Halloween Candy: to Indulge or Not to Indulge

Halloween is coming up and that means candy and Christmas decorations are filling up the displays in all the stores.

So what do you do about all this candy if you have a fat loss or physique goal? You have a choice! Read on for some brain candy that will help you make an informed decision about what to do about all that candy.


1) You could abstain from candy altogether.

This might work for some of you. If you tend to do better with either/or, all-or-nothing decisions, then choosing to eat no candy might be better for you than choosing to eat all of the candy.

The Pros: -Not eating any candy means avoiding extra calories from low nutrient food that don’t contribute to your nutritional needs and don’t help you attain or maintain a leaner physique.

The Cons: -Avoiding all candy creates a good food vs bad food dichotomy that causes feelings of guilt, shame, or failure when you eat “bad” food or if you break down and have a bit of candy after all.  This is a false dichotomy: foods aren’t inherently good or bad.  No single food is going to cause you to become more or less healthy.  It is your overall, long term food choices that impact your health and body composition.


2) You could eat some candy. As they say, “everything in moderation-including Halloween candy.

The Pros: -You can eat candy. Aside from enjoying the eating of your favourite candy, you also get to participate in the social customs and events in which eating Halloween candy occurs.
-You avoid the good vs bad food dichotomy that often leads to feelings of guilt, shame, or failure after eating foods labeled as “bad.” Eating some candy can fit into a healthy eating style where you eat mainly whole, unprocessed, nutritious food and leave some space for processed, refined, or low nutrient foods.

The Cons: -If you can’t stick to moderation you run the risk of eating more candy than you planned. Depending on how much you overdo it, this may temporarily slow, halt, or reverse your fat loss progress.


3) You could eat ALL the candy.

The Pros: -You’re likely going to really enjoy it while you go nuts over Halloween candy!

The Cons: -You might feel sluggish if you come down off your sugar high. You might also feel sluggish if your rampant candy consumption causes you to skip a meal or two or replace your normal healthy snacks with candy. If your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs, it will not perform as well.
-The extra calories will most likely slow, halt, or reverse your fat loss progress while you’re binging.


But can’t I just work out more?


If you have the room in your programming to work out more frequently or more intensely, you could try to offset your increased caloric intake with more exercise. Extra exercise can make a small dent in your candy calories, but probably won’t offset it all. Have a peek at how many calories are in a handful of Halloween candy or a small Halloween bag of chips. Now take a peek at how long you would have to work for to burn that same amount of calories. Spoiler alert: It is a lot easier to eat Halloween calories than it is to burn them off.


So am I doomed?


If you have been the same weight or body composition for a while i.e. a few months to years, a small amount of candy will probably only cause a slight blip in your body fat level. This is because your body is resistant to change. A short duration increase in calorie consumption will not be enough to cause a lasting change in body composition, just like a short duration increase in exercise or food quality won’t cause a lasting change in body composition.

This is called Set Point Theory – your body wants to remain the same and will make adjustments to compensate for acute increases and decreases in physical activity or caloric intake in order to maintain its current state. Your body is pretty good at resisting change in the short term, but if you maintain your exercise and eating habits over the long term, your body will allow itself to change (towards either higher or lower levels of fitness, lean body mass, or fat).

It takes a consistent stimulus to overcome the body’s set point and change body composition. This is why most people don’t start dropping fat immediately when they start exercising and eating well. Once you have attained and maintained a new body composition for a while, your body will adopt it as its new set point and the same rules for making body composition changes apply. How long it takes will vary from person to person.  The longer you were at your previous set point, the longer it will take for your body to adopt a new one.

This is why it is important to take the long view to health and fitness instead of chasing fads, trends, and rapid weight loss protocols. Practicing sustainable nutrition habits and exercising with progressive overload will effect lasting body composition changes. Quick fixes typically don’t last long enough to move your body’s set point. You can still have fun experimenting with fads and trends, just don’t expect them to give you long term results.


Bottom Line


If you want to eat some candy this Halloween, eat some candy! There is room in most people’s diets for a little bit of candy if the rest of their diet picture is sound i.e. they’re eating mostly whole, nutrient dense, unprocessed foods and consuming the right amount of calories to support their body composition goals. Understand that eating a lot of candy in addition to your regular diet will probably slow or stop your fat loss and might even cause fat gain, but eating a little bit is probably just fine.