I consume a lot of health-related content but I forget a lot of what I read- with a few exceptions. Call these things that my inner wisdom knew I’d need before I did but from time to time, some information stuck with me. That was the case with an article about stress-eating. Years after reading this one article in the Journal of Gastroenterology about distracted eating, I remembered reading that eating on autopilot is stress-eating. And stress-eating, it said, can lead to digestive problems.
With more than one digestive complaints (IBS-C primarily) myself, I would often wonder whether my eating and watching TV could be stress-eating. Although I kinda put it out of my mind (or shove it in the back really), I couldn’t help wondering if my go-to dining habit could be making my conditions worse.
I had my answer not long ago as I was eating and catching up on The Blacklist. Suddenly the once inner whisper became a shout: Of course this is stress-eating!!!
Eating in front of the TV makes (or made) so much sense to me- it saves time! But could it be the cause of the gas and bloating I was experiencing so much of then? Could I be contributing to my digestive problems even as I was trying so hard to eat well?
The answer, I learned, is yes.
How eating in front of the TV causes stress eating
- Eating while you’re slouched over is a terrible position for digestion because it increases the chance that food will get trapped causing gas, heartburn, and bloating.
- When we’re eating while watching TV, we tend to eat more because we’re paying less attention to our internal processing food cues which tell us when we’re full.
- Eating in front of the TV feeds into the habit of nighttime snacking, which can cause sleep disturbances and contribute to weight gain.
- That sleep disturbance means we don’t get refreshing sleep and are more tired and have less impulse control the next day.
- Late-night snacking leaves more undigested food behind in the colon, so you grow a gut when you’re in the habit of eating right before bed.
- The habit of eating late at night can lead to depression. That’s right!
- And, there’s a rise in lower back pain associated with sitting on soft sofas.
On the one hand, I was doing a lot right to maintain my weight and control my IBS, while on the other hand, I was sabotaging my hard work. Thankfully, I can be a fast learner so I tried eating at the table for several weeks. Can I just say how weird it felt initially.
My little experiment taught me more than a few things about stress-eating. But when it makes more sense to eat and work… or eat and watch TV… what do you do? I found some alternatives to eating in front of the TV that today, I want to share with you.
It comes down to making the alternatives more or equally attractive– which these options are.
1. Make your dining area pretty
We’re pleasure seekers, it’s true, but it’s not just food that can give us a pleasurable dining experience. An inspiring dining area that you’ve styled to look pretty may be a nicer place where you’ll want to eat. Add flowers to the table, a bowl of fruit, maybe great candlesticks. I also like a beautiful light fixture and upholstered chairs in my dining area. They give it that upgraded feel.
2. Dine alfresco
Taking it outside is another way to make eating alone more pleasant. Some of the smallest balconies and outdoor spaces can be turned into living areas with space for dining. No outdoor space at home? Take advantage of public spaces like parks, especially at lunchtime during the workweek.
3. Turn on music
Music goes with everything and after you’ve been doing it for a while, you might agree that it’s a better accompaniment to food than TV. Several studies show that calming music aids digestion, minimize eating distractions, and releases feel-good sensations that heighten our dining experience.
4. Have wine with dinner
There’s something so classy about having wine with dinner that makes you not want to eat in front of the TV. Having just half a glass of wine with dinner can make you feel special and want to eat less. Bonus points for that!
5. Eat well
I’ve never been a fan of cooking, but I’ve had nutritious meals prepared by chef-level cooks that were so orgasmic that it made me want to learn. These chefs indirectly taught me that with a little effort, eating can be a real pleasure. I haven’t quite made the leap to chef-status, but I’m learning to make real food taste good and after putting in the effort to make something look delicious, I want to eat it on real plates! I also want to sit at a table and use a knife and fork.
One other side-effect of not eating on the sofa in front of the TV so much is that my stomach is getting.
Christine is a Life Strategist and Emotional Health Coach living in Los Angeles. She's big on meditation and believes in systems and routines, and in personalizing everything you do to help you get where you want to be.