Remember that song by Huey Lewis? "I want a new drug, one that does what it should. One that won't make me feel too bad, one that won't make me feel too good."
One of my "drugs" of choice: eating while sitting in front of the television. It's oh-so-bad and oh-so-good all at the same time. It's one of my go-to bad behaviors when I'm stressed...when I am trying to unwind from the day...when I'm bored...just when there's nothing else to do...etc. Bottom line: I like to eat while watching TV.
I need a new drug.
I need to find something else to do that keeps me on track with my new, New Year healthier lifestyle tweaks. As I embark on my journey into "the 40's," it occurs to me that the habits I make now are likely to be ones that are going to be with me for the long haul. There's no better time than now to optimize my lifestyle habits to help optimize my health.
That said, let's get back to the eating while watching TV: If that's the worst thing I'm doing, then I'm not doing so bad? Yeah, that's exactly what I've been telling myself.
However, it's time to take my own advice and read my own headlines:
• TVs are "killing" us. After the age of 25, every hour of television watched reduces lifespan by 22 minutes, according to recent research out of Australia. Other experts weighing in on this suggest that this link isn't so much about the TV viewing in-and-of-itself, but rather due to the fact that the time we spend lolling about in front of the tube is time not spent being physically active. Greater TV time is also linked to poorer dietary choices.
• Eating mindlessly is adding pounds. But the flip side is also true: Eating more mindfully is linked to more weight loss and more successful weight maintenance. One recent study demonstrated success in weight loss even when frequently dining out, following classes on mindful eating.
So I need a plan. I need to replace this "drug" with something else. Something that does what it should - something that won't make me feel too bad and hopefully makes me feel very good! (Apologies to Huey for modifying his lyrics a bit).
Here's my strategy:
• Putting myself to bed earlier. One of my most challenging times of day is evening - after I've put the kids to bed and there's time to settle in and "veg" out. Often, this includes seeing what's on TV. Planning to put myself to bed after the kids go to bed reduces the chance of being overcome by the mindless eating pull.
• Preparing for the trigger. So that's one trigger (evening as the day -and willpower- starts to fade). Another challenging time of day is mid-afternoon. Preparing for these two points in the day means keeping myself otherwise engaged. This could mean a quick walk around the block. Or a brief respite with the radio on - loud. And/or...
• Substituting healthier options. Instead of a bag of pretzels, I'll choose a bowl of blueberries or a one-serving bag of popcorn. My other trick? A mug of something warm...tea but, sometimes, tea doesn't do it (am I right?) I have concocted a new drink that is sugar-free and basically calorie-free: decaf coffee with unsweetened soy, almond, or coconut milk, with a half packet of Stevia (or other natural sweetener) and a small spoonful of unsweetened cocoa. It does the trick every time!