Before I got crazy healthy, I couldn’t wait for Halloween candy to hit the store shelves, so I could purchase a huge bag of treat size M&Ms, without feeling guilty. I told myself that they were for the little ghouls and goblins that would grace my doorstep on All Hallow’s Eve.
But, somehow, every single year, that bag would disappear long before Halloween. Having it in the house was just too tempting! I told myself that we had more than enough candy for trick or treaters, and it would be ok, if I just had one little bag, just this one time. That one bag would lead to another bag the next day, and the next, and then maybe two the day after that, and before I knew it, the bowl would be empty. And I would tell myself it didn’t matter, because it was Halloween, and candy is just part of the season.
I’d buy another bag of treat-sized M&Ms around the 15th of October, and promise myself that the new bag would stay sealed until Halloween. I’d do really well with this plan, until I had a bad day at work, or PMS struck, or my husband “accidentally” opened the bag when I wasn’t looking. And then it would start all over again, and I would be back at the store, on October 30th, picking through what was left in the Halloween aisle.
All of those little indiscrections added up. Before I knew it, I was sick, tired, and I couldn’t zip up my skirts. Worst of all, I felt bad about myself.
What was wrong with me? Why did I keep making the same mistakes, year, after year, after year?
I didn’t understand my lack of control then, but I do now. It was all about what I believed about food back then–that it was my right, and my reward. That I deserved it. But now that I have changed what I believe about food–that it is mostly fuel for my body, and only rarely a reward–I enjoy Halloween more than ever before.
Nowadays, instead of turning my attention to the treats and sweets of the season, as I used to, I think of Halloween as an opportunity to let go and have fun. It’s the one day out of the year that we can be silly, sparkly, and uninhibited in public, without scaring off all the neighbors!
Of course, this change in attitude was cultivated on my yoga mat. Regular yoga practice made me aware of my attachments to food, and how they sabotaged my health goals. This awareness helped me realize that food is just food–it does not have power over me–and that I can change my behavior by shifting my attention. Yoga also taught me to be more aware and intentional about how I spent my time and energy, and that I didn’t have to be just like everybody else. And that changed everything.
Instead of thinking about, and talking about, and feeling bad about eating candy, I purposefully turned my attention to how we could have more fun. What crazy healthy traditions could we start for our family? What healthy foods could we create, that would be more interesting, but just as satisfying, as candy? It was fun, to explore the possibilities, get creative, and realize that Halloween could be anything we wanted it to be.
I decided that my favorite thing about Halloween, besides the M&Ms, was dressing up. So, as soon as our girls were old enough to understand the meaning of “group costume”, we starting creating family themes for Halloween. We began the discussions in early September, asking the girls what they might like to be, and trying to make a plan that would work for everyone. We never forced them into it, but we did try to talk it up, because we knew the kids would ultimately enjoy it. Which they really, really did.
The first year, we were The Wizard of Oz:
And then, Alice in Wonderland (my sister-in-law was visiting from Colorado, and gladly played along!):
My favorite was the year that we were superheroes (truth: I just loved wearing the boots):
But it was also fun to be Peter Pan last year.
If you want to have a crazy healthy Halloween, change what you believe it means. Candy has no power, unless you give it power. When candy appears, walk in the opposite direction. If it still ends up in your hands, give it to someone else immediately, or put it back when they aren’t looking. If you just can’t resist it, take one bite, and then throw it away. It’s better to waste food (that really isn’t food in the first place), than feed your addictions. Most of all, believe that you can just say no. Because you can, and the more often you do, the easier it gets.
As for the trick or treaters, and their expectations? Why not give out stickers or toys, instead of candy? I let my kids pick out toys from Oriental Trading Company, for us to pass out this year. Here’s what our visitors will add to their loot (glow in the dark vampire teeth and glow in the dark martian fingers):
And check out some of the amazing healthy food ideas on Pinterest. We’re making these treats today (bananas with orange juice, raisins, chocolate chips and coconut):
If you feel like you absolutely have to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, then don’t buy your favorites–buy the candy you don’t like! A moment of pain at the store will save you a lot of frustration and guilt down the road.
And as for the candy that comes home in the loot bag, we let the kids examine it all, enjoy two pieces on Halloween night, and one piece each day afterwards (if they ask for it–I never offer!). I keep the bags up high, because out of sight means out of mind, and they usually forget to ask for their candy about 2 weeks into November, and I donate what’s left in December.
This year, the girls are asking if we can do the Switch Witch, so I think I might just do that instead of the daily treat…it seems much easier and healthier! All we have to do is leave the candy out on the front porch at night, and the Switch Witch replaces it with a toy, or other non-food treat while we sleep. We can make up a story as to where the candy goes, so the kids feel good about the decision, or you can just tell them the Switch Witch eats it all. A pretty easy and efficient way to stay out of the candy, don’t you think?
Just because you have always acted a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean you always have to act that way. Halloween is just another day, and we have the power to control what it means for our crazy healthy lives. All we have to do is BELIEVE.