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Happy Halloween

Sunday, as you read this, was Halloween. It derives from a holy day, All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, which is followed by All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2.

‘’hallow’’ – means ‘’holy.’’ then “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” It the Eve of All Hallows, the night before a holy day that honors saintly people who have died.

And this day is the halfway point between the summer equinox and the winter solstice. Many believe that in these three days the veil is thinner, and it is a special time to pray for those we loved who have died.

At this point a family member – guess who – looked at me and said, “You are a dietitian! Write about Halloween and the food! These people have to deal with candy everywhere they go! Tell them how to handle it!”

Ok, so the tradition of giving candy to children on Halloween started when, during the Pagan festival, the poor or young would knock on houses, asking for food tributes, called “soul cakes”. In exchange, they would offer to pray for the dead of the household.

Soul cakes were sweet buns, with a cross pattern on top – not unlike hot cross buns. Apparently, they were supposed to represent a trapped spirit being released from purgatory.

Today’s Halloween traditions are very different and involve lots of costumes, parties, and candy and other sweet treats. How do you handle this and keep your sanity and your abstinence?

First, pay attention to meal and snack times. Do not go to a gathering, (or let your children go trick or treating) or a dinner, or a party, while you are hungry. That is just a set-up for a problem. Have your meal or a snack before you go.

For health-conscious parents, Halloween can be tricky. Do you set limits? Do you let kids decide how much to eat?  There isn’t just one right answer. And that answer has to make it possible for you to manage your issues too.

Set boundaries with your children. Maybe ask them to take out the candy they don’t like, to give it away. That will be a small pile, I know.

Now set a daily limit, depending on your child’s age and habits.

One piece a day?

Two pieces a day?

Two at dinner and one at lunch or at bedtime?

Some big ones count as two?

Now choose how many days you want the candy to last, and let the children help with the choices. Then let them trade in their Halloween candy for something they have been wanting, like a video game, book, toy, trip to the movies, etc. for the rest of the pieces of their candy or treat.

And giving away candy can be part of the fun. Rather than taking candy away from a child, which can make the child feel powerless, let the children choose   how to pass on the Halloween fun by taking the candy to a nursing home, a dentist’s office (for free toothbrushes). Or find a homeless shelter, or an organization which ships the donated candy to members of the military.

Now that the candy is dealt with, pat yourself on the back. And now…let’s talk about you and your program and your abstinence.

First, ignore the half price candy sales for the rest of this week. If you must, tell yourself that “all the good stuff is gone already.”

Second, get rid of all the candy in your house that is not assigned to your children (or other family members). Give it away to someone who can use it, or send it to an organization which mails it to our servicemen, or trash it! Tell your family that you absolutely positively DO NOT WANT TO SEE IT!!

No matter what anyone tells you about Halloween candy, you know that you cannot handle it in any form in your food plan. Acceptance is your answer today. Creativity, Reminders of Powerlessness and your Goals, and Determination are your answers today. If you find it troubles you, toss it or find a way to put it in a place where it will not torture you.

Sugar consumption begets sugar consumption. The more you eat, the more you want. Is that not the addictive process? This is your solid red barbed wire boundary!

Cravings will peak in about 15 to 20 minutes, then they will decrease, and pass away in about 30 minutes, UNLESS you entertain them. Do not indulge in those thoughts. Sing a song, recite a poem, turn on some music, recite Mary Had a Little Lamb, repeat your goals, or your affirmations.

Put other good things in your life. Buy a new novel, pick up your knitting, restart your woodworking, wash something, clean something, organize something.

Call someone. Maybe (s)he is in trouble too, and you can be blessed by helping her/him.

Do that step work you have been putting off.

Find a new Zoom meeting to try.

Take a long bath or a hot shower.

If all else fails, call on your Higher Power. This did start as a religious celebration, you know.

So, who has passed on that you wish to honor? Is there something you can do in his/her memory? How could you express gratitude? Write down joyful memories of the people who have passed, or memories you want people to remember about you.

May we let All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and even Halloween remind us of the fullness of meaning, light, and life that recovery offers us, not as a matter of “trick-or-treat,” but as a free gift of love that heals us, saves us, and leads us to become the men and women who we were meant to be. All Souls’ Day, and every day, we are connected to each other.

I had to finish with the spiritual stuff, you knew that, right?

Blessings to you,



I am setting up our holiday support group. If you have ideas, wishes, or preferences as to days, times, or sessions, please call or email me.

Sandra Elia has a 28-day virtual rehab program beginning this month. Get details on the Facebook site.

With lots of love to you,


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