A few weeks ago the LA Times posted an article on the debate over Halloween candy – should people hand out healthy options like fruit or even non-food items instead of candy? The article, which you can read here, included viewpoints from a variety of public health advocates, a dentist, and weight-loss experts. It’s an interesting debate and I don’t know exactly what the answer is (there are problems and challenges with every suggestion made), but the last suggestion really got me thinking. Both Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State and author of Volumetrics, and Michael Pollan (known for his books The Omnivore’s Dilemma and “In Defense of Food”) supported the idea of “chill out – it’s only once a year.”
At first thought, I was somewhat in agreement with this idea. I believe in treating yourself every so often. Depriving yourself of all treats isn’t sustainable and research shows it will often lead to a binge. But is the estimated 3,000-7,000 calories of candy that the average child brings home on Halloween “just a treat?” I don’t think so. Rolls says it’s up to the parents to decide whether or not to let their kids eat all the candy they collect. But, you can see from this video what happens when parents tell their kids that all their halloween candy is gone…
This attitude of “it’s only once a year” is what get’s us in trouble at this time of year. Over the next 6 weeks, it’s easy to get caught up in it’s the special occasion (therefore I can eat and drink whatever I want) mindset, which is perhaps part of the reason the average American gains 5-8 lbs during the holiday season. It’s easy for this mindset to continue through the rest of the winter too. For many, the next 10-12 Sundays are reserved for football watching, which often means consuming a lot of beer, pizza, and wings. To add to this, exercise tends to drop off at this time of year – it’s colder, many people are working longer hours to finish up the year, and spare time is spent at the mall instead of at the gym.
So, the challenge I see with the “it’s only once a year” mindset is that there are a lot of “once a year” occasions and if we give ourselves permission to lose all self-control every time we are at a holiday party or celebrating this wonderful time of year, we will be left unable to button our pants.
As we enter the season filled with cocktails and delicious food, I encourage you to enjoy one or two of your favorite treats and maybe a cocktail (or two), but don’t attend every meal or party with the mindset that it doesn’t matter what or how much you eat or drink because you’re celebrating. Instead, remember that this time of year is about spending time with family and friends!
Check back next week for a few tips to make your Thanksgiving a little healthier this year!
What do you think about the “special occasion” or “it’s only once a year” mindset? Please share your thoughts!
- your food and fitness friend