Fall has begun and Halloween is just around the corner, with stores selling costumes and candies in abundance. For some, Halloween is the most exciting time of the year, however for others it can be a holiday where anxiety and insecurities flourish. For those struggling with an eating disorder, it can be difficult to want to go out and celebrate. Regardless of age, candy and other festivities will typically make a larger appearance than usual during this season. Throughout childhood or early adolescence, trick or treating is how most celebrate Halloween. During high school or college/university, Halloween costume parties are often the norm. As you mature through life, you may be exposed to the holiday through pumpkin carving with family, events at work, or even indulging in the goodies leftover after handing out candy.
For those struggling with body image issues or an eating disorder, Halloween can be a tough holiday to endure. In today’s society, the majority of adult costumes, especially those marketed towards females, can be quite revealing. Although many do not consider this, Halloween has the potential to create a hostile environment for some, as dressing up may cause individuals with body image issues to compare themselves to others.
While it may seem difficult, it’s not impossible to enjoy this holiday. Being aware of the possible triggers during this season can prepare you for a positive experience. If Halloween may be triggering to your eating disorder, there is absolutely nothing wrong in deciding to not partake – always look out for yourself. You should never feel pressured to have to dress up or go out, those close to you should understand and respect your decision to stay in. Prioritizing your mental health is very important, and should be strongly taken into consideration when making any decision that may affect your recovery process.
Throughout any holiday, intuitive eating can help to remove guilty feelings or the shame that some attach to the act of eating Halloween candy. Depending on the type of eating disorder you are struggling with, you may have avoided eating Halloween candy in previous years, or binged on it in secret. By practicing intuitive eating, you can enjoy these treats without having the urge to engage in disordered eating behaviours1. By making peace with food, you are giving yourself permission to enjoy the treats that come with Halloween, while also listening to your hunger and satiety cues1. Developing a positive relationship with food is an important step in recovery, and can start whenever you feel ready. There are many different ways to celebrate Halloween without feeling insecure. Deciding to stay in and watch Halloween themed movies with friends or a loved one is a fun way to celebrate Halloween. Another exciting way to partake is through handing out candy to children. If you decide to not participate, something you should never feel is guilt. Instead, praise yourself for deciding to prioritize your needs. Halloween will be there next year, as well as the year afterwards. If choosing to not celebrate will help you during recovery, it is absolutely worth it.
However, if you feel ready and want to challenge yourself by going out, go out! If you feel certain that you’d like to celebrate, keep in mind that it’s not about what you wear, it’s about how you wear it. Feeling comfortable is key – this is something to remember for anytime you choose an outfit. The focus should be on having fun, which is what you’ll most likely think about if you feel confident in what you’re wearing. If you find yourself comparing your physical appearance to another person, try your best to remind yourself to disengage in those thoughts. Although someone may look good, it does not mean that you look bad.
During your recovery, you will be faced with many challenges – Halloween being one of them. Try your best to face each challenge with determination, strength, as well as resilience – you will surely succeed!
- Tribole, E, Resch E. (2012). Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.