In less than an hour, my four children amassed over twelve pounds of candy. It was an uncharacteristically cold and rainy trick-or-treat day here, and our neighbors were generous. Too generous. One of the scariest things about Halloween is how afterwards I’m left with a house full of candy haunting me.
I love M&M’s. Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers . . . Almond Joy, Mounds . . .I’m not that picky. If it’s chocolate, I’m in. And, thus, October 31st usually begins my downward spiral into eating way too much sugar and feeling gross all the way until New Year’s.
Some habits have to change.
Now, I’m going to be the first one to tell you that you are free to enjoy a piece of candy, a couple cookies, and a generous sized piece of Thanksgiving pie. We are not slaves to food. Food is for our enjoyment and our nourishment. But, food is not our master.
What seems to happen to me during this season each year is food starts to consume too much space in my brain. I’m strategizing when I can sneak over to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte and a scone. I’m pinning cookie recipes, and watching baking shows like I’m studying for college finals. I think about what to serve at holiday functions and even look forward to going to Costco because I know, this time of the year, the samples are fabulous.
I subtly shift my focus away from all that is good about the holiday season to what I will EAT this holiday season. From the time to be thankful for all of God’s blessings to the time to celebrate the biggest blessing of all, the birth of our savior, I’m focused on pumpkin pie (Yes, I have a pumpkin obsession) and peppermint bark. Sigh.
Did I mention, some habits have to change?
So, here’s my plan for this year. If you also become a slave to the candy, cookies and pie each Fall, maybe this will help you too.
Way 1: Be Intentional
Obsessing over food is not edifying or helpful–to me or to anyone else. Using Jedi-mindtricks to fool myself out of over-eating or trying to “fill up at home before I go to the party” rarely works for me. First of all, I’m not the kind of woman who has ever been “too full” for dessert. (I probably need to see a doctor about this issue.) Second, I can make vows to myself all day long, “I will not eat all the cookies. I will make the cookies and only have one. I will not eat more than one.” And, still end up breaking those vows and reaching for my fifth cookie.
It’s embarrassing. But, I know some of you feel me on this one.
Here’s what I know. Trying to avoid all the sweets makes me want the sweets more. And then once I start, I can’t stop.
So, I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just give myself permission to enjoy some with boundaries.
Here are a few examples:
1- I can write down exactly what sweets I will have on a certain day and check them off as I eat them. This will keep me from over-indulging.
2-I could allow myself all the sweets I want within a certain 30 minute time period. Maybe it’s the first 30 minutes of a party or the thirty minutes after dinner. After the time is up, I stop eating.
3-Or, I could write down every sweet I consume after I eat one. This way I’m more likely to slow down. On Halloween, once I started listing each mini candy bar I ate, my brain caught up to my gluttonous taste buds and I slowed down the candy binge.
Way 2: Be Accountable
Writing things down is a great way to be accountable. But let’s be honest, I can hide my list under a stack on my desk and I don’t have to show the evidence of my over-indulgence ways to anyone if I don’t want to. That’s why I recommend you find a “Holiday Eating Accountability Partner.” There’s a good chance you know someone who also wants to be careful not to over-indulge this Fall. Keep each other accountable by asking hard questions. Did you eat too many sweets? Do you feel like you over-indulged? Do you feel like temptation and gluttony took over? Have you repented? (Yes, gluttony is a sin . . . we need to tell God sorry when we eat all the Snickers’). Have a friend who can help you use the gospel to navigate this season of food struggle.
Way 3: Be Aware
Know your triggers. When you get stressed are you more likely to dig through the kids’ Halloween buckets and pick out all the Butterfingers? Do you bake cookies when life feels out of control? Do you head to the fridge for the leftover hors d’oeuvres as soon as all the guests have left the party?
You aren’t the only one who struggles with this temptation, but neither do you have to fall into it’s lair. If you feel stressed, lie down for 5-10 minutes and listen to worship music before you grab for the candy. Drink a full glass of water and then dance to your favorite worship song (here’s a great one I like!) and see if you still need that Milky Way. Make the cookie dough then consider baking only half the cookies (freeze the rest of the dough) so that you don’t have too many cookies sitting around to tempt you.
Way 4: Be Focused
It’s no coincidence that my eating is most out of control when I’m “too busy” to engage in my regular spiritual disciplines. The days where I don’t make the time to pray and read my Bible, I seem to reach for the sugar to comfort me.
But, sweets are a horrible savior.
This Fall, focus on the ways you tend to make an idol out of food during the holidays. Confess to the father that food has become a greater joy than He is. (Ouch, that’s hard to admit.) Tell him you are sorry that you’ve made food something it was never intended to be. And, after your repentance, receive the forgiveness he generously gives and walk in new freedom to say “no” to over-thinking and over-indulging on food.
Way 5: Be Grace-Filled
We all have our days. . . those days when the best laid plans get washed down the garbage disposal with the leftover casserole that’s been in the fridge for three weeks.
So give yourself grace.
If you eat three more bags of Sour Patch Kids than you should have, stop and receive grace. Too often we lose control and we keep going because we focus on our failure. We develop the, “Oh well, I already messed up. Might as well REALLY go wild” mentality. This isn’t helpful.
So you didn’t meet your goal. So you hoped not to over-do it on sweets at the company party and then they had all your favorites and you didn’t stop. Don’t condemn yourself and keep spiraling downward. Stop. Repent. Then, receive grace. You’re still accepted. You’re still loved. You may have lost a battle, but the war’s not even close to over, so keep fighting.