October is the start of a three-month stretch in which seasonal holidays often trigger or increase eating struggles. This post will review the three reasons October may start disordered eating, and how those in the diabetes space can recognize and provide effective counseling to support clients who are struggling with disordered eating.

Connection and Access

Starting in September, stores display, discount, and promote the purchase of Halloween candy. In 2020 it was reported 148 million consumers plan to celebrate Halloween in 2021. While total spending is expected to decrease to $8.05 billion, the average person may spend up to $92.12 on Halloween celebrations this year. Where are they spending? While COVID spooked most goblins away from in-person gatherings last year, there was still a 17 percent increase in candy sales over 2019, supporting the link that celebrating Halloween may be more about the candy than getting dressed up and pranking the neighbors.

Fun-Sized Favorites

For many people having a bag of smaller-sized ‘favorites’ can increase the candy cravings. Individuals new to Health At Every Size, who are exploring permission to eat all foods, may view this option as ‘acceptable’ thus prompting the purchase of ‘fun-size favorites’ which would have been ‘forbidden’ in prior years. For professionals in diabetes care, normalizing the desire to eat can help pivot the conversation in identifying how to include seasonal delights into the diet without triggering elevated blood sugars or binge eating. This link to a 2014 Center for Mindful Eating talk offers additional ideas.

Seasonal Changes

Shifting from Summer to Fall marks a change in seasons in which clients are the recipients of less societal pressure to have a summer body. This season shift can do one of two things, decrease internalized diet culture pressure, opening clients up to try new things, like introducing ‘forbidden’ foods. It can also cause them to binge as their inability to follow restrictive food rules indefinitely causes a rebounding desire to eat anything. Seasonal changes can also shift the wardrobe to bulkier, looser clothing options, with less skin showing, which can create shifts in body image and eating behaviors.

Internalized Conversations Don’t Have to Be Logical

Our role, as healthcare professionals who support weight inclusivity, are focused on supporting our clients in understanding the deeper food and eating drivers. This means creating the space and opportunity to hear the internal conversations. The internal conversations are often somewhat random thoughts about food, eating, and dietary restrictions tangled up in your clients’ heads.

When you start a conversation about letting go of restrictions, keep in mind it can go in many directions. Some of these will make sense to you and others will not. The point of these conversations isn’t to 'approve of' the areas the client is struggling; the point is you are listening and affirming that your client isopening up about their diabetes, food, and eating struggles.

Would you like more support? Why not join your peers on October 12, 2021, for our Facebook Chat: Treat or Triggers. As a healthcare professional, you are invited to join our WN4DC Facebook Group. This professional weight-inclusive diabetes cares group offers many benefits including our regular Facebook Chats - recorded conversations designed to stimulate discussion.