Photo: Henry Horenstein / Getty

It happens to everyone—here's how to bounce back ASAP.

Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD
October 29, 2018

Halloween is one time of year when I really struggle to maintain a healthy level of indulgence—especially when it comes to chocolate. No matter how well I plan (or how good my intentions are), I always seem to overdo it with the snack-size treats before the night is over.

The next morning I wake up hungry (due to blood sugar that's skyrocketed, then plummeted), bloated, and feeling a little guilty about eating so much candy

So, how do I bounce back? I’ve found the best thing to do as is to ditch the guilt and to get back on track with healthy habits ASAP. Here’s my unofficial guide after Halloween candy overload—a combination of my nutrition expertise and personal experience.

Tip #1:  Eat Low-Carb

Lost count of your macros on Halloween night? No problem, because I can pretty much assure you that carbs made up the majority of your intake—no matter which candies you ate. Even though added sugars aren’t ideal fuel, the body’s carb stores are at full capacity. To get the body to start tapping in and using those stores, I typically cut back on my normal carb intake for the next few days, and when I do incorporate carbs into meals, I choose high-fiber, unprocessed ones.

Action Step: Focus meals and snacks on lower-carb food choices like vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats for the next 24 to 48 hours. Then, start adding in more high-fiber, low-glycemic carbs like beans, fruit and certain whole grains.

Tip #2: Move!

Yes, moving your body will burn energy and create a need for the body to tap into those carb stores, but I’ve found that resuming my normal workouts over the next few days is even more key for my psychological mindset when it comes to getting back on track. Exercise increases sense of well-being and endorphins, helps with bloating, adds a sense of accomplishment, and often makes it easier to follow through with other healthy habits.

Action Step: Jump back into your typical activity plan or workouts. If you’re not ready to resume those, or don’t have time for a full workout, then make a point to get a minimum of 20 minutes of activity (even if it's just a walk around the block).

Tip #3: Don’t Be an Overachiever

Many people’s response after overeating is to double-up on workouts, or to drastically cut calories. But the reality is that neither option is effective, since both are hard to achieve or maintain—not to mention, they leave you feeling icky. Also, setting unrealistic goals and then failing to achieve them can actually cause more setback when it comes to getting back on track.

Action Step: Set practical, realistic goals for eating and exercise over the next few days, and stay away from extremes. My goal is to simply to resume my “normal” workout routine and eating habits.       

Tip #4: Don’t Even Think About Weighing

Tempted to step on the scale to assess the candy “damage”? Don’t do it, and here’s why: weighing yourself following a small binge is usually an inaccurate measure, not to mention a poor reflection of health due to bloating and water retention. There’s really no need to weigh—particularly if you know this will trigger emotional stress.

Action Step: You don’t need a number to get back on track with healthy habits. Focus instead on how you feel as you get back on track. If you need some type of measure, focus on how your clothes feel as you get back on track.

Tip #5: Drink Lots of Fluids

Anyone have several glasses of water with those peanut butter cups? Don’t worry, because I probably didn't either. When we get off track with one health habit, it’s common to see others neglected too. But even slight dehydration can affect energy and concentration, as well as hunger. Make a point to get plenty of fluids the next few days.

Action Step: The common guideline is eight (8-ounce) cups of water daily, but the Institute of Medicine actually advises more like nine cups for women and 13 for men each day.

Feeling off track? Here are 3 more ways to get back on the health train:

Tip #6: Clean house

Despite what your kids might say, eating candy every day isn’t healthy for anyone—no matter a person’s age or weight. So after enjoying a few days of Halloween treats, consider getting rid of your candy—particularly those that really tempt you. After a few days, I encourage my kids to pick out a few favorites and then we either donate or get rid of the rest.

Action Step: Look for ways for kids to distribute or share candy, such as donating at senior centers or churches. (Some dentist’s offices even exchange money for candy.) Then, set up guidelines about candy frequency and consumption going forward.

Tip #7: Plan out the next few days

Whether it’s paper or digital, pull out that planner, and create a game-plan for approaching the next few days. Look for ways to streamline or minimize stress from work or other daily activities. If that’s not possible, then think through a strategy for still getting to the gym or enabling yourself to have access to healthy foods.

Action Step: Plan meals, schedule time to exercise and think through how you’ll keep stressful events and roadblocks from getting health off-track over the next few days. Also, remember that the goal isn’t perfection, but rather consistency.

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Tip #8: Go to bed on time

Many don’t realize how closely sleep and appetite are tied together by hormones, but lack of sleep increases appetite and makes it harder to make healthy choices. Make a point to end the day a certain time, and then limit distractions like a TV and phone from the bedroom. Getting adequate sleep isn’t being lazy—it’s required rest for your body to function properly.

Action Step: Adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep nightly for adequate rest, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but if this isn’t a nightly option, then at least make a point to catch up on some sleep on days off.

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