Is the thought of being haunted by leftover Halloween candy leaving you stressed out? For anyone who has struggled with healthy eating habits and a sweet tooth, this can be a very challenging time of year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As with most things, the answer to the question of what to do with leftover Halloween candy is BALANCE.

One of the major reasons why we tend to binge on foods like Halloween candy is because we allow ourselves to consume it so rarely. Because of that rarity, our natural inclination is to enjoy as much of it as we can because we won’t be able to again for a long time. We think “well it’s just this time of year so why not?” or “diet starts next week!” or “well I’ve already fallen off the wagon, might as well go all in!”. Do these sound familiar? These are the thoughts that come with deprivation.

So how do you solve that mindset? Give yourself permission to enjoy those sweet treats. Knowing that you can have it whenever you want it, will help quell that urge to get as much as you can while you can. And, as you are able to enjoy your Skittles and Milky Ways in moderation, you will learn to trust yourself with those foods more. The fact is that there is room in any and every healthy diet for candy.

Obviously, this isn’t a change that happens overnight. It’s a process. So here are some tips about what to do with that leftover candy to help you along the way.

1. Give yourself permission

Sometimes when we feel like we’re doing a bad thing, we eat even more than we would have normally. It’s a natural defiant reaction to a perceived threat to our boundaries and autonomy – having our food choices dictated by an arbitrary rule someone else created. Give yourself permission to have the candy you want and remind yourself that you are free to have candy whenever you want to. Having that reminder will help keep you from eating candy until you don’t feel well because you will know it’s an option later on if you want it. Think of it like reversing a scarcity mindset.

2. Enjoy your candy mindfully

If you are going to treat yourself to some much-loved candy, you should actually get to enjoy it, right?! Well, eating it mindfully is the way to do that. What does that mean? In the simplest terms, it means being present while you eat. Not watching TV, not scrolling through Instagram, not driving in your car. It means allowing yourself to focus on the act of eating so that you can notice and appreciate things like: how the candy smells (a critical component of how it tastes!), how it tastes, what the texture is like, etc. This will also help slow down your eating so that you can close that brain-belly gap we experience when we eat too quickly and don’t realize we’re full until it’s too late.

3. Go easy on yourself

Avoid creating rigid rules to follow and beating yourself up for eating candy. It bears repeating: there is room in every healthy diet for candy. And what if you eat the whole bag? So what? It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a weak person. And it doesn’t mean all is lost. The best thing that you can do is move on from it and avoid that downward spiral of self-defeating thoughts.

The bottom line is: it’s OK to eat candy and you don’t have to banish it from your house. Empowered eating comes from granting yourself permission to enjoy the foods you love, trusting yourself to do so without going overboard, and remembering that your favorite foods are always an option because you’re not subjecting yourself to arbitrary diet rules.

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