September 16, 2015

What a week we’ve had. Current events such as footy finals and political upheaval, along with the growing popularity of Netflix and the like, see too many people binge-watching. We’re sitting in front of the TV for more and more hours each week, and along with binge-watching comes mindless eating.

Of course, if mindless eating is in the form of a pre-planned meal or snack, all is well. Most people, though, have eaten their meals and snacks for the day when they finally settle in for some TV time, and the snacks being eaten into the night add nothing nutritionally except more calories.

This type of self-sabotage is unintentional but damaging. It not only adds calories, but perhaps worse is that it creates habits that become very difficult to break.

It’s commonly said that it takes 21 days to create a habit. What a fallacy this is: a habit – such as snacking on chocolate or biscuits after dinner – can be created in as few as a couple of days. The rewards are high (it tastes good) so the positive feedback keeps us going back for more. Then our gut bacteria begin to change and they demand more of the sweet stuff, and the behaviour becomes a habit.

Conversely, a habit can take months to create. Unfortunately these are usually the ‘good’ habits that lead toward desired goals. Focus rather than mindlessness is what helps create these habits. Planning meals and snacks, committing to regular exercise sessions, and determining ahead of time how many hours will be spend in front of the TV can all help to set the patterns that will become habits.

While making any change, it’s important to maintain focus so that new choices and behaviours are easier. Constant thinking about past habits and behaviours results in reverting back to them, while focusing on present and future habits makes them easier to entrench.

Affirmations such as “My food choices are resulting in better health and weight” can help, but the reverse also holds true: “I wish I could eat a pie right now” leads to feelings of deprivation and dissatisfaction.

For binge-watchers, it’s essential to have some planning in place to avoid the associated pitfall of mindless eating. Plan meals and snacks, implement regular activity, and develop positive affirmations, and weight and health benefits will follow.