Why Halloween Is Hard When You Have a History of Binging

On October 31, I will be more afraid of the treats than the tricks. This is going to be my first time celebrating Halloween while working through my disordered eating. Like a kid staring at a haunted house across the street, I’m a little afraid.

I struggle with compulsive and emotional eating and have a history of binging. I obsess about when and what to eat and grapple with intense cravings.

This summer marked a turning point as I finally sought out the right help. I was able to identify trigger foods and slowly cut them out of my life. I don’t view this as depriving myself. I view it as the equivalent of cutting a toxic person out of my life because foods like cookies, cakes, chocolate and candy became like relationships to me.

Which brings me to Halloween. I can’t walk into a convenience store in October without finding massive quantities of my trigger foods lining the aisles. Even though Reese’s peanut butter cups looks so innocent when compared to the creepy masks and fake blood next to them, for me, they are the most haunting. I learned I wasn’t myself when I ate my beloved Halloween candy. I wasn’t processing thoughts or emotions – I was just eating them.

Halloween is threatening to me because it is a day of temptation with forbidden fruit on every doorstep. On Halloween, indulgence is not only permitted but is celebrated. It’s as if our culture says: “It’s OK to hide a secret stash of candy – more fun for later!”

But I can’t celebrate Halloween like that because I don’t have the ability to limit those behaviors to one day. For me, every day has the potential to end up like Halloween. My disordered eating makes it hard for me to have control over what I put into my body.

In writing this I realized if I let my relationship with food define me, it makes it easy for me to let food define all holidays. But I am more than my relationship with food, and Halloween is more than just candy. So as I ground myself in my recovery journey, I will continue to redefine what Halloween means to me. Beyond just tricks, treats, and triggers, Halloween is a time of delightful costumes and decorating my apartment. Halloween is a time of Hogwarts, Halloweentown and magic. In fact, I’d like to think that my progress in recovery has a bit of its own Halloween magic!

If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.

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