By Erin Whitehead, for SparkPeople
Many people claim that they don't have time to work out or cook healthy meals, yet they do find the time to park themselves in front of the TV. In fact, the average American watches 31.5 hours of TV per week, according to a 2010 Nielsen report. That's almost as many hours as most of us spend working! That's a lot of hours that could be spent shopping for and preparing nutritious meals, hitting the gym or even taking up a new hobby.
If you think your loyalty to your favorite TV shows could be interfering with your life-or your pursuit of health-then read on.
10 Signs You're Watching Too Much TV
1. You've turned into a hermit. If you can't commit to a night out with your friends because you don't want to miss the latest episode of your favorite show-or even one of your top 10 favorite shows-you may have an addiction to TV. Hanging out with friends can combat loneliness and put you in a better mood. Plus, time with buddies may even help you live longer, according to the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. So don't banish your buddies just because you love that show about people who fish with their bare hands. Set the DVR-or if you're old-fashioned, program the VCR-and head out with your friends. Even better: Go for a walk with your pals to get your heart pumping.
2. There's a dent in your couch where your butt usually goes. If your couch is looking increasingly lopsided, it might be a sign that you're spending too much time parked on its cushions. Don't just flip them over or switch your position to fix the problem-get off the couch! There are numerous exercises that can be done with little or no equipment while you watch TV-think jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges-or you can crank up your treadmill while you catch up on the latest episode of Real Housewives. Choose an hourlong show to get moving to, or if you'll be camped out for a while watching a marathon, get moving during commercial breaks instead of heading to the kitchen for that snack.
3. Your dog jumps onto the couch and looks at you with sad puppy dog eyes when you don't join her. If even your dog has gotten used to your nightly routine of snuggling on the couch while watching Animal Planet, it may be time to break away from the boob tube. Take your faithful furry friend for a long walk-you'll both benefit from the exercise and the change of scenery!
4. You find yourself ordering out so you have more time to veg. If you're calling for pizza delivery or stopping to get takeout on the way home so that you won't have to bother with groceries or cooking, it might be a red flag. Skip a show or two so you'll have time to make that healthy meal before getting comfortable for an evening in. Healthy cooking can even be quick and easy!
5. Your TV tray has a permanent spot in your living room. If you eat all of your meals in front of the television, it might mean you're a little too addicted to cable. Not only does TV make it easier to zone out and overeat, but you're not interacting with the family or friends during meals (invite them over if you're living the single life).
6. You lift up the couch cushions, and popcorn and crumbs have multiplied. This is another sign that you're vegging out too much-and eating mindlessly while you do. When you don't even realize that a bucket of popcorn has fallen onto the couch, how can you keep track of how much you're actually consuming?
7. You get up from the TV after hours and have no idea what you've been watching. We're all guilty of this sometimes. You flip around mindlessly, channel surfing until something catches your attention. You stop there until a commercial sends you on your merry way and you repeat this process for hours on end. If you find yourself doing this and you're the type that doesn't feel like they have time to eat right or exercise, you need to prioritize. Be honest with yourself and pick your top three can't-miss television shows and schedule workouts with the importance previously given to your show schedule. Or set a daily limit for yourself-two hours of TV and then it's on to something new. Set a timer if you have to!
8. Commercials have become your culinary inspiration. If you're craving fast food because you saw that Burger King commercial, it might be a sign that you're saturating your brain with advertisements! When you don't watch TV, you'll see far fewer fast food ads. Although most people claim that advertising "doesn't work" on them, marketers know better. You'll think about fries, seasonal shakes, and new must-try gut-busting burgers far less if you aren't exposed to their TV ads.
9. You find yourself thinking that you could star in your own reality TV show. News flash: There are about a million reality shows flooding the market already, and I've yet to see one starring someone who camps out in front of the TV all day! If you want to be a show worth making, go on a get-healthy streak à la The Biggest Loser or plan big, like running a marathon or trying a vegetable for every letter of the alphabet. Hey, I'd watch.
10. You don't have time to exercise, but you do make time to sit on the couch. That stat mentioned above about the 31.5 hours of TV per week is staggering. That's like another full-time job! If you have time to watch even 30 minutes of TV per night, then you have time to exercise-it's just that you are prioritizing the TV viewing higher on your list. Put down the remote and try to go TV-free for a couple of weeks, and use that time to get active and healthy. You'll feel so much better that we doubt you'll trade working out for couch surfing ever again!
If you recognize yourself in this list-whether it's one or all 10-it may be time to admit you have a problem. Luckily, the TV habit can be broken and your life will get a lot healthier. TV definitely has its place in the modern world, but so do healthy habits!
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