When we first launched our Kill Your TV program, we were excited to see how it would affect those who participated. We’ve been TV-free for several years, and our first months after ditching the tube were, to say the least, eye-opening. We had, like, SO MUCH TIME. To read. To exercise. To cook. To sleep (better). To connect with people we love. To live.
But not everyone loves the idea of giving up their favorite shows, even for 30 (short) days. So we got a lot of comments like, “But I watch mostly Discovery Channel/National Geographic/Food Network/etc., and I don’t think that’s so bad.” Okay, we hear you, but let’s look at this using an analogy. (Anyone who has attended our Foundations of Nutrition workshop knows how much we love analogies.)
Target: Mind and Body
We’ve long warned against the “Paleo-ification” of poor food choices (i.e. don’t recreate an overtly unhealthy food using “Paleo” ingredients in an attempt to label it “health food”). Not everyone loves that perspective, but in working with our consulting clients, thousands of Whole30 participants and hundreds of workshop attendees, we’ve found that most folks need this kind of concrete guideline to help them overcome the incredibly powerful and insidious influence that food (specifically sweets) has over them.
See, our Whole30 program is designed to address both the physical and mental aspects of transitioning to a healthier eating plan, and that includes getting a handle on your cravings for and addictions to unhealthy things on a regular basis. The Whole30 eliminates potentially problematic food and drink in order to let your body recover from your old eating habits, and allow you to regain control over the food choices you make (instead of food hijacking your brain).
After completing the program, many say, “I don’t really miss that crappy food anyway, so why would I go back to it after my Whole30?” We concur. However, there are some things that you probably do miss during the program – things you should be able to enjoy from time to time – which is why we don’t encourage people to stay Whole30 all year long. (We’re not actually killjoys, despite what some folks may think.) While it may be supremely healthy to perpetually eat “Whole30 clean” from a strictly physical basis, it’s likely to make you lose your marbles after a while. (We wrote about that here and here.) Chronically missing something incredibly delicious, culturally important or emotionally significant isn’t always mentally healthy, which is why we created the Whole9 Guide to Nutrional Off-Roading to help you navigate the mires of eating UnGood Food.
Yes, we’re eventually coming back around to TV.
We think about TV like dessert. And people, you don’t need more dessert. Seriously. Even if it’s “Paleo”. Desserts are not healthy everyday food, no matter what label you put on them. (Some folks get this – Chowstalker doesn’t do cupcakes, but has an awesome collection of “everyday” recipes, including tons of Whole30-compliant ones.) But, you ask, how bad can an after dinner coconut-milk-and-blueberry treat be, anyway? It’s surely better than ice cream, cookies or cake!
Let’s now jump to this question… is Planet Earth, Rachel Ray, or the Iron Chef “less bad” than Sister Wives, American Idol or Jersey Shore? Maybe. But much like the “brownie” question above… that’s not the point. Much like sugar = sugar = sugar… TV = TV = TV. Some people would argue that the ongoing inclusion of small amounts of added sugar in , say, deli meat during your Whole30 isn’t going to continue to feed your Sugar Dragon. Maybe not – we sure don’t eat deli meat for the sweet taste. But gaining the awareness of how they sneak sugar into everything these days is a valuable process, and avoiding all forms of added sugar for 30 days builds a habit that helps keep your sugar cravings under control post-Whole30.
Likewise, paying attention to how often you would casually flip on the TV “just for one show” might give you some insight into how much that insidious device pervades your life. Much like your coconut-milk-and-blueberries might make you crave other unhealthy sweets, that “just one show” might morph into a couple hours of TV-watching “down time” (read: your brain is not active). Or, worse, your screen time becomes an actual addiction… “just one show” at a time.
Just Say No… To Your Remote Control
So while the honey in deli turkey won’t create metabolic derangement, and watching Bobby Flay grill a rockin’ steak isn’t going to turn you into a drooling idiot, we think you can do better. And you can’t truly know how something (a food, a drink, a habit) is actually affecting you until you give it up for a little while. Once you’ve taken the 30 short days to learn how TV affects you – your stress levels, your relationship with your husband or your kids, your time management, your sleep, your mood – you might find that, like many Whole30ers, you are loving your new awareness (and health!), and simply don’t want to go back to your old habits. Or you might decide that an occasional movie night or Dog Whisperer episode is a nice “treat”. Yes, like dessert. And we think that sounds pretty healthy, too.
So if you’ve joined us for 30 TV-free days, props to you for being assertive with controlling your screen time. We think you’ll find the experience eye-opening, and perhaps just as influential as your Whole30. Drop a comment and let us know how it’s going, what you’re learning, and what lessons you hope to take forward with you after all is said and done.
For other articles in our Kill Your TV series, click here.
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