Have a Mindful Halloween: How Much Sugar is Enough?

Yes, you can bring your mindfulness to anything—even Halloween! So, let me tell you a little Halloween story. A few years ago I was struck by the irony of me giving out full size, sugary candy bars to innocent children as they paraded up to my door on Halloween.  I also was struck by the irony of me then starting to take the leftover candy to work to tempt my innocent co-workers because I didn’t want the candy at home.  These behaviors were ironic because I teach a mindful eating class that raises the mindful awareness of the impact of loads of sugar on our emotional and physiological well-being.  And, here I was inflicting it on others because of Halloween.

Food is ubiquitous throughout the year, but particularly starting at Halloween and going right through to the New Year. Because of the way many eat during the holidays, on January 1 they set diet goals that last for a week or two, and then eating goes back to normal until the next year. It is very similar to the binge-restrict cycle of disordered eaters. What would it be like to bring a little more wisdom and compassion to the holidays (and to every day)—starting now?!

Let me just say that I love Halloween and no matter how old I get I will dress up as some kind of creature. In my estimation, a person is never too old to enjoy the pleasure of dressing up as your alter ego or favorite make-believe character. How many other times of the year can you get away with not being yourself?  It’s a blast.

I am the first one not to want to take the fun out of Halloween.  However, I am having an ethical dilemma about the sugar thing. Yes, as a child I went out to as many houses as I could to gather up as much candy as possible.  And I ate a lot of it.  But, I also rarely had store-bought candy any other time, and in today’s world that is just simply not the case with most children.

So, I talked this over with a friend of mine and she said that she never gives out candy at Halloween.  She gives out other kinds of treats like toys or balloons or bubbles. What a concept! Halloween without the sugar rush.  I liked the idea so I began to research it a little bit and found a wonderful article from Clemson that gives you lots of information about making Halloween just a little bit healthier without taking the fun out of it. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/pdf/hgic4112.pdf

The article will help you think outside the box when choosing treats such as giving the small “bite-size” candies instead of the full size. In addition, you might want to read my article from a previous year about “slave-free chocolate.” It is an eye-opener. For me, I choose fair trade, slave-free chocolate, and my conscience feels a lot better.

Read about suggestions for non-food items to give like coins, whistles, crayons, small stuffed animals, stickers, tattoos, jump ropes, and hacky sacks.  You can also get great ideas on how to prepare your children for going out trick-or-treating (e.g. think about the size of the bag) and what to do when they come home with a bag full of treats (e.g. eat only products in packages, eat your favorite now and save the rest for later).

And, lastly, if you eat Halloween candy, can you eat it mindfully? Take your time. Smell the food before you eat it. Take a bite and notice how it really tastes as opposed to your idea of Halloweens in the past. Does it still taste good? Do you want more? How much is enough? One candy bar or a sack full?

Of course, when I floated these ideas past a number of other people, I had a lot of negative reactions—“What’s Halloween without candy?” But, I will remain brave and put out the gentle suggestion that you might discover there are new ways of doing things that could even be just as fun for you and the kids. Let me know what you think? Post the alternative Halloween ideas you have below.

My husband and I have decided to dress up (of course, that part was my idea) and go around to the houses of our friends and give them treats. Beware! I might show up at yours.