The word “binge” has never had the healthiest connotations associated with it. After all, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone admit to binging on kale or going on a green juice bender. Rather, bingeing is generally associated with unhealthy, excessive habits, and binge watching is no different. For those who aren’t familiar, according to the urban dictionary, binge watching is the practice of watching multiple episodes of a TV show in rapid succession, in one sitting.
Though the trendy term is relatively new, the concept is not. In fact, the truth is, most of us have likely already been doing this all our lives, whether it was thanks to Saturday morning Saved by the Bell marathons on TV or a girls night in devouring Sex and the City DVDs. The resurgence of the vigorous viewing practice is mostly as a result of the popularity of online streaming sites like Netflix. Not only do we have all-access passes to every episode of nearly all of our favorite shows, but these networks have further encouraged binge-watching by releasing entire seasons of their original programs all at once.
Just like all other “binging behaviors,” watching TV for hours (or days) on end hasn’t received the best press. Recently there was a study done that showed a strong correlation between binge watching and depression. Just last week, as I sat (actually more like sprawled) on the couch in my pajamas, mindlessly eating junk food, watching 13 consecutive hours of the new House of Cards season, I realized it’s not necessarily the screen-time itself but the habits that come with it that are the most unhealthy; all those hours spent in a sedentary, stinky, sloppy, snacking state. Having said all this, I can guarantee I will not be able to help myself when Season 3 of Orange is the New Black is released in a few months. So, I thought of some positive changes to incorporate into my binge watching routine to make it a little less harmful for my health.
As the episodes fly by hour after hour, everything becomes about convenience, especially when it comes to food. When in the throes of watching a season of Game of Thrones, chances are we’re choosing the quickest, easiest things to eat, which usually means a steady flow of snacks. The trick here is making sure that you have treats that are both tasty and nourishing. If you have time to prep for your all-day couch day, the best thing to do is put together some healthy snacks. I’m a huge fan of baking my own kale chips (seriously, it takes 15 minutes) or roasting chickpeas in the oven. They take care of the need for something salty and crunchy while still being incredibly nutritious.
If you don’t have the time to prep your snacks, mixed nuts and seeds are always a great option. And, if you’re in the mood for some classic snack food, Old Dutch’s collection of Restaurante tortilla chips and salsa are my go-to. The health-wise chips are gluten free, dusted in delicious sea salt and are low in sodium, trans fats and cholesterol. Plus, their salsa is a great way to sneak in some veg while you veg out, and the spiciness of the jalapeno peppers in the dip can help to rev up the metabolism by 25 percent.
While you’re enjoying your lazy all-day marathon, catching up with your favorite characters and indulging in some salty snacks, it’s important to stay hydrated! Water helps with weight management, controls cravings, increases energy, lowers stress and improves skin and bowel health. Need I say more? Resolve to keep a full glass of water next to you throughout the binge-watching bonanza and reap all the beautiful benefits of hydration. To up the H20 ante, squeeze half a lemon into the water. This is an amazing way to detoxify the body, reduce inflammation and rev up the metabolism. #Multitasking
Not even the biggest fitness enthusiasts (myself included) can be expected to take a binge-watching break to hit the gym. Get real! It’s all about unapologetic laziness. But, what if I said we could get a few benefits of working out without getting up or really moving at all! Simply put, just sitting up straight burns 20 percent more calories than slouching. Chances are no one is going to sit up for an entire episode; rather, what if you only sat up during scenes that feature a particular character. For example when I watch Scandal I improve my posture only when Mellie is on screen. Another seated exercise that does wonders is sucking in. That’s right, sucking in your stomach for a few seconds at a time actually takes some major core strength and will help to tone the tummy! Similarly, repeatedly clenching and holding the glute muscles for a brief period of time will work the muscles in your backside and actually give the buns a good burn. All this work, without even standing up… sign me up!
Another observation I made last week as I watched Frank Underwood and Co. deceive, coerce and betray each other, episode after episode, is… as the characters got shallower, so did my breathing. That’s right, as the suspense increases on screen, the anxiety and tension build up in our bodies, causing us to breathe less efficiently. Staying in this state for many consecutive hours can have harmful effects on the body, affecting our mood, immune system, weight and cognitive function, to name a few. An effective way to improve the quality of a binge-watching session simply is to remember to breathe. Set aside some time during your viewing party to take some deep inhales; the opening and finishing credits are a great time to do this. Deepening and slowing the breath even for one minute will help improve your mood, improve cognitive function, stave off cravings, reduce stress and help to detoxify the body!
Shut ‘er down
The final tip may be the most difficult to follow. It is: Shut it down early to get proper shut-eye. Watching TV right before bed is a no-go if you actually want to get some rest. The stimulation from the screen and the show content can not only make it difficult to fall asleep but the quality of the rest is a lot less restorative. We need at least one hour away from any screens (yes, that includes the smartphone) in order to get restful slumber, which is one of the most important aspects of keeping our health (and weight) on track!