Better TV: “Watching” Your Waistline

Sometimes it's difficult to break free from the routines we've made for ourselves. Instead of giving up television completely, try to incorporate exercise and housework into the time you've put aside for tuning in.

Better TV:

Make a to-do list for commercial breaks.

Ten minutes before the start of your favourite program, make a list of five 2-minute jobs you can do during the ads. Your list may include things like dusting the living-room blinds, sorting through the magazine rack or watering plants. Gather all of the materials you need for these projects and keep them at the ready. Accomplishing these little tasks will keep you moving around the house – and the distraction will keep you away from thoughts of food.

Hide your TV’s remote control.

Take a trip down memory lane, back to a time when televisions didn’t have remote controls. Changing the channel and adjusting the volume used to get us all up and about, didn’t it? So try taking the batteries out of your tele vision’s remote control and hiding it in a drawer or cupboard; that will get you off the sofa and on your feet. And while you’re up and about, you may remember to do something else that will keep you active.

Pull the plug on ‘TV dinners’.

If you love having your dinner in the living room in front of the television news or a game show, break the habit. Studies suggest that the more TV people watch while eating, the less fruit and vegetables they consume. Researchers believe that this may happen because TV programs often feature unhealthy snacks or fattening food, which influences what the viewer then chooses to eat.

Keep your snack foods as far as possible from your sofa.

Storing chips, biscuits or other snacks anywhere near the television makes it far too easy to eat junk food without even thinking. If you store them at the back of the pantry you’ll at least have to climb up to get them – and passing the fruit bowl on the kitchen bench may remind you that an apple would be a better snack.

Nibble on baked, not fried, chips.

If you are going to have chips in the house, switch to the baked variety. Whereas one serving of regular potato chips contains 630kJ and 10g of fat, the same serving of the baked variety contains 460kJ and 1.5g of fat. It’s not just chips that are available baked – you can find baked tortilla chips and other snacks, too. Just remember to eat no more than you would if the snacks were fried and always check the nutritional information panel for kiljoules and fat before buying.

Brush your teeth after dinner.

Some successful dieters say that tooth-brushing is their secret weapon to weight loss. Once you’ve eaten your evening meal, brush your teeth and enjoy the sensation of the fresh minty taste. You’ll be less likely to mindlessly dig into a tub of ice-cream or reach for a packet of biscuits while you’re watching TV.

Keep your hands busy.

Sometimes smoking or nibbling on fattening snacks becomes a habit because it keeps our hands busy. Put those idle hands to work by sorting out paperwork, model-making, needlework or knitting while you’re on the sofa. The more engrossed you become in your pastime, the less likely you are to reach for a snack – and you won’t want to scatter crumbs.

Delay your viewing hours.

Scientists say that the more people watch TV, the more they eat. If you’d like to minimise the time you sit down viewing, here’s a simple way to do it: study each night’s TV listings, identify one program you would have watched, and record it for another day. Instead, go for a walk or cycle ride, or get your address book out and call a friend you haven’t heard from in months. Exercise and social connection will do your body and soul much more good than a TV crime drama and the snacking that often goes with it.

Relax and laugh.

If you’re going to watch television after dinner, try to make it a comedy rather than a drama. Scientists in Japan made an interesting discovery: people with diabetes who laughed their way through a television comedy straight after a meal had lower blood glucose than people who watched a humdrum lecture.

Practise a new skill – juggling!

This is mad enough to be fun. Stash three juggling balls or bags in a living-room cupboard. When you’re watching a program that doesn’t require much concentration, pick up your juggling equipment and practise. Not only will you impress friends with your skilful party piece, but your clowning around will burn more than 1130kJ per hour.

Keep resistance bands under the sofa.

These stretchy latex bands, sold in some sports shops and department stores, can give just about any part of your body a great work-out even while you’re watching TV. For a leg work-out, tie one end to the sofa leg and the other to your ankle, then try to straighten your leg. Repeat 8 to 12 times, then switch legs. For more resistance band exercises, see page 212.

Watch a fitness show.

If you like to watch TV, perhaps a ‘reality’ show where people are challenged to get fit or lose weight will inspire you? Better still, rent or buy an exercise video or DVD and pop it in. There are many choices of exercise (aerobics, Pilates, yoga, tai chi, belly dancing) for just about every fitness level – even seated workouts for those with mobility problems.

Get active in front of the screen.

Delight your grandchildren and friends of any age by investing in a Nintendo Wii gaming console and accessories. You plug the console into your TV and mains, just like a DVD player, set up its sensor, put some batteries into the special Wii-mote (remote), and you’re ready to play. The basic Wii package comes with a game disk called Wii Sports, which enables you to play tennis, baseball, bowling, golf and boxing interactively. What makes these games especially fun and different is that you actively ‘play’ the sports with the remote (the sensor bar inteprets your action on the screen), taking – according to the game – a golf swing, a tennis forehand or a throw of the bowling ball. Participants play with such energy that the manufacturers quickly fitted straps to the Wii-mote, to prevent it being accidentally thrown at the screen.

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