Dr. Heather McKee's Evidence Based Insights
How to avoid temptation this Halloween
When it comes to trying to avoid temptation, our environment is up against us this time of year. With big supermarket chains using clever tricks to nudge us into buying unhealthy treats. Halloween, in general, tends to be associated with a sugar binge.
However, it doesn’t need to be this way. Below I have listed 3 ways to avoid temptation and find a healthy balance this Halloween.
1. Out of sight is out of mind
What do you do at Halloween when there are tempting treats everywhere?
Get them out of sight!
Eating psychology research has shown that those that keep sweets nearby, in eyesight, (e.g. on a kitchen table or desk) weighed at least two stone more than those that didn’t. In a study where they removed these sweets from eyesight to a drawer or a cupboard people ate 74 fewer calories per day (that’s the equivalent of not gaining up to 3kg a year).
How does this work to help you avoid temptation?
Each time you see tempting foods in your environment you have to make the decision whether or not to have them, the more this happens the more likely you are to succumb to temptation.
How can you create an environment to help you avoid temptation this Halloween?
- Put Halloween treats in foil, a box, or in a cupboard that you don’t go into frequently.
- For things that need to be refrigerated put them in a non transparent box so you don’t see them.
- Always, always go for the smallest portion/packet/jar/box size there is. You may think it is uneconomical, but studies have shown we pour/serve more from larger boxes/cartons than smaller ones.
2. Create a healthy balance for children
If you have children it is important to find the balance between the fun of Halloween and supporting them to be as healthy as they can be. Eating behaviour research has shown that the environment that you create and the behaviours that you demonstrate have a strong influence on your child’s intake.
How can you create a balanced environment to help your children avoid temptation this Halloween?
- Be original in what you give to trick or treaters. Children tend to get the same types of treats over and over again; a packet of Malteasers, a few nuts you won’t be bothered to help them crack, and the occasional seasonally appropriate packet of crisps (e.g. monster munch, banshee bones). Why not do something different and hand out stickers, or glow sticks, temporary tattoos, bubbles or fidget spinners as your treats? This would also help in allowing you to avoid temptation in your own home too.
- One way you can do this is to provide interesting but healthy alternatives to classic Halloween treats . Ensuring that your children (and you) don’t feel deprived and still have fun making them. For example; mandarin pumpkins; peel mandarins and use chopped celery as pumpkins stalks. Or simply carve out a coconut and make your own coconut water – the flesh is really good for breakfast too!
- Another thing you can do is bring exercise into the mix. Instead of the trick or treat run being solely about how many sweets kids can get. How about a adding a pedometer challenge to it too? Who can get the most steps?
3. Use active coping skills to restore your own balance
If you do overindulge it’s not worthwhile beating yourself up about it. The key in terms of managing the long term impact of an overindulgence is the actions you take immediately afterwards.
Studies have shown adopting active coping mechanisms as a way of dealing with when you give in to temptation is vital to your long term success.
Instead of dwelling on it and going down a unproductive shame spiral. Take 30 seconds to decide what you can do in future to avoid/minimise it happening again.
Write it down.
Then move on. Ask yourself, what can I do next to restore the balance?
Think of your foundational habits; what works best for you? Some healthy fuel? Some rest? Meditation? Could you book an exercise class for this week? Even just simply making yourself a hot water and lemon can sometimes remind you that you care about your body and what you put into it. Experiment with this and try and keep a list of the key things that help you get back on track.
Choose what works best for you to help avoid temptation this Halloween
Not all of these methods to help avoid temptation this Halloween will apply to you. My advice, if you wish to take it, is to pick one or two that resonate.
Finally, keep in mind that whilst having a few treats at Halloween is not going to set you back too much there are lots of other fun things to enjoy about this season outside of food; fireworks displays, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, creating Halloween decorations, or watching scary movies. The more we train ourselves to take joy in things outside of food, the less likely we are to constantly associate certain situations or occasions with eating (and the less likely you are to make this a pattern for your children too).
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