Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose parents wouldn’t let her go trick-or-treating on Halloween. While all the other kids in the neighborhood were out filling their plastic jack-o-lanterns full of candy corn, chocolate bars and ghost-shaped taffy, this little girl was sequestered indoors where she and her sister read pamphlets on razor blades hidden inside of apples.
Today, the little girl is a famous singer whose dances through videos set in candy-covered stages with cotton-candy colored clouds, wears dresses made of sweet treats and is perhaps most well-known for her whipped cream bra that not only looks tasty, but actually shoots whipped cream out onto the crowd. Her name is Katy Perry, and she has probably done more for the sales of whipped cream and cotton candy than every state fair in the nation combined.
Halloween candy is not the devil. Sugar is not bad. The natural sugars in fruits have supplied human beings with important calories throughout the course of history. A piece of hard candy can save the life of a diabetic having an insulin reaction. And there is no estimate on the immense benefits on mental health that chocolate has provided to countless people throughout the years.
What makes us judge a food as “bad?” We tend to think of foods that have a high calorie count, contain unhealthy fats and heavy sodium along with little-to-no nutritional qualities as “bad.” However, demonizing food and putting human judgments on inanimate things usually backfires – just ask Katy Perry’s parents, or anyone who has ever tried to follow a strict diet that bans all sweet stuff in favor of cabbage soup.
Making a food (or anything else) totally off-limits is a great way to increase your desire for it; this is actually a well-known psychological reactance called the “Romeo and Juliet Effect.” Kept away from each other by the unspoken rules of a family feud, the two young lovers only wanted each other more and more. The forbidden nature of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship only made their feelings of love and desire intensify.
The same phenomenon applies whenever anything is forbidden. The day you swear off candy forever is the night you dream that you are the queen of a candy kingdom to rival Willy Wonka’s – and the next morning may find you drizzling your chocolate-chip pancakes with maple syrup and an extra dollop of whipped cream. How many of us have suffered the “guilt” of overindulging on sweets? While eating candy isn’t great for your health, stacking negative emotions on top of your sweets is just a recipe for more problems down the road.
It’s hard not to add human judgments to food. With new health information and eating guidelines hitting us from a thousand directions every day, articles like Top 5 Worst Halloween Candy Choices are needed in order to navigate the perilous waters of food choices in a society of abundance.
No one is going to argue that Halloween candy is a health food or a nutritious addition to your diet that deserves a big slice on the food pyramid. Many people cut out sugar completely and live normal lives. Others become like Katy Perry, obsessed with sweet treats to the point she wears dresses decorated with fake ice cream cones and cupcakes and is called a “sugar-coated spectacle” in the press.
If you want to have a healthy relationship with food (and for you children to have the same), demonizing any item or group of foods is a bad idea. Remember: Everything in moderation, even moderation. And if there ever was a day to let the sugar rules slide, it’s October 31. Happy Halloween!
October 2011 Issue In-Style Magazine