Why You Shouldn’t Binge On Sugar This Halloween And Do A Post-Halloween Fast To Reset
Halloween only comes once a year, but so do the temptations to eat all the candy. And if you’ve been successfully fasting, chances are you’re also working towards a healthier diet with less sugary foods.
No matter what fasting method you choose, you may be wondering if it’s okay to let loose and binge on all the candy this year. For many of us, Halloween is sort of a hall pass on our healthy eating habits, especially if we’ve been eating healthy for a while. Plus, it’s just one day, and you can just do a post-Halloween fast to reset, right?
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little candy this Halloween. But, going overboard can derail your health goals and can also result in some pretty surprising side effects. Read on to find out why bingeing on sugar this Halloween is not in your best interest.
How fasting affects your blood sugar
One of the biggest benefits of fasting is its reported effect on insulin levels. During a fast, your insulin levels naturally decrease to respond to the reduced-calorie and glucose (sugar) intake. Insulin is a growth hormone that is responsible for lowering your blood sugar to a normal level. However, if insulin is not being properly used by your tissues, it can increase the risk of inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.
Studies have shown how fasting can reduce insulin levels and improve blood sugar control. This improvement to our glycemic control may support increased energy as well as improvements to our overall health. Once your body adjusts to the fasting state, it produces less insulin because it knows there is not as much sugar being consumed so there is not as big of a need for insulin! Remember, insulin is there to help your tissues take in all that nice sugar (chemically speaking, glucose) that had come from the meals that you consume.
If the types of foods consumed remain fairly predictable and low in added sugar (i.e. – minimally processed sweets like cookies, cakes, and candy), then your body will continue to produce a certain amount of insulin as its baseline and not know any different. This can in the long run reduce your risk of diabetes.
However, if you decide to spontaneously come off your fasting protocol and then binge on candy, this could throw a huge wrench in a system that was previously working so well.
What happens when we eat too much sugar
An occasional sweet treat will not make or break your health goals, and actually can help you to feel less deprived on a diet protocol. However, excessive sugar in our diet can be incredibly toxic to our health. In fact, many experts believe that excess sugar consumption is a major contributor to obesity and many chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
There are several short and long-term dangers of consuming too much sugar:
1. Brain fog
When our body cannot properly handle the amount of sugar that we have consumed, then we may show signs of brain fog, the experience where you have a reduced ability to focus and concentrate on important tasks. Moreover, a meta-analysis has revealed a relationship between the first hour after eating carbohydrates with decreased alertness and increased fatigue. Another train of thought is that this may occur as a result of tryptophan production post-carbohydrate consumption.
Brain fog has been linked to:
2. Mood changes
Eating sugar is believed to gives your brain an initial surge of dopamine as well as several other neurotransmitters that help our brain to function. Moreover, animal models show us that serotonin may be affected by carbohydrate intake.
Interestingly enough, one study found a link between eating processed foods (including sugary desserts) and depression. However, in a recent meta-analysis, the researchers found that carbohydrate consumption did not appear to impact mood, so the relationship here is difficult to distinguish.
What we can say is that sugar is processed very quickly in our bodies, and so consuming pure sugar in the form of excess candy is not a sustainable energy source. Shortly after being absorbed into our body, our blood sugar falls as insulin increases to ensure the sugar’s uptake into our tissues. Some may experience hypoglycemia due to insulin’s action of decreasing blood sugar, which can cause you to feel anxious and develop mood swings. This is not how you want to feel on Halloween or any day for that matter
3. Weight gain
This probably isn’t news to you, but the more sugar you eat, the more you’ll weigh. Research shows that people who eat more sugar weigh more than those who don’t. Increased intake of dietary sugar have been linked to inflammation.[6,7] Moreover, because sugar directly causes insulin secretion, the more sugar we eat, the more we will likely store this sugar and convert it into fat (we call this de novo synthesis of fat).
Increased hunger and sugar cravings
Although this is a heavily debated topic, researchers have observed that animals appear to exhibit cravings and binge-like consumption patterns when they are fed sugar. The idea is that the sugar ends up resulting in more cravings after consumption because of “addiction-like” changes in the brain’s function. Although there is some research to suggest that women who crave carbohydrates are more likely to consume a high carb beverage (even when they don’t know it’s high in carbs), it’s hard to say if sugar intake causes sugar cravings for everyone.
But why risk it? We all have favorite foods, and for those of us who are sugar-tooths (I’m guilty!), then it’s better to be safe than sorry. Having even the smallest amount of self-control can go a long way especially when we have all that delicious candy staring us in the face!
Going from fasting to a full-on sugar binge
In your normal fasting or intermittent fasting state, your blood sugars begin to normalize and adapt to your eating schedule. Some of the research suggests that fasting may improve your fasting glucose (blood sugar levels on an empty stomach) levels and postprandial (after meal) blood sugars even in those who have diabetes; more studies are warranted though to fully understand how and if this works.[2,11]
However, when going from a fasted state to a state of excess sugar intake on Halloween, your insulin and hormone levels may become out of whack. Your pancreas, the organ responsible for making insulin, now has to quickly go into overdrive to try to produce more insulin to process the flood of sugar that’s entering your body. A Halloween binge may prove to be a shock to your body.
This can also open the floodgates to more sugar cravings (as we see with our animal friends!).
If you decide to binge on candy this Halloween, know the reasons why this may not be a good idea:
- Your body will probably store this excess sugar as fat.
Our bodies are extremely efficient at processing sugar. So efficient, that when we have an excess, we store this as fat! From a digestion and absorption perspective, if we nosh incessantly on candy, our intestines are likely to absorb all of this rapidly as there are no other critical nutrients like protein or fat present to balance this absorption out.
If you were previously in a fasting state, you are going from 0-60 overnight and your pancreas may not be ready to handle the sugar influx. Plus, because candy is pure sugar, if we don’t use all of that energy after we have consumed it (remember, it absorbs quickly too!), then our body will take this as clearance to store this lovely energy for another rainy day as fat. This will most likely derail your weight loss efforts.
- Your blood sugar surges.
When candy gets into our system, our body’s sugar levels begin to increase. With the increase in this blood sugar, our pancreas has to start pumping out insulin. If we eat too much sugar, then it is believed that our systems become overloaded with this sugar causing for a high amount of insulin to compensate for this influx; this ultimately may result in hypoglycemia for some! But if you’ve been practicing fasting for a while, your insulin levels likely are naturally lower. However, this lower level is bound to acutely increase to compensate for the deluge of sugar that is coursing through your vessels after eating candy.
- It can lead to a vicious cycle.
Although heavily debated, if we are anything like our animal friends, then it is possible that we too may experience binge-like episodes and cravings after eating sugar! When you start to binge on candy that you haven’t had for a while, it may contribute to a spark in increased preference for sweets that may lead you to continue craving them. This is not to say you can never have sweets or that you can’t have candy at all, but going overboard may have unanticipated consequences.
Now, if you decide to go all-in with the sweets regardless and then feel the need to do a post-Halloween fast to reset, read on to find out why that may not be the best idea.
What exactly is a reset?
A reset is when you try to counteract the binge you just took part in. This is in an attempt to “reset” your metabolism and bring it back to what it was before the binge. You may feel tempted to do a post-Halloween fast out of guilt or feel you need to do this to quickly get back to a fasting state. Although this may be an effective strategy for giving you that extra boost that you need, be sure to be mindful of how you approach this.
Going too restrictive during this time may actually be more harmful than beneficial. For example, if you had previously eaten poorly and then decide to restrict nutrition for a full day, then you’re missing out on essential micronutrients as well as the beneficial phytonutrients that plants are made of!
Instead of attempting an extreme fast or reset after your Halloween candy binge, it’s recommended to do the following:
1. Go back to your usual diet or fasting method.
If you were practicing intermittent fasting and were completely fasting some days, it may be best to eat in a regular 8-10 hour window the day after Halloween. Eat the same types of food and follow the same schedule throughout the day than you normally would so you more quickly adjust and also fuel yourself properly.
2. Drink plenty of water.
Staying hydrated is important to regain your energy back and heal your body from any temporary negative effects of excess sugar intake. Plus, drinking water is always a good habit to practice and have as a part of your everyday life.
3. Don’t punish yourself or feel guilty for overindulging.
If you feel you overdid it, just let it go. Stressing about it and making yourself feel guilty will only add insult to injury and won’t help the situation. Instead, just start fresh the next day and know it doesn’t have to make or break your progress.
How to achieve moderation this Halloween
It is absolutely possible to enjoy some Halloween treats without losing all sense of control. Here are a few ways to achieve moderation and balance this Halloween:
- Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Don’t eat your Halloween candy in a fasted state or when you feel physically hungry, because then it will take more candy to feel satisfied. Instead, allow yourself a treat after having a satisfying, healthy meal.
- Have healthier treats available. Not only does it give the kids healthy options, it also helps to limit the amount of unhealthy sugary treats in the house. Some healthier ideas include whole-grain granola bars, trail mix, or individually packaged portions of apple slices or dried cranberries (be sure to get the no sugar added types).
- Make the candy you have last longer. Don’t leave too much candy on your kitchen counter or in easy to reach places. Instead, put extra in your freezer. You will still have it available to enjoy, but it will take a more conscious effort to choose to have it. You’ll then be prompted to check in with yourself to see how badly you really want that candy at the moment.
- Enjoy, but be mindful. Savor the treats and try to take your time, eating undistracted. Listen to your body and the signs it’s telling you when it’s full. In this way, you’ll enjoy your treat more and end up feeling more satisfied with fewer calories.
- Prevent boredom eating. Even though this Halloween looks different for a lot of us, you can still always find a safe activity to occupy your time so you are not reaching for candy simply out of boredom. Enjoy a small gathering outdoors, watch a scary movie or curl up with a cup of tea and a good book to celebrate.
You can fully enjoy your Halloween treats and stay on track with your fasting goals. Whether you’ve been fasting for a week or for a year, one of the main purposes of fasting is to support your body and improve your overall wellbeing. Bingeing on candy and bringing your body into a state of high blood sugar may contribute to unpleasant side effects such as shakiness, post-candy blood sugar crashes, and increased cravings for sweets in the subsequent days.
Always remember that candy is available year-round and you don’t have to binge on it just because it’s Halloween. Create a healthy environment in your home so that you enjoy a little treat on Halloween but otherwise treat it like any other day – a day when you want to take care of your body and eat in a way that makes you feel your absolute best.
Melissa Mitri, RD
Melissa is a health writer with over 12 years of experience in the field of nutrition. She specializes in helping women move away from restrictive habits that lead to vicious yo-yo weight cycles. Melissa enjoys writing about health, nutrition, and fitness with the goal of simplifying complex health topics for the reader. You can find out more about Melissa at www.melissamitri.com.