Throughout this fall and winter, I’m sharing some perspective on intuitive eating during the holidays and some strategies for feeling less crazy around food.
If you have a hard time with the holiday season, if this post isn’t what you need today, or if it seems triggering - I hope you’ll close this screen and check back in for my next post, and know that my heart is with you.
Today, we’re talking about Halloween candy - including busting some myths around sugar, a way to make your selection more inclusive, and how to handle having it in your house.
Sugar, sugar addiction, and hyperactivity
I wrote a post that brought out some ~feelings~ about sugar addiction back in 2017. Here’s a quick rundown.
Why sugar addiction isn’t real
The evidence for sugar addiction is lacking. A review of existing literature making a case for sugar addiction found insufficient evidence against its existence and recommended against including this term in the literature.
Current research arguing for sugar addiction is flawed. It typically is conducted on rats, and while there’s some parallels between rat and human biology… humans aren’t rats, and vice versa. Rats given pure sugar in a controlled environment is a very different situation from humans, who consume sugar in varied foods and rely on social and internal cues to eat and may have a long and complex relationship with food. Rachael Hartley makes some great points in this post.
A lot of things make our bodies release dopamine (a feel-good hormone and typically a part of the argument made for sugar addiction), like sex and exercise and laughing.
Food habituation studies show that the more unconditional access we give ourselves to food, the more balanced our intake is over time. If that’s not a case for intuitive eating, I don’t know what is.
The scariest thing about sugar is how much power diet culture gives it, but by familiarizing ourselves with the science and embracing food freedom, we can take fear off the table.
Sugar & hyperactivity
This article has some great information about sugar and hyperactivity - basically, several blinded studies have shown no support for the notion that sugar changes children’s activity levels.
In a study with including parents and 5-to-7 year olds, children and their parents were split into two groups. Half of the parents were told their children drank a sugar solution while the other half were told their child had a placebo solution… and the parents of the children who “drank” the sugar were more likely to rate their child’s behavior as hyperactive.
I’m not sharing this information because I want to tell you how to parent or that you are making things up. But I thought this information may be helpful in dismantling some of the ways society has conditioned us to think and feel about sugar.
How to make your candy selection more inclusive
Handing out candy on Halloween is a pretty strong part of American culture around the holiday, and I think participating within your resources (which may mean passing on the candy and that’s okay, too) helps speak to the beautiful fact that food is not just fuel; it’s family and celebration and a huge part of our lives.
However, if you’re looking to add inclusivity to your Halloween selection, the Teal Pumpkin Project has some great resources on how you can include children with food allergies in your celebration. If you have or know a child with food allergies, this also may be helpful in giving you ideas to make them feel part of the holiday without missing out on key components.
What to do with all your Halloween candy
For yourself, this could be an opportunity to try some food challenges as a tool to help you in your intuitive eating journey.
With your children, this is a good opportunity to explore Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility, which outlines the roles parents and children play around eating:
Whether or not eating happens
How much is eaten
When eating happens
What is eaten
Where eating happens
Emily Fonnesbeck gives some great tips in this article about how to handle Halloween candy with your children, including helping them check in with how they feel while eating. Using the division of responsibility, it may also be helpful to incorporate some loose structure by offering candy as snacks vs. letting kids graze.
I hope you find this helpful! Let me know your favorite Halloween candy in the comments - mine is caramel apple lollipops!