Candy – all at once, or a little at a time?

I am writing about this topic because of Halloween of course, but it applies to eating well all year. Still not sure what I am talking about?

Okay, the kids get dressed as their favourite characters, or whatever they can dig out of the closet, and off they go door to door, or through the mall to say those words every kid loves to say, “Trick or Treat!” The munchkins, or preteens or even teens arrive home with a bucket, bag or pillow case full of candy! Woo hoo! I remember fondly pouring out the pillow case onto my bed and sorting through all the booty! It was the best and I loved every moment!

Each parent and each kid now has a decision to make – do I eat all of this at once, or do I space it out so it lasts for weeks? Good question! What is the best answer? Well, that is up to you as a responsible parent and a wise kid, but here are my thoughts.

I say go for it! Eat it all within as few days as possible, even just one day! There are several reasons for this, and certainly this is part scientific fact and partly my opinion. Here’s the thing, when you eat a ton of candy, your body will eventually defend itself and say ‘enough’ by making you sick. So there is a self limiting response to all of this – you will eat until you get sick of candy, and you won’t want any more. That is actually a good thing – get it done and over with. You see, as much as I love candy, and who wouldn’t? It releases all kinds of chemicals in our brains that are related to pleasure, which is why sugar and chocolate have endured all these years. The problem is this, it’s bad for you in so many more ways than we may realize.

Refined sugar itself (not natural sugar from fruits and veggies), as little as a teaspoon full, slows down your immune system leaving you vulnerable to colds, flus and all manner of ill (scientific fact). Refined white sugar also gets stored in adipose (fat) tissue when we consume more calories that our body needs. Add in to that, all the chemicals, flavours, food colourings and fillers – and Halloween candy is awful! Plus it will rot your teeth out (as my mom used to say).

So why would I say to eat any of this? I believe that candy and treats are a fun part of childhood, and Halloween is a great time of joy and imagination. So it falls into the ‘once in a while’ category which is what makes it so special and at the same time, okay.

Now, the other option for all that candy – is to ration it. Store it. Only allow yourself or your kids to have a little each day to make it last.

I disagree with that rationale – why would you want to drag out something that is bad for you? As I have said, I think it is best to eat it all up and be done with it. You will either get sick, or you will run out of candy, and either way, it’s gone, and you can get back to eating healthy food immediately. Your immune system can recover, your stomach can feel better and your hormones can return to normal after the crazy chemical overload. Rationing it out can create permanent illness, or long term issues. My wife used to work in an elementary school, and the kids were all unmanageable for a day or two after Halloween, and then it was done. No teacher or parent wants the unruly, distracted, hyper, unfocused Halloween aftermath to last until Christmas.

As adults, this comes to play in my philosophy of a weekly or monthly ‘cheat meal’. This is how I get my clients to stay on track and have seen many of them drop 100 pounds or more. Eat well 80% of the time or more, and once in a while, eat what you want, no guilt.

Remember, it is not what you occasionally eat that determines the state of your health, rather, it is what you consistently and constantly feed your body that creates your health, or lack of it. So when I am having a cheat meal – I buy a small ice cream or desert, enough for one meal. I eat it, enjoy it, and then it is gone. Tomorrow, when I open the fridge – only good food exists, so that is what I eat. Simple.

Same thing with Halloween candy – eat it, and get it done with. Then look forward to Christmas. Our three and a half year old loved his candy Saturday night and Sunday, never even asked about it and it was gone. He was back to eating healthy, as were we.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and the owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake.