Halloween Reminders

Halloween is the beginning of a difficult time of the year for folks recovering from eating disorders. Here are ten helpful tips to making it through this holiday:

  1. Acknowledge if Halloween sucks for you! Whether it’s the uncomfortable emotions or all the memories of Halloween’s past, it’s okay if this holiday is hard – regardless of where you are on this journey. Reach out to people who “get it” for support.
  2. Allow yourself and your family to eat the candy. The more restrictions placed on the candy, the higher the likelihood of bingeing. Also, keep in mind that you might be eating more candy than usual right now anyway because it’s readily available. That’s okay, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bingeing, but tuning into yourself can’t hurt either!
  3. What does it mean to tune into yourself? Notice what you’re in the mood for – Snickers? Skittles? Something else entirely? Notice your hunger and fullness levels. Notice if the behavior feels emotion-driven in a negative way (using food to cope with stress) or in a positive one (it’s festive!). 
  4. A social media cleanse may help too. I often have clients revisit this throughout the year to catch any lingering profiles that may push diet culture. Try to follow accounts who preach intuitive eating and Health At Every Size – they’re much less likely to shame eating Halloween candy.
  5. Complete a mindful eating exercise with a piece (or more) of Halloween candy. Sit down without distractions and notice the sensory information the candy provides. What do you notice when you look at the piece of candy in the wrapper? When you take it out? What does the smell remind you of? What is the texture like in your hand? In your mouth? What does it taste like? Is it salty or sweet? Is there an after taste? What emotions are you noticing as you tune into this sensory information? 
  6. Practice self-compassion. If you overeat some of your candy, remind yourself that this happens to everyone (seriously, it happens to people with and without eating disorders). Remind yourself that this doesn’t define you. If you don’t eat any of your candy because your eating disorder voice is too strong, show yourself compassion for that internal struggle and know that future Halloweens can be different.
  7. Make a list of what Halloween is like from your eating disorder’s perspective and what it looks like from a recovery-oriented perspective. How are your experiences with candy different? Does trick-or-treating with your kids feel different when your eating disorder is louder than your recovery voice? How does your body image differ between the two mindsets? Notice which elements align with your values, and which leave you feeling sad or disappointed.
  8. Examine your food rules and rituals closely. Which ones apply to Halloween candy? Where did those rules come from? What do you fear when it comes to the candy and what are you afraid those fears say about you? Work with your treatment team to set up exposures so that you can challenge those rules and rituals head on.
  9. Take the picture with your kid, who undoubtedly looks precious in their Halloween costume. Even if you hate how your body looks, you and your child will be grateful in the future to have those memorable images!
  10. Find one part of the holiday you enjoy. If you aren’t ready to enjoy candy yet, maybe you really like apple cider, or a scary movie, or handing out candy to the kids in your neighborhood. Just because your Halloween doesn’t look perfect doesn’t mean you have “failed” or that you can’t enjoy one small element of it. This helps break the black-and-white thinking of an eating disorder and helps build some self-compassion too.