Expert in psychology of eating explains how to manage candy consumption during Halloween’s short-term binge
Between costumes, trick-or-treating and those great mounds of candy, Halloween is a dream for kids.
But especially with new research out showing that the sugar industry manipulated research and duped us all into sugar addiction, it can be a nightmare for parents concerned about food choices and health.
The biggest potential danger of Halloween, explains Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., a brain and cognitive scientist specialized in the psychology of eating, is that if candy consumption is not managed properly it can set kids off down the slippery slope toward sugar addiction.
Susan has shown through her work that sugar consumption actually changes the brain, rewiring it to ensure that we will continue consuming more and more of it. In other words, it is highly addictive. And a sugar addiction is often the first step toward a lifetime of overeating and obesity.
But the good news, she says, is that a short-term sugar-binge — say, a single day or two — will not rewire the brain. It’s the consumption over a prolonged period of time that we need to watch out for.
So how can parents best manage Halloween? Here’s what she suggests:
- Let kids enjoy and binge on their candy for 1 day or possibly 2, but 3 days absolute max.
- Refrain from limiting their candy intake during that time. Limiting intake will create too much of a focus and possibly, a fixation. Instead, allow them to indulge.
- Avoid trying to replace their candy binge with, say, a binge on carrots. They’ll feel deceived and cheated and will only crave candy all the more.
- Above all, model good eating habits year-round, with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies but minimal sweets.
Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D., is author of the book Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free (Hay House, March 2017). A brain and cognitive scientist and an expert in the psychology of eating, Susan is the CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to sharing the psychology and neurology of sustainable weight loss and helping people achieve it.
Susan’s devotion to weight-loss science stems in part from her own struggle to kick her addiction to food and the drugs she used to control her eating habits. With those trials behind her, she received the 2011 NISOD Excellence Award for her work as a psychology professor and helped found the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss in 2015. She lives in Rochester, New York with her husband David and their three children.