On my Facebook page, a community member asked:
What do you think about all these Switch Witch shenanigans?
I have been living under a rock lately and looked it up. If you have been a recluse too, this popular Switch Witch wants to rid kids of terrifying candy (boo!).
The witch hangs out with the family starting October first and disappears on Halloween, candy in tow. When the kids awaken the next day, the candy is gone yet they are all smiles with shiny new toys. Parents do not have to deal with the food fights. Everyone wins.
Sounds like a great solution, right?
Uh, no. Let me explain.
1.) Allowing Halloween candy helps your child practice how to be around all foods.
Like it or not, we live in a world with many different foods. Children are limited by what parents allow into the home and the structure they provide. We are required by law to feed our children and that makes them grow up. They leave us for college or trade school or when we get tired of each other and they move out. And the world will be their oyster. Or candy bar. They get to decide which foods they will have in their dwelling. Seinfeld speaks this awesome truth here:
If a child was never taught how to experience highly palatable (*I won’t use the word junk here*) food, he will learn later in life. A young adult never exposed to fun food will have a tough time eating them without shame. Shame never promotes health. This food relationship produces an adult who feels out of control around certain foods. For many, this develops into bingeing and secret eating. These are typical eating disorder behaviors. Oh what a web we weave.
2) Keeping Halloween candy out of the house has more to say about the adult’s inability to be around the food than keeping a child healthy.
Fun foods taste gooooood. And that is why we adults yearn for ideas like the Switch Witch. We don’t trust ourselves around the food and feel shame when we can’t stop eating them. So we avoid the candy or other yummy treats. Our solution: keep it out of the house. Then, when a special holiday food comes around (helloooo candy corn!), we feel guilt free enough to “indulge” and curse the candy when we succumb to the tummy ache alarm to stop noshing. This is not the food’s fault. This is the basic law of food deprivation. When we are around a novel food, our brains light up with interest. Sometimes even obsess. ¹ When we finally allow a bite, it is always hard to stop.
Allowing Halloween candy to remain around models how we as grown ups can navigate different types of food. Too scary? You are not alone.
There is a way to heal this. It is called unconditional permission to eat. When a person has true permission to choose any food in any amount, eating according to physical hunger and fullness cues is the norm. This won’t work if “permission” is tangled up with one of these familiar sabotaging statements:
- I will just have one.
- I will save up my calories to have candy tonight.
- I will exercise off calories to have candy tonight.
When we view food choices with permission, we begin to experience healthy ways of relating to food. This concept is from Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch. Life changing work is done within its framework. I encourage you to check it out for yourself and your children.
3) Keeping the Halloween candy around will teach your children to not let food have more power than it deserves.
Imagine if you took your child into a room full of toys and said, “Play with any toy you like….except this one.” Even if the toy is a smelly old shoe, it will cause a 30 minute temper tantrum until the child is allowed to play with it. Go ahead try for yourself. I dare you.
Having a witch magically steal your child’s candy let’s them know these foods are forbidden. And a house that forbids food gives that food 100 times more power than it deserves. My clients affected by eating disorders spend too much time and energy thinking about forbidden foods. To the point they will not go to parties, or on dates. Their social life suffers. Some won’t even leave the house in fear they will have to face a forbidden food. I appreciate this is a strong statement and my work with eating disorder clients allows me to believe it: making candy a forbidden food is setting children up to experience disordered eating pathology. And, yes, that is very serious.
Where can we find help navigating the parental decisions around Halloween candy? Ellyn Satter has the best recommendations. I reread them every year. Spend time reading her recommendations here. And ditch that witch.
Footnote (i.e. best part of any blog post) ¹ This may bring up food addiction for many. You don’t have to send me articles or scholarly journals on food addiction since I am keeping up with the research. Until they control for food deprivation, the research means nothing unless you are a robot without free will.