by Ellen Blake
Are you a binge watcher?
You might be a binge watcher if you sometimes sit down to watch one show and two or three hours later you’re still in front of the TV with your eyes starting to glaze over.
I’d like to say I’m not a binger, that I’m one of those fully disciplined people that can sit down to watch one show only. However, I recently admitted, if only to myself, that I definitely can be easily sucked in to watching two – five episodes of a series in one night, especially at the end of a long day. Once I sit down in my comfortable chair, an enormous bag of chips from Costco in one hand and the remote in the other, it’s very hard for me to get up and get moving. My most recent guilty pleasures include Big LIttle Lies and Breaking Bad. Have you seen either? If not, please don’t judge me. Both are wonderfully written and acted shows that are incredibly tough to turn off.
It happens to the best of us. Thanks to On Demand, HBO and various other streaming platforms like Netflix, we have access to hundreds of options we can watch in one sitting. A survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average American spends approximately 2.7 hours watching TV per day, which adds up to almost 20 hours per week in total. In fact, according to a Netflix survey 61 percent of users regularly watch between 2-6 episodes of a show in one sitting.
How can binging be bad when it feels so good?
If you’re like me, I enjoy my binges. Most of the shows I watch are highly entertaining and the time I spend in watching them very relaxing. So what’s the harm? I’m not saying you shouldn’t binge watch anymore, but stay cognizant the potential problems associated with overindulging. If you are going to binge, simple changes can help you do so more healthfully.
Eating is an automatic response to watching a screen for some people. Think about the concession stand at the cinema – movie goers generally buy popcorn and candy as part of the experience, not to satisfy their hunger. The same is true for people watching at home too. One of the problems with this habit is that your attention is on the screen, the plot and the characters in the story, not on what you are eating. It’s easy to go through a large bag of chips by yourself if you are not thinking about what you are putting in your mouth. To make matters worse, when you sit for long stretches your body burns fewer calories, storing the extra as fat.
Too much screen time may make your eyes sore and dry, and ultimately give you blurry vision. Don’t forget to blink to keep your eyes moist and healthy and look to the side every 20 minutes for 20 seconds or so. Also, your screen should be 20-28 inches away from you. The light on the screen may cause headaches for some people; try dimming the brightness on the screen to avoid this problem.
Sleep is important; most of us need 7-9 hours a night. If you get wrapped up in a show and don’t go to bed at a reasonable time, you may pay for it the next day. Lack of sleep can cause car wrecks, bad decisions, depression, and heart disease. Staying up late once in awhile is no big deal, but watch out if it becomes a habit.
STRESS ON BODY PARTS
You can stress your back muscles, neck and spine with too much binge watching. Sit straight in a chair that supports your back when you plan to sit for an extended period of time. Perhaps you could stand to watch for short intervals. Most importantly get up and move around every hour or so.
MORE SERIOUS HEALTH PROBLEMS
Sitting for long stretches increases your risk of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, even if you also exercise regularly. It’s a good idea to take mini breaks from sitting to stand, stretch and move around. Also, sitting too much and too long increases your chance of getting blood clots in your leg that could go to your lungs and block blood flow, a condition called a pulmonary embolism. Make sure you drink plenty of water, wear loose clothes, and get out of the chair to walk around every hour or so to help avoid this condition.
Too much of anything can be problematic, even an enjoyable habit. If you notice you no longer make time to interact with family and friends, try to curtail the habit. Binge watching should not take priority over your relationships. Sitting indoors watching TV by yourself for hours at a time can make you feel lonely and depressed, which can in turn lead to more binge watching. It is important to go outside, take a walk and make an effort to spend time with others. If you are unable to break the cycle on your own, consider working with a counselor.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Streaming technology has revolutionized our world. We can watch watch whatever we want whenever we want. Gone are the days where you need to make sure you are home on a certain night at a specific time so you don’t miss your favorite show; the only option then was to hope to catch the episode as a rerun.
Health experts worry that too much screen time is becoming the norm and replacing hours people used to devote to fitness, socializing and sleeping. So binge if you must – but try to keep a healthy balance in your life.
I’m personally not ready to give up binging, but I am working on decreasing how often I do it. My goal is to watch intentionally and not turn on the TV automatically when I sit down in my chair. The next step, once I’ve accomplished this goal, will be to address my choice of snacks while I watch. What do you need to work on to binge watch more healthfully?