October 29, 2011

Trick or treat

At Wednesday night's dinner, my friends and I all talked about our plans for the weekend. A few people in our group were planning on going to parties in local cities, but for the most part, no one seemed all that interested. To be honest, I hadn't realized it was Halloween already - it's hard to get into the spirit of the season when it's still high 70/low 80 degree weather every day.

The conversation turned fairly quickly to candy; since four of our group of five are new to the area this year, we wanted to know if we should expect trick or treaters, and how many. The one woman who has been here a few years (Kristin) said that she wasn't sure, it varies, and in any case, she doesn't give out candy. She said she does raisins, apples, or toothbrushes. And suddenly, our group was divided.
  • Kristin is vegan and a bit of a health nut, so she doesn't like the idea of giving children candy.
  • Adam and Justin said that giving kids toothbrushes is a great idea in theory, but is pointless in practice because it is a waste of money - kids will just throw it out and go to every other house for candy.
  • Minal is from India and is not used to the American Halloween tradition, and was a little confused, and thus undecided.
And, per usual, I stayed quiet and observed the discussion, collecting my thoughts.

I thought about last year, when I was only a few months into my commitment to losing weight, and how tough Halloween was. I fought it as hard as I could - I even made a note card for my desk next to the bucket of candy I bought for my students to help me keep my hands out of it. It had calorie counts, in a way: one mini Snickers bar = 10 minutes of Wii Boxing. This year, though, it hasn't even crossed my mind. Maybe because I go to Target a lot less and am thus not as tempted by the holiday-themed aisle.

Given my plateau for the past few months, I've been trying to focus on NSVs as much as possible, and not eating any Halloween candy has been a huge victory for me. It's so easy to be a secret eater at Halloween - buying a few giant sized bags of candy in July is suspicious, but towards the end of October, no one seems to question the recipient. In Chicago, I lived in a second floor rear apartment with no doorbell - I never saw a single trick or treater - but I certainly bought my share of candy bars. Dump them all into a bowl like I was getting ready to give it out, then sit on the couch, shelling and popping them into my mouth like peanuts, watching "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and reeling in the intoxicating sugar high.

Fortunately, gorging myself on candy isn't at the front of my thoughts right now, but I still have the festivities in mind. I'm thinking mostly about kids, and in which ways Halloween is different now from when my parents were young, or even from when I was a kid. Kristin (and a few commenters on yesterday's blog post) said that a local dentist offers kids a few dollars per bag for turning in their candy, and again, we found ourselves torn. Given the rates of obesity in the United States, it was surprising that dentists are willing to intervene, but not pediatricians. Kristin thought it was a great idea - again, from a healthy food stance. And the boys disagreed with her again, saying it's one day a year and it's part of being a kid.

My own trick or treat experience is limited - I can only remember a few Halloweens - but of course, we loved it. There were no rules governing our candy, at least none I remember, or that were strictly enforced. I doubt it lasted more than a few days, and then I'd get into my sisters' bags. Lisa more than Katie - Lisa never really liked candy, so I don't think she noticed or cared if the pieces went missing.

Since I started losing weight, I've thought a lot about my own future children - wondering how to raise healthy and happy kids who don't have issues with food like I do, and especially figuring out how to approach food-related holidays and traditions. I love the idea of doing 5k races with my husband and kids on holiday mornings - even if we just walk them as a family, we'll be out there, active, focusing on family and not just food. But the food is still there, in the background. So, how do you find balance?

I can't say for sure, since I am nowhere near marriage and parenthood right now. But ideally, I think I'd let my kids go trick or treating, but then figure out some way to ration out the candy. Try to teach moderation, and don't criminalize food. It's a personal goal that I hope to master, then instill in my children via example.


Hyla said...

The Switch Witch! The book is called The Switch Witch, I got it to review on my GreenEarthJourney blog, check it out, it's a great concept and what we do with the kids! I've got to have hubby pick up the books for switching today!

Kim said...

Those are some good points your friend Kristin brings up. I like the idea of toothbrushes, but I agree with the guys, when I was a kid I would have been like "What the heck??" I'm kinda more with them that it is only one day a year. I hear you about the candy though. I struggle with it every single year. Ugh!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I remember, while trick or treating as a kid, receiving walnuts and pennies from some folks - our favs were chips (which we rarely received) or chocolate bars (rarely too) - but then again, this was the '60s and '70s and we rarely had candy since it really was a "treat" (a couple of times per year maybe?) ... it's a different world out there now. (I have to say we weren't impressed w/ the pennies or walnuts, but I think that's the only way that I ever actually ate a walnut and I love them now!! My mom looked at them like they were gold!! LOL)
We don't do halloween now - but I do love getting the 50% off candy after the holiday and using it to fill Christmas stockings. And no, I don't touch it - I put it away right away and as long as the bag is sealed, I'm okay. Oh and if I open it - I make sure that I tell someone for accountability ("I will eat 3 of the treats and then that's it") and I will stick to my word.
I can't imagine handing out toothbruthes, seriously. And apples got thrown out at our place - too dangerous re: strange people putting needles into them (stories every year) ... same for unpackaged popcorn or homemade treats. And that was 30+ years ago...

Karla said...

I buy candy, give it out like the good little trick or treat house... But I buy all the candy my hubby likes ... Then towards the end of the night, I am giving huge handfulls away, just to get rid of it!!! No way is candy staying in this house!!!!

Living in the Light & Beyond...Krystin said...

Mary-I appreciate how well you see the multitude of sides in food-related situations and give value to each one equally. Your ideal for how to approach this matter with your future children seems to fit with that same fairness and in being realistic. Kids need to be kids and sometimes when you apply extreme ideals into mainstream kid-life, you may find their reaction to be pushing/pulling them in the opposite direction. I just read this week how model Giselle's son reacts to broccoli as if it were a cookie. Interesting concept, but what happens when he is exposed to cookies and other sugary items. What tools have been instilled in his nutritional template to help moderate and not mutate if the desire arises. Life is full of compromises and awareness helps individuals make their own decisions. Making our children aware at an early age and throughout will help them to achieve healthy lifestyles. Decisions, like Mary's perception of how she would handle Halloween, enforces that journey. Well done!!

SkippyMom said...

I can see dentists stepping in but not pediatricians. Not every kid has food issues, weight problems or is obese, but every kid has teeth.

Holidays, Halloween included, aren't difficult in our house, as it is the same 'ol "everything in moderation" kind of thing, plus the four major ones come only once a year - they aren't suddenly going to cause us all to become fat. We just eat like we usually do.

I don't understand how veganism relates to not giving kids candy? There are some candies made without any animal by products. Although my kids would love a box of raisins.

I do like your idea of a 5K special run on holidays. Nice way to start the day.

Christie Farrar said...

I havent had any bags of candy either this year.
I'm proud of myself for that.

But I still get a candy bar every time I go to the store. *shrug*

It hasn't really been a battle with me the last few years. Probably because I no longer live at home, where my mom and grandma would buy bags and bags and we would eat them all. we would each get our own bag of candy, put on a movie, and then every once and a while, switch bags so we could each get what the others got too.

Tim said...

I just thought of an idea. You could turn a Satsuma or Tangerine into a mini pumpkin. You could get a perm black marker and draw faces on them.

Kids would think they would look cool and they'll be eating fruit.

sheila said...

My nephew has all kinds of food allergies. My sister (his mom) goes around the neighborhood and plants "treats" for the neighbors to give out to him. He gets to feel included without endangering his health. Small Lego set, Matchbox cars, pack of markers, favorite safe snacks, etc. It's a fun night for him. Then he goes home to a video, popcorn and his haul of fun stuff.

Unknown said...

Trick or Treating in the UK is a recent phenomenon....but not in the way you'd think. When I was a child my cousins and I would go door to door not saying "trick or treat" (I never even heard the phrase until I was too old to do it!) but would say "Penny for Halloween" and we'd be treat with a few pennies. At the end of the night we'd dump our bags of pennies on my parents living room floor and divide them all out between us. I'd tend to put my pennies towards Polly Pocket toys that I loved so much at the time. Every now and then we'd get sweeties, but it was rare. There was one old guy who always gave out apples.

These days it's all about trick or treat. A couple of years ago, after having lived in student flats with no access for trick or treaters (or "Halloweeners" as we called them "back in my day") I happened accross a little girl out with her mum one evening all dressed up with a plastic pumpkin full of sweeties, so I got out some loose change and gave it to her and her mum gave me such an odd look...not dirty, but not exactly approving either. Since when did mums prefer their kids getting candy from strangers to money which can't be spiked or unhealthy!

Ah well, things change. My husband and his sisters were never allowed to go so we'll have to wait and see what we're jointly comfortable with when our kids come along.

Unknown said...

Balance is key. It's like when you lose weight you allow yourself your treats and Halloween for kids should be the same! My grandmother would always give 50c to kids instead of sweets or 1 euro book tokens which I always thought was cool! Even things like stickers or cute notebooks are pretty cheap and fun alternatives to lots of junk!

Amy said...

I really think that Halloween is great, and I never had food issues as a child and went out for Halloween with tons of candy. By the time my issues with food began, I was done trick or treating.

I think it's an important ritual as a child, but you can ration out the food, and then give the rest away. Or maybe not go out trick or treating as long, make it a long walk, and skip houses or something, so you're being more active than anything!

But skip the holiday? That's silly... kids will feel alienated.

Bluezy said...

Understand you there! The non dieters CAN eat pizza and chase it with ice cream for all I care. I just learn to stand back. I get invited, but politely decline. No preaching that I am on a diet and the meal they are eating is full or carbs and blah blah blah.

Greg (Transformed and Scaled) said...

I think my sister gives her boys a limit on how much of their Halloween candy they can have in a day, and keeps it out of sight. Of course, that's relatively easy when they're 7 and 5. My issue will be going past the bowls of leftover candy that my coworkers will bring in tomorrow and resisting the urge to have more than one or two.

financecupcake said...

Oh, Halloween...

I took my toddler out for an hour tonight, and we didn't get an outrageous amount of candy. I let him have a few pieces tonight, and I'll let him have a few pieces each day he remembers to ask for it.

I like that you want to do holiday fitness events with your future family! Ramsey and I both ran Halloween races this weekend.

Halloween didn't contribute to my food issues at all.

Geosomin said...

We gave out playdoh and comic books this year...I remember as a kid getting so much candy I never did eat it all. I'd rather have had playdoh and comics, so it seemed like a cool idea to me - my friend owns a comic store and had a bunch of small kid age halloween comics for us. But then, Halloween was never a problem for me with eating. I'm one of those wierdos who doesn't like candy that much. I know...it's wierd.