With Halloween only two days away, some of you may be starting to worry about the volumes of candy that will soon, if not already, begin to infiltrate your home and workplace. For a person who struggles with an eating disorder, this can be a very stressful holiday causing many emotions to spike including fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and possibly even anger.
The candy starts to land in your home after taking the kids trick-or-treating or after subsequent Halloween parties. Your colleagues begin bringing it to work and sitting it out in break rooms or possibly on your desk. Your neighbors and friends greet you with sugary treats as a celebratory gesture. Before you know it, the piles of candy are flooding every place you spend time in. You start to feel out of control in a sea of endless candy. The urge to binge increases and your mind begins to plan out when and where you will place yourself in confinement and consume each and every piece. After the binge comes guilt, shame, sadness and anger towards yourself. You vow to never ever eat another piece of candy again for as long as you live. Until the next time.
The cycle of binge eating can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Binge eating often causes weight gain, which leads to a poor body image, which further reinforces compulsive binge eating. You start to hate yourself and your appearance and thus, may continue to use food to cope. It becomes a dangerous cycle of eating to feel better, feeling even worse, and then turning back to food again for relief.
Help is out there if you suffer with Binge Eating Disorder. Treatment options include individual psychotherapy, group therapy, intensive outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment. An important part of recovery is learning strategies for coping with triggers like Halloween that can start the binge cycle.
Here are some tips for dealing with the Halloween Loot:
- Don’t say “NO” to the candy. Telling yourself that the candy is off limits only sets you up for more cravings and urges for the sweets. Instead of saying “no” to the candy, allow yourself to have it in moderation and build it into your normal meal plan, possibly replacing one of your snacks.
- Eat with someone vs. alone. Eating alone is never a good idea if you struggle with binge eating. So much of what contributes to the binge is the idea of secrecy. If you ask someone to sit down with you when you enjoy your treat you’re more likely to avoid overeating and to engage in mindful eating habits.
- Eat mindfully. Allow yourself some candy but eat your sweets with full awareness and intention. This means knowing moderation. Be purposeful when choosing what and how much candy to eat. Then sit down with no distractions and eat slowly, savoring every bite.
- Eat three meals a day and healthy snacks. Avoid skipping meals as a means to “allow” yourself to indulge in the sweets later. This doesn’t work. You will wind up feeling deprived and starving which can lead to over indulging on the candy.
- Get plenty of sleep. When your body is running on empty your body sends signals to your brain to feed itself as a way to get more energy. The hormones leptin and ghrelin that are used to regulate our appetite are impacted when we lack enough sleep, thus causing an increase in our appetite.
- Manage stress. Most episodes of binge eating are connected to a means to dealing with stress or emotions. Practice self-care activities, deep breathing, journaling, and connecting with others.
- Put candy away or give it to a food bank if having it in your home is too triggering. Don’t leave the sweets sitting out on the counter. Find a cupboard to store sweets in or put them in the freezer. If knowing where the candy is still causes stress for you then ask your partner or a friend to hide it for you. You can also get rid of the candy entirely by donating it to a food bank or simply throwing it away.