How will you defend your healthy eating habits?

For many of us, Halloween marks the start of the season of overeating and weight gain. From the end of October until early January, most of us find ourselves bombarded by opportunities to overeat and otherwise overindulge. Establishing and following an eating plan can keep you on track while enjoying some of the goodies.

Most of us have “trigger” foods–foods that we have a hard time resisting or that “trigger” us to crave more and binge. For many, sweets are the trigger that can undo days, weeks and even months of healthy habits. Planning ahead and developing a “candy strategy” can help you manage temptations and stick to your health and fitness goals.

Eating plans have long been used in weight loss programs (think Weight Watchers’ point system) and in the treatment of eating disorders, and can be a useful tool for anyone facing challenging eating situations. An eating plan helps separate eating from our emotions, and eliminates the need to make eating decisions on the spot–decisions that can be influenced by stress, excitement, group pressure, lack of time and/or a giant bowl of chocolate staring you in the face.

What is an eating plan? An eating plan includes when, what and how much you will eat. In the case of Halloween candy, your plan will be focused on how much and how often you will indulge your sweet tooth. The most successful eating plans take into account where you will be and the types of temptations you will face, as well as the behavior that has worked for you in the past. For some, it’s best to completely avoid the trigger food.  For others, a moderate amount of the trigger food is key. Think about what has worked for you in the past and try to develop your plan around those behaviors and strategies.

The following candy eating plans are being utilized by some of my wellness clients:

  • One client has decided that she won’t buy Halloween candy until Halloween day even though it means the candy may be picked over–after all the intent is to give it away not stock up on her favorites.
  • Another client shared with her coworkers her desire to reduce her sugar intake–there’s certainly no shame in being healthy–and has asked them not to offer her sweets.
  • Recognizing that deprivation can result in binges, yet another client has decided to allow herself one small sweet treat everyday.

Other ideas include:

  • Only buy as much candy as you realistically believe you’ll need. If there’s a hint of concern that you won’t have enough for tricks-or-treats, you’re less likely to indulge before the big day.
  • Keep candy in a cabinet or drawer that you don’t use regularly thereby reducing opportunities for temptation.
  • Further reduce temptation by buying your least favorite kind of candy.

If weight loss or maintenance is a goal, don’t forget to account for your extra calories with extra exercise. A brisk walk can not only burn the calories in a candy bar, it can distract you from subsequent candy bars until your craving passes.

Many find it helpful to write down their eating plan, refer to it daily, and/or share it with someone they trust who supports their wellness efforts. A little bit of planning can go a long way in helping you stay on track as we head into the season of overeating. Here’s to enjoying the season, but still fitting into your jeans in January!

Be well!