Last-Minute Halloween Hints

Halloween candy

As we head into the season that encompasses the traditional American Big Four — Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year — and a number of other ethnic, religious, and cultural holiday festivals, let us reflect on the words of psychotherapist Stefanie Barthmare, as quoted in ScienceDaily:

If you use food as a crutch, this time of year could be troublesome.

Barthmare says a holiday-season gain of 7 to 10 pounds is not unusual. Like Dr. Pretlow and many others, she advocates getting to the root of personal problems and learning to cope with stress in more productive ways than comfort eating. Barthmare is further quoted as saying:

If it was just a matter of knowing the calorie difference between a piece of cake and broccoli, we would all be all be our ideal weight. Maintaining a healthy weight requires a disciplined approach mentally and physically… Unfortunately, it’s complicated and there is not a one-size fits all solution.

Barthmare, in other words, affirms and validates the very same lesson Dr. Pretlow has learned from the voices of children and youth, via his Weigh2Rock website: information is not enough. And while there is no one-size-fits-all solution, a useful approach to a solution is to look at the childhood obesity epidemic through the “psychological food dependence-addiction lens.”

Dr. Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine takes the occasion of Halloween as an opportunity to voice his year-long concerns, such as children as young as five whose physical exams show signs of preventable disease and early demise. He says:

What really scares me are the meat and dairy products lurking in children’s diets every day and everywhere — from fast food to school lunches. Unfortunately, some parents don’t share this fear… Meat and dairy products are loaded with fat and cholesterol that lead to childhood obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

It’s probably too late to do anything about this Halloween. Most likely, the candy is purchased and ready to distribute. Maybe the kids have already gone to some parties. If a family has not set boundaries and introduced limiting rules by this time, it’s probably too late to make any changes this year.

Just in case you still have hope, plug the word “Halloween” into the Childhood Obesity News search box, and pick up a few quick ideas. Here’s another suggestion: Even if this year’s celebration isn’t everything you would like it to be, observe carefully and make mental notes in a file called “What to do differently next year.”

Dr. Pretlow is quoted in an article just published in the Kansas City Star about possibly banning candy for Halloween.

Of course, it goes without saying, that you should limit the actual consumption of candy on October 31. An agreement should be made beforehand, that only a certain amount is allowed, once the kids are back home. But what about while they’re out in the neighborhood, going from house to house? A mask that obscures vision is bad, but here’s an in idea to consider for future Halloweens: a mask that covers the mouth.

Post trick-or-treating, let the child sort, fondle, categorize, gloat over, and otherwise enjoy the swag. It’s the only time of year when it’s okay to play with the food! Give the child a chance to realize that a lot of the contributions are not even close to being favorites.

Meanwhile you, the parent, estimate the caloric value of the haul, then pack it up and stow it away out of sight. Next day, when the supermarket puts all the candy on sale, offer a trade: Will the child give up the Halloween collection, never to see it again, in return for a much smaller amount of a favorite brand? Some kids will go for this bargain. It’s worth a try.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Using Food for Comfort and Coping Leads to Unwanted Holiday Pounds,” ScienceDaily, 10/15/12
Source: “It’s Not Just Candy Causing Childhood Obesity this Halloween,”, 10/17/12
Image by ninahale (Nina Hale).

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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