloween, it’s important to factor in the days before and after, too.

Get rid of left overs!  If extra candy is in your house, you’re likely to be tempted to eat it at some point.  If you want to avoid having to resist leftovers, there are plenty of ways to get rid of them. Give them away, donate them, bring them in to work, or simply throw them away.  If you have the sabotaging thought, “I can’t throw the candy away because it would be a waste of money,” remind yourself, “Either way the money is already gone. Eating the candy won’t bring it back.”  One way or another, if you can limit your amount of exposure to leftover candy, you’ll make it so much easier on yourself.  And if your kids go trick-or-treating, it’s also a good idea to immediately get rid of the candy they don’t like or can’t eat. If you keep it around, you may end up eating it or struggling to resist it.  Remember, even though it may cost you a bit, in the long-run, you’ll probably  end up saving yourself thousands of calories by getting rid of extra Halloween candy and instead buying yourself a single serving of your favorite candy that you’ve planned to eat. This will help guarantee that you enjoy your favorite treat, when you really want it, and without the guilt.

Are You a Social Eater or a Secret Eater?

In my work with dieters, I find that many of them tend to fall into either the category of “Social Eaters” or “Secret Eaters.”  Social eaters are those who have a lot of trouble staying in control when they are out and eating with other people.  They are highly influenced by what everyone around them is eating and drinking and often feel deprived if they don’t eat in the same way.  By contrast, secret eaters often have a much easier time staying in control when they are eating in front of other people and tend to lose it when they are back at home, alone.  Regardless of which type of eater you may be (and some dieters fall into both categories), your greatest defense is figuring out in advance what sabotaging thoughts you’re likely to have in either situation and come up with responses to them.  Here are some examples:

Social eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because everyone around me is eating it.

Response: My body doesn’t know or care what everyone around me is eating; it only knows what I eat. So just because everyone around me is eating a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean that I can.

Sabotaging Thought: I’ll be deprived if I can’t eat what everyone around me is eating.

Response: Either way I’m deprived. Either I’m deprived of some food some of the time (but not all food, all of the time), or I’m deprived of all the benefits of losing weight. Which would be the bigger deprivation?

Sabotaging Thought: It’s not fair I can’t eat normally like everyone else.

Response: I have to redefine my definition of “normal” eating. In fact, I am eating 100% normally for someone of my age and my gender with my weight loss goals.

Secret eating sabotaging thoughts

Sabotaging Thought: I was so good when I was out and there so much food I didn’t eat, so it’s okay to eat this now.

Response: My body doesn’t know all the food I didn’t eat, it only knows what I do eat. So just because I turned down lots of food before doesn’t mean that I can eat extra now.

Sabotaging Thought: It’s okay to eat this because no one is watching.

Response: Although it may feel okay to eat extra because I’m alone, the reality is that my body doesn’t know if 100 people are watching me eat or if no one is watching me eat, it processes all calories the same. So it’s absolutely irrelevant whether or not I’m alone when I overeat – overeating is overeating.

Whether you’re a social eater or a secret eater, another helpful technique is to make a plan, in advance, of what you’ll eat in those situations. For social eaters, if you know you’re going out to dinner with friends, decide in advance what you’re going to eat and then respond to sabotaging thoughts in the moment to ensure that you stick to your plan. Remember that, if you want to lose weight, what everyone else around you is eating has no bearing on what you eat. Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the event is over, that you did.

For social eaters, plan in advance what, if anything, you’ll eat when you arrive back home.  If your plan is to eat nothing, avoid the kitchen entirely.  If your plan is to have either a snack or a mug of hot tea when you get home, get everything together before you leave (for example, put a tea bag in a mug on your table) so that way when you get home, it will be easy to remember exactly what your plan is and you won’t have to go rooting in the cupboards.  Respond to sabotaging thoughts that would encourage you to eat something you hadn’t planned to eat.  Stick to your plan and you’ll be so happy, once the night is over, that you did.