Celebrating and Vanquishing Fear on Halloween

A Woman Ghost Appeared from a Well,Many fears are plaguing us right now. A virus is still killing more than five thousand people every day around the world – more than a thousand daily in the U.S. Some people are fearful of spending time indoors with others who are unmasked or unvaccinated. Others are fearful of the masks and the vaccines. Trust is at a low ebb – not a surprise because trust and fear push and pull at each other. So here we are on Halloween – a holiday that’s all about fear.

And our children will be out collecting bags full of candy from neighbors and strangers, chock full of the sugar that dietary scolds tell us to fear. It’s toxic!

Letting Go of the Fear

Some people like being scared. A little Halloween fear can be cathartic. But it’s not for everyone. To each his own.

However, those who would teach us to fear our food are not doing anyone a favor. The sugar is toxic narrative might finally be fading out after two decades of demonizing this substance that finds its way into just about everything we eat. While too much sugar can indeed be harmful, people always have and likely always will consume moderate amounts of sugar without harming their health.

Fear Is Not a Good Strategy for Promoting Health

We’re not fans of using fear to promote health. Some fears are rational, but letting them consume us does not help us find our way to better health. Clinical dietitian Narmin Virani tells us she has learned fear is not a great strategy for helping people learn better patterns for eating:

“Ironically, abstinence or avoidance of sugar (which is the recommendation given by “experts” who treat food addiction, which by the way isn’t even an official Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders diagnosis or condition) can actually make binge eating even worse by fueling the fear of sugar. And this is a fact supported by many research studies in eating disorder journals.”

Food means many things to us – even when it’s candy or a treat. Fear should not be one of those meanings.

So on Halloween, we recommend fun, along with a bit of caution on real issues of safety. Parents have been finding a middle way on all the candy that Halloween brings for years now. Kids can enjoy it and then move on without overdoing it.

Click here for more from Virani on unhelpful fears of sugar and comfort foods, here for more on the science of Halloween fear. For more on dealing with parental anxiety about Halloween candy, click here.

A Woman Ghost Appeared from a Well, painting by Katsushika Hokusai / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


October 31, 2021