Halloween is just so much fun, isn’t it? Costumes, cooler weather, carving pumpkins, hayrides, parades … and so much more! Spooky movies, ghost stories, campfires, haunted houses. Those are fun, too. So much fun! Everybody looks forward to Halloween, right? What’s wrong with Halloween? Why would we possibly dread Halloween? What? Why am I hyperventilating?
We know why Halloween isn’t always fun and games: the candy. All. That. Candy. Everywhere, candy. In those sneaky little “fun-size” packages that can add up in a hot minute and all of a sudden you can hardly see over Mount Saint Reese’s Wrappers. On your co-worker’s desk, on television, from your kid’s activities, on every endcap of every aisle at every store – maybe even in your house! It reminds me of that old scary story: “The calls are coming from inside the house! Get out now! Save yourself!” Halloween can be a Nightmare On Your Street, if you’re trying to follow a smart eating plan.
So what’s a person to do? It’s easy to say “just don’t eat it,” but for those of us who have trouble managing temptation, that solution doesn’t quite work, despite its simplicity. If you’re one of those “one and done” people who can have a taste of the goody and then walk away, then you may not understand the battles that I’m describing.
Try to imagine what it might feel like if the candy could consume you, rather than the other way around. You see it, and then it’s all you can think about. I won’t go so far as to say it “calls” to you, but there does come a point at which you feel like you can’t ignore it. You can’t distract yourself enough, and you just want that candy (or whatever your particular temptation trigger is – for some people, it might be chips, for instance) despite all of the reason and logic you throw at it.
If you give in and indulge, then you’re happy for a couple of minutes, much like when you’re very very thirsty and you take a long drink of water: AAHH. Yummy. Yes. All that anticipation, and then satisfaction! But then you feel guilty and/or angry at yourself for giving in – and sometimes you may find yourself eating the entire dish or bag, having decided “the heck with it, I already ate one, I might as well eat a thousand. GAME OVER.”
If you don’t give in, you’re probably proud of yourself – as well you should be. But secretly, sometimes, you’re bitter. “Why can’t I just have one? Everyone else eats all the candy and junk they want, why can’t I? They don’t care, why should I? It’s not fair!” Then you may say, “the heck with it. It’s too hard to resist, and it’s not fair that it’s so hard, so the heck with it. I don’t care. Dose me up. I call the Butterfingers.”
Sound familiar? If not, replace the word “candy” with “cigarette” or some other unhealthy thing that’s hard to shake off.
It sure isn’t fair. But lots of things are unfair. Resisting temptation, especially in culinary form, is very hard for me. When I get in a bad mood about it, I try to remind myself of all the things that are easy for me, but hard for other people. Speaking to a crowd of people is easy for me. I’m also good at Sudoku puzzles, I’m good with maps and directions, and I find memorizing lines of Shakespeare to be relatively easy. Think through it yourself and see what you come up with. Put it in perspective – maybe the folks who easily say “no” to the Candy Carousel have trouble balancing a checkbook, or parallel parking, or whatever. I would never encourage you to adopt an “oh, yeah! Well, you can’t do long division in your head” kind of gotcha attitude toward other people as you revel in their difficulties or negative qualities. I do, however, encourage you to think positively about your strengths while recognizing your weaknesses so that you can work through them.
See how a simple issue – avoiding the avalanche of candy that’s everywhere this time of year – is actually more deep and complex? I think, and talk, about that sort of thing all the time. This journey toward wellness is complex. Don’t underestimate how much you will learn about yourself as you travel it.
Hang in there. Remember, every day is Square One and a chance to get it right!