Even though Halloween has come and gone I’d like to talk a little bit about my Halloween experiment and how you can apply its lesson throughout the rest of the upcoming food-filled holidays.
Each year I’ve conducted an experiment with our trick-or-treating Halloween candy bowl. We have two intimidating dogs who like to escape the backyard So, our only option for trick-or-treaters is to put a decorative bowl filled to the brim with candy or small toys to help themselves to.
This is where my experiment started.
For the first two years, I put a sign out that said “Please take only one piece!”
Both years, my Halloween candy bowl was empty in about 25 minutes. The stool the bowl sat on was tipped over and the bowl was thrown across our yard.
The trick-or-treating rebels (the half-costumed teens) were taking handfuls of candy and sending me a message, “You think you can command me to take just one?! Go F yourself lady, I’m going to take as many as I can.”
The third and fourth year instead of getting egg’d, I decided to change the wording on my sign.
It now reads “Happy Halloween! Help yourself!”
And you know what? They took the bait! Our bowl stayed full for at least three hours. Kids were actually being honest and taking one or two pieces rather than handfuls, since they had no need to spite or rebel against my sign.
I started thinking about how this simple change in sign verbiage applies to eating practices in general.
When you tell yourself something is off limits or needs to be severely limited, your inner rebel kicks in and you’re bingeing on the very food you’d sworn you would only have one piece of.
Think about Halloween Candy for example—you’ll start out telling yourself that you are not going to have any, or maybe you’ll say to yourself, “I’m only going to take one piece, then the diet starts tomorrow!”
Suddenly, your inner rebel kicks in and you have devoured half your kid’s pillowcase of candy before the clock even strikes midnight—you don’t even like half the stuff you just ate!
That used to be me.
Thankfully, I’ve learned to give myself permission to “help myself” when it comes to temptations—now they are no longer as tempting.
When I walk up to a buffet of former “off limit” food and say to myself “take as much as you’d like” I’m no longer inspired to binge.
I take what satisfies me, then I walk away.
I don’t pine over it and I certainly don’t crave it as strongly because I know that I can go eat it whenever I damn well please.
So, if you’re avoiding the pantry or your kid’s bedroom because there’s still remnants of candy laying around and you don’t trust yourself near it for fear your inner crazy might be unleashed on those bite sized Snickers, you need to stop telling yourself to only take one!
Go get that temptation—the pillowcase of candy–put it out in front of you, and tell yourself, “You may have as much you want, you beautiful, amazing woman!”
Then follow through, eat as much as you want of whatever foods or candies you like best.
One stipulation though—you must enjoy them—-I mean really savor those suckers! Roll them over your tongue and take notice of their flavor and texture. Roll your eyes back into your head while simultaneously saying, “mmmmmm!”
After all, isn’t enjoying delicious tasting food one of the great human pleasures?
When trying this experiment, some people will eat everything that’s in front of them, some will realize they only need a few bites to satisfy their craving. Many might even realize that the food they once idolized is not that fabulous tasting after all and stop craving it all together.
The volume doesn’t matter, the way in which you eat it does.
Now that the Holidays are here, this is a wonderful time to try this experiment every time you sit down to eat or go to a food-filled event.
Tell yourself you are allowed to eat what you would like and as much as you would like, then do it and make sure you take time to enjoy it!
Trust me, if you do this, you won’t leave the party feeling deprived and end up eating the rest of the contents in your fridge when you get home.
Good luck and may you have joy-filled, deprivation-free holidays!
Here’s a free guide to help you keep the weight off during the holidays (without depriving yourself).
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Maureen Witten
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: Laura D’Alessandro/Flickr