So Halloween has come and gone. If you’re like most people you might have grabbed a treat here and there in between handing out candy to the witches, super heroes and Harry Potters that came to the door. One night, perhaps a little too much sugar, no harm done, right?
Well, if you’re like most people, you very well may have a stash of Halloween candy left over just sitting there in the pantry. Did you buy your favorite just in case there might be leftovers? Or did you buy your least favorite, knowing you might be too tempted otherwise? Or maybe your kids have a nice hefty stash to the point that they wouldn’t notice a piece missing here and there (and there, and there...).
This might seem innocent enough. Isn’t the candy just part of the fun? So, if you’re like many people, this innocent seeming fun can go on and on quite indefinitely, eating a piece here and there -- rolling right into Thanksgiving, whose treats can easily roll right into Christmas, Channukah, New Years...you get the picture. It’s that time of year when healthy eating takes a backseat, diets become fuzzy, and living in the moment goes along with “Oh, I’ll start my diet after this bag of candy is gone,” or “...after Thanksgiving,” or “...after Christmas.”
An interesting (but not so happy) fact is that the weight gain that many people experience over time occurs gradually, without them even noticing at first. And that much of this weight gain occurs during the holiday season. Add up enough holiday seasons and you can see where this is going. You may not think of Halloween as part of the official “holiday season” but if you’ve got a stash of candy sitting in your house that you’re picking away at, your weight gain season has officially started.
You may be thinking, yeah, but I’m just eating one tiny, little piece a day. How much harm is there in that? Maybe from a calorie perspective not much. But here’s something to consider:
There’s so much more to consider than just how many calories you’re putting in your mouth.
The brain is the center of hunger, satiety and eating behavior. When you eat something like a piece of candy, what you’re doing is giving your brain an experience of extremely condensed sweetness. It’s at an intensity not found in nature, so it gives your brain a “hit” not unlike what heroin addicts experience. The reward center of the brain is activated in a major way. Translation: you go, “Yes! That was awesome! Of course, I’d love some more!”
But you’ve already promised yourself you would only eat one. So you muster up your willpower and just -- say -- no. You tell yourself you can have another later or tomorrow. But what does your brain do with this? It knows that stash is still sitting there--and that another piece is coming at some point. But rather than forgetting all about it until the next time, it is primed and ready, high with expectation for when that next time will be. It starts its countdown, waiting and anticipating, until the next time is now.
And before you know it your brain is a prisoner of your Halloween stash.
You may think you are above all this. You may say, I’m good with eating just one piece a day. And maybe you are -- in your conscious brain. But the majority of our eating decisions go on beneath the level of consciousness -- in our subconscious mind where the logic of “reasonable” eating takes a backseat to emotion, impulses, and expectation. So even though your conscious brain is disciplined and successfully resisting the urge, your subconscious is doing the count down.
So what does all this mean for you and your stash of candy? Don’t let me tell you what to do. Keep it if you want. But at your own risk. My suggestion would be to quickly, without thinking about it, grab it, take it to your nearest donation center or if that seems too cumbersome, your nearest trash can.
But what about my kids’ candy?! That will still be around. And they won’t take too kindly to it being gone when they get home. True, but let’s face it, the candy isn’t any better for them than it is for you. Depending on your children’s ages you may not want to secretly remove most of it (although that actually worked for us for a number of years--when they’re young enough, they may not notice).
Ideas for getting rid of excess Halloween candy...
There are lots of cool things parents can do to prevent sugar overdosing after Halloween. There’s donating candy to the troops with Halloween Candy Give-Back (https://opgrat.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/halloween-candy-for-the-troops/). You can also visit http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com/to search for a participating dentist near you who will accept candy in exchange for toothbrushes, coupons, and sometimes cash. Or if all else fails, you can offer to have your kids exchange their excess candy with you for some agreed upon thing. In the unfortunate event that any candy does wind up remaining in the house, the best thing is to put in a highly inconvenient, or better yet, secret location with a tally of how much is there, to create some sort of accountability for those intending to stay away.
So there you have it. Sorry to be the bearer of not so fun news. But trust me, when you get through the season without having eaten more of the sweet stuff than you really intended, you will feel great! Successful! Even triumphant! And your body (and your brain) will thank you.