Yeah, yeah, we all know that healthy eating habits OUGHT to be important to us – but following through seems almost impossible. The lure of the donut, the cake, the cookies, the Doritos and dip seems just too strong. Especially in the moment. But if we want the rewards that come with sane eating habits (and you know what they are!), then the place to start is by recognizing our 'bad eating habits' so we have more of a choice. Overeating and binge eating are usually so mindless that they seem impossible to resist. But that's an illusion.
Eating in front of the TV is one of the greatest weight loss saboteurs in western society. Many of us are disciplined eaters all day long, choosing wisely and controlling our volume of food. Then we sit down with the family to watch TV and it's as though we become robots, helplessly giving in to programming that unites food and television. The urge to eat seems irresistible.
And not only do we become seemingly helpless about the decision to eat, but we also eat high calorie sweets and junk food. After all, how many late night cravings have you had for broccoli? Instead, we grab chips and dip, ice cream, cookies and popcorn swimming in butter.
But, it isn't hopeless and here are four ideas to get you started if you truly wish to change this unhealthy overeating and binging habit.
#1: Choose Mild Exercise Instead of Chocolate Cake
One of the reasons it's so tough to stop eating while watching TV is that our brains have literally formed neuro-connections that tie food with television. Our job is to end that association by creating new pathways in the brain. One way is to stand up and do some stretching or yoga exercises. For instance, by raising our arms over our heads and stretching our arms and sides, we can create those new pathways while still watching our program. During commercials, lean over and grab your knees or ankles, stretching out your back and shoulders. Any beginner yoga book from the library will provide lots of options. With practice, we can not only create an association between TV and stretching, we will also feel better which will make eating less desirable.
#2: Keep Your Mouth Busy
Oral gratification is a huge reward for eating, so plan ahead to indulge this natural human need. Have carrot sticks, wedges of cucumber or halved cherry tomatoes ready for eating. Air popped popcorn with a bit of sprayed oil is perfect.
Even better, forget food entirely and chew on gum or even a plastic straw. If you don't like either of those options, create a "ceremony" of tooth brushing, flossing, even using dental tools like "Stimudents" just before sitting down in front of the TV. You may not want to destroy that lovely, clean feeling with large amounts of food.
#3: Keep Your Hands Occupied
Eating requires at least one hand so keep your hands busy and you will be less inclined to fill them with pie or brownies. After all, if you're drawing or cartooning, you don't want butter stains on your art paper. And chocolate frosting dribbles aren't attractive on that blue scarf you're knitting. If you truly enjoy whatever activity you are doing, you will want to protect it from crumbs and ice cream drips.
#4: Know That You Absolutely Will Fail – And It's OK
Many of us are all-or-nothing people. We ruthlessly demand perfection from ourselves and when we inevitably aren't saintly, we are unforgiving. If you have resolved to break yourself of the habit of eating in front of the TV, you might create a plan to change this bad habit. But you are almost 100% guaranteed to fail occasionally. Many of us react with despair, believing that we're hopeless and we will never change so why bother to even try? This is flawed thinking because change is a journey with many twists and turns along the way. If you think this infallible logic through ahead of time, you will give yourself permission to be OK with failure and learn to celebrate your successes instead. You failed yesterday, but so what? Today is a fresh new day, loaded with the possibility of eating-free television viewing.
When you were a newborn baby you didn't have the bad habit of overeating. Eating in front of the TV is learned behavior and you can re-learn healthier ways of being. All you need to do is create new neuro-pathways in your brain and these are created by repetition. Yes, you can break this unhealthy binge eating habit and the time to begin is Now.