Three years ago I posted this article about handling food temptations, especially during sugary holidays like Halloween. I’ve updated it a tad and share it again for those of you readying your house with bowls of candy and parties this upcoming weekend, etc. Read and relax — you don’t have to deny yourself completely, you just have to have a little self-control!
The secret to avoiding food temptation is not to see it (whatever the temptation is) as an absolute NO, NEVER, YOU CAN’T HAVE ANY! If there’s one thing we’ve all learned in our journey from toddler to teenager and now for some of us as parents, denial or restriction from something craved or coveted results in the forbidden fruit syndrome: that which we cannot have becomes the thing we most desire. That’s when “sneaking” or “cheating” or worse “over-indulging” comes in.
When I was a child, my mother did not allow us to eat any sugared cereals. However, because my bother and I were denied ever tasting this one food item, especially since so many of our peers did eat it, we got obsessed with, in particular, Lucky Charms. Despite being 3½ years apart in age, it was the first grocery item both of us purchased when we each moved out from home in our late teens. (My brother even purchased a box when he was 16 and kept it in his room. I know, because I snuck into his room and ate some!)
Adults are no different. Many of you go on diets (which you all know I feel is a terrible word because it implies temporary) restricting your nutrition to more “healthier” choices, while still long for those craved foods you are denying yourselves. This begins a cycle of torment as you deny yourself something, then ultimately sneak or indulge in it, and then berate yourself with feelings of guilt and disappointment for having “cheated” (another taboo word in my lexicon).
So back to my initial question: how do you avoid food temptation. YOU DON’T. But you DO moderate it. If you enjoy sweets or alcohol or fried foods, place a limited, yet realistic amount into your nutrition plan. By realistic I mean that you have to account for unexpected situations. For example, when one of my clients say they’ll only have one glass of wine or bite of chocolate on the weekends and an occasion comes along where they are faced with wanting wine or sweets on a Wednesday, they feel torn and anguish over the decision facing them. To they detour from their imposed restrictions or deny themselves something they want in the moment?
So rather than setting a restriction based upon days or unreasonably small quantities, try keeping your moderation plans looser. If your nutrition plan allows for two glasses of wine, or four cookies, per week — then you know your quantity and can simply play with when you enjoy those indulgences. But if you truly want to keep your indulgences assigned to specific days, that’s okay, but you must allow for contingencies. That freedom goes a long way to breaking the idea that these food cravings are forbidden or wrong. (Again, if you change your nutrition plan to a lifestyle change and not a diet you will also increase your chances of successful and permanent weight loss.)
With my 10 year old daughter, I only purchase non-sugared cereals as my mother had done (usually organic too). But I explained my cereal experience and then bought her a small box of Lucky Charms. I gave her a bowl one day as a “treat reward” that she’d earned. She liked the cereal, but she’s never asked for it again. It is not a forbidden fruit to her – it is simply something to have in moderation. In her case, there are many other tastier (and fortunately healthier) sweet treats that she’d rather have for her treat rewards.
With all this advice laid out, here comes Halloween — the sweetest and most challenging of holidays for many. For both adults and children, the key to handling this inundation of sugary crap is to set limits. My daughter can collect as much candy and her plastic pumpkin can hold. But once home, she is allowed 2 pieces to enjoy right then, and after she must select 14 pieces for keeping (one piece every day for two weeks). After that, the rest is packaged up and sent to the troops overseas. This has been our routine since she started trick or treating at age 2. She doesn’t feel deprived, and she doesn’t pollute her body with excessive sugar.
As for adults, I challenge all of you who fear the candy bowl – to just pick one, two, even five of your favorite candies (a roll of Sweeties, the fun size Snickers, a handful of candy corn, etc.). Have one right then, then have another in a day or two until your small quantity is gone.
I guarantee you’ll feel no guilt, and a relief that you got to taste that which you have been denying yourself. In all likelihood you’ll probably find it wasn’t as good as you remembered and you’ll not crave it as much in the future. Then toss the rest out or do as we do, and send it to the troups. Here’s the link on how to do that:
Don’t fear holidays and food temptations, just manage them!