How to Make Up for Eating Too Much Halloween Candy

With bowls and bags of Halloween candy scattered around the office and home, it’s easy to eat way more sugar than you typically would.

For many of us, eating episodes like this are considered a food sin and often lead to a make-up mentality that sounds something like this:

To make up for being bad, I will…

  • skip breakfast and lunch tomorrow.

  • cut carbs and work out extra hard all week.

  • go on a 10-day detox diet.

  • not eat sugar for the next month.

This penance approach frequently results in a vicious cycle of restrict-binge-repent-repeat. It’s ineffective, physically and psychologically damaging, and causes a lot of unnecessary suffering.

The key to avoiding this painful cycle is to stop believing you have to make up for your eating decisions—and stop making a fix-it plan.

Instead, when you feel like you’ve committed a “food transgression,” remind yourself that it's normal to overeat sometimes—then move on with your life.

Rather than feeling guilty, beating yourself up, and shifting into make-up mentality, simply resume your daily self-care practices.

And listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

For example, you may wake up tomorrow and find your appetite is smaller than usual. So eat a smaller breakfast.

Or, you may find you’re hungry for your usual breakfast or something completely different. Go for whatever sounds the most nourishing and satisfying.

Don't deprive or punish yourself and your body because you feel you ate badly. Doing so always backfires.

By avoiding the make-up mentality, you’ll experience a greater sense of ease and peace with food and your body.

I Just Want to Eat Like a Normal Person

A comment I often hear is:

“I just want to eat like a normal person.”

To better understand where someone is coming from, I always ask:

“What does normal eating mean to you?”

Of course, everyone responds differently depending upon the impact our diet culture and confusing food environment has had on a person's relationship with food.

However, almost all the answers are packed full of “shoulds” and “should nots,” such as:

  • I shouldn't eat so much.

  • I shouldn't think about food all the time.

  • I should eat fewer carbs.

  • I shouldn’t grab the chip bag when I’m stressed.

  • I should be able to control my sweet tooth.

  • I should eat more vegetables.

  • I should eat only whole foods; no processed foods.

  • I shouldn’t snack at night.  

  • I should avoid anything with added sugars.

  • I shouldn’t have seconds.

  • I should never keep chocolate or ice cream in my house.

  • I shouldn't be an emotional eater.

  • I should only eat dessert once a week.

  • I shouldn’t eat so much cheese and bread.

Normal to Not Eat Normally
Sadly, it’s pretty normal these days to not know what it means to eat normallyor how to do it.

The definition of normal (or healthy) eating for many people has come to include a lot of restrictions. The result: a disconnection from your body, a fraught relationship with food, and feelings of guilt and shame when you break the rules.

When my clients ask me what normal eating looks like, I often refer to Ellyn Satter, a well-known expert on feeding dynamics and eating competence. She created the following definition 35 years ago. Despite how much our food landscape and diet culture constantly changes, her words remain true.

Normal Eating is...
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.

It is being able to choose food you enjoy and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.

Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.

Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.

Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.

It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.

Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.

Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.

Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

Truly Liberating
I love how Satter's interpretation of normal eating removes all the judgement, moralism, rigidity, rules, deprivation, willpower and perfectionism that are so common in our relationship with food these days.

Instead, her definition supports a way of eating that is intuitive, pleasurable, sustainable, nourishing and truly liberating.

You can access a PDF of Satter's definition to post on your fridge here. She also offers many helpful resources on her website

“Normal Eating is…” Copyright (c) 2018 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatterInstitute.org.

Are You a Pseudo-Dieter?

After years of jumping from one diet to the next and being a slave to the scale, Val hit rock-bottom.

Fed up with the weight-loss roller coaster and obsessing over every morsel she ate, she swore off dieting.

Yet, months after joining the "anti-diet" movement, she still shuns carbs, never eats after 7 p.m., and runs a few extra miles whenever she has dessert.

Val is a pseudo-dieter.

She genuinely believes she’s given up dieting, yet she continues to engage in dieting behaviors.

 As a result, she still experiences many of the side effects of dieting, including feeling anxious when eating in social situations, intense food cravings, feeling out of control with her “trigger foods” (ice cream and chips), and feeling guilt, shame and anger when she thinks she’s eaten badly.

Deeply Ingrained
As with Val, the diet mentality can be so deeply ingrained—or hidden under the guise of “health" or "wellness”—that many of us “non-dieters” don’t realize we’re actually pseudo-dieting and that our restrictive eating behaviors make us vulnerable to the physical and psychological damage dieting causes.

Here are some more examples of pseudo-dieting: 

  • Eating only “clean” or “whole” foods.

  • Limiting carb, protein or fat grams regardless of what your body desires or needs.

  • Compensating for eating “bad” foods by doing extra exercise, skipping your next meal, eating less tomorrow, or going on a detox.

  • Eating at only certain times of the day despite your hunger level.

  • Becoming vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. for the sole (and often secret) purpose of losing weight.

  • Putting on a “false food face” in public by eating what you think you should rather than what you really want (e.g., ordering the healthiest item on the menu, forgoing the bread basket, skipping dessert).

  • Determining what you deserve to eat based on what you ate earlier in the day or if you exercised, rather than your hunger level.

Releasing the Diet Mentality
Just like an official diet program, pseudo-dieting disconnects you from your body inhibiting your ability to hear and honor the messages it’s sending you.

 And, as I mentioned earlier, all restrictive eating, no matter how it’s labeled, leaves you vulnerable to the pitfalls of dieting, from binge eating and weight cycling to social withdrawal and a preoccupation with food.

If you want to heal your relationship with food and your body, you need to truly let go of the diet mentality and relearn how to nourish your body based on internal cues versus external rules.

As pseudo-dieting behaviors can be quite subtle and disentangling from diet culture can be very difficult (but not impossible!), it can be helpful to receive support and guidance. I’m here for you if you need me.

Source: Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.