One of the most frequent conversations I have with my clients centers around helping them gain control of their eating in the evenings. This week, my client David he told me that he was struggling to not snack all evening as he watched TV with his wife. He said, “I sit down in front of the TV in the evening after the kids are finally in bed, and I immediately feel hungry.” I reminded him that if he had a reasonable dinner, it probably wasn’t physical hunger he was feeling in that moment; rather, it was a psychological need.
It’s what David was saying to himself that matters. If he tells himself, “I’m hungry,” then it legitimizes going to the kitchen and getting a snack. The first step is to accurately label what’s going on. Instead of saying, “I’m hungry,” it’s more accurate for him to say, “I’m tired, I had a long day, and I need to unwind right now.”
The problem with watching TV in the evening is that it is often an entertaining but not fully immersive experience. When people are watching TV in the evenings, they may still feel a little bit bored and want to do something else while they watch to fully engage their brain. TV plus snacking does that for people – it fully engages them, and they’re able to watch TV without feeling that tinge of boredom. But, the important thing to recognize is that eating is only one option of something to do while watching TV, and there are countless other activities that don’t sabotage weight loss or weight maintenance goals.
I talked to David about building up his “TV Plus” roster – things he could do in the evenings while he watched TV that don’t include eating, to help him keep his snacking at bay. Here is the initial list David came up with:
- Play game on my phone
- Sticker by number book or adult coloring book
- Sudoku or crossword puzzle
- Delete photos I don’t need
- Scroll through social media
If you have trouble with the urge to snack all evening long, especially if it occurs while you’re watching TV, then it’s important for you, too, to build a list of things you can do besides eating. TV plus eating is very distracting and entertaining, but TV plus knitting, TV plus coloring, TV plus doing a crossword puzzle, TV plus brushing your dog, etc. can provide the same help.