The bell rings, I salivate. I hate being such a conditioned little dog. Such an obedient pet, with ground-in synaptical firings. But I am. I’m a puppy.
So, when I’m watching TV, any TV at all, I want to eat. It’s what I’ve always done with my hands while parked in front of the tube.
When I’m reading, especially novels, I want to eat. Hold the book with one hand, balance the bag of chips against my tummy, and munch with the other.
When parked in front of a fire with the evening paper? I want to eat.
I have a lifetime habit of associating these activities with food. So, hunger has very little to do with what I’m feeling when I want to eat in front of the TV. It’s more of a physical need. Something to do with my hands, my mouth, a way to dispel nervous energy while sitting still.
Evening auto-eating is one of the biggest problems we face and one of the largest contributors to obesity in our culture. Knowing this is half the battle. Breaking these associations is a lot harder. Here’s my present strategy, which takes time to start working, and time to start working again when I backslide.
My first tack is making a personal rule, or even a house rule: No couch food, no TV food. This is a good rule for your upholstery, but it’s also a good rule for anyone in your family. Little kids get older and associate T.V. with food. Auto-eating begins at an early age. Why not break the association before it forms?
My second tack is to find something else to do with that energy while watching TV. I find anything that involves my hands and has a distinct scent, getting my nose busy, is a very good distraction from thoughts of food. So I keep a list of things I could be doing instead of eating while tube-surfing. Here’s my list:
Give myself a manicure/pedicure
Apply a facial mask. Washing off during commercials.
Groom the dogs.
Brush and floss my teeth
Reorganize a drawer
Sort bills/file things
Knit/needlework (hard to do well while watching TV, but good during commercials)
Squeeze a rubber ball (builds strength in hands and forearms, also good while reading)
Get a massage from somebody
Crafts involving glue and sparkles, making notecards/hostess gifts
No eating after 8:30 p.m. (I’m not good about this one, but I keep trying).
Sometimes just contemplating the list exhausts me enough to break out of food thinking. Sometimes I really have to choose items from the list to keep from eating. Sometimes I have to give in and acknowledge actual hunger, in which case a tablespoon of peanut butter on celery will usually hold me until bed time.
I recommend you develop your own list, and write it down. Keep it in the TV room, tucked into a book or in some other discrete but easily referenced spot.
Good luck managing evening auto-eating. It’s a large dragon to slay. But it’s slayable,