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Musings on Obesity and Netflix

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

When I'm in good shape for sleep, I wake up before the alarm. Today I needed all my sleep, so I woke to the radio. When I'm that late, I listen to the traffic report and the weather while doing my morning bathroom routine. In between, the radio personalities chatter.

Today they were talking about the TV series Living Dead. The morning people on the radio hadn't seen it, and the woman mentioned that she was going to take her next day off to get the series from Netflix and watch the first two seasons to catch up. I assume this is a normal kind of American pastime for days off, when someone finds a TV show that they are interested in.

My internal reaction to this was, what a horrible way to waste a day off! It practically guarantees being very sedentary, and would preclude coming anywhere close to my beloved 10K steps per day.

Then I got to thinking. A few days ago, the same bunch mentioned nagging a co-worker with diabetes to eat right at a banquet. Later in the morning, the guy has a spot with the radio healthy living/eating advocate where he does some schtick about being a normal guy and not liking any of the healthy eating trends she comes up with.

Clearly, the work part of being a radio personality is as sedentary as any other office job. The social part, as described on the air, frequently involves high calorie food. (Some of this may be semi-obligatory, coming from advertisers.) And the folks talk about choosing to spend free time glued to a TV screen as if it's a normal sort of thing to aspire to.

Is this what America has come to? When I was a kid, we might watch TV from 6 PM to bedtime, but if we missed a show we missed it. Later came VCRs, which enabled us to tape shows and watch them later.

Now there's Netflix and DVDs of entire seasons of shows, enabling people to plan to sit and do nothing active for extended periods of time. I have no scientific studies to cite, but I wonder how much this plays into the much-touted obesity epidemic. If there weren't the choice of sitting and doing nothing while being entertained, might not people move a bit more? Might they not burn a few more calories, if only from walking to the car to drive to the movie theater?

I suppose I'll never know the true impact of Netflix on public health and obesity in the general population. I know it won't be a factor for me, because I don't find TV in general to be particularly worth my time. My major sedentary pleasures are different; I use the computer a lot, and I like to read fantasy. The time spent on both of those activities has been reduced by my efforts to maintain a healthy weight and a good fitness level.

Getting fit, and staying fit, requires time. It doesn't require so much time that I can't earn a living in a sedentary job; but it does require so much time that reading fantasy has been almost eliminated from my leisure time. Computer time has been reduced less, but what time there is has been refocused to more Spark and less of what I did pre-Spark.

It's a lifestyle. Not only has how I eat and how I buy groceries changed, but how I spend my leisure time has changed. It's changed so much that my reaction to the morning radio bit is different than it would have been. Pre-Spark, I might have just thought that I wasn't particularly attracted to a TV series about zombies. Now, my first reaction is horror at going without physical activity long enough to watch that much TV.

Is the idea of using Netflix to create full days of TV watching American mainstream now? I don't know, and I don't need to find out. I know it's not me. I have lots of things I'd like to do when I have leisure time, and sitting around watching TV isn't going to make the cut.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I grew up without a TV because my parents thought it was garbage and got rid of it early in their marriage. Instead I had a horse, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, gardens, fields and streams and of course a bike. As a result, I'd gladly live without a TV today as well as netflix or anything else you pay for that encourages mindless inactivity. However as I don't live alone, we do have those things in our home. I wish I could say netflix was the only problem, but really ANYTHING that encourages one to sit on their backside, stare at a screen and do nothing for hours is the problem. That problem worsens when the sitting behind a screen activity is addictive. So I definitely think things like netflix contribute to the problem, but as one could go rent a big stack of movies from blockbuster and have a personal movie marathon decades ago if they desired, I certainly don't think netflix is the whole problem. I blame obesity more on the shift from almost all "active" jobs of bygone days now being sit-down (sedentary) jobs. It's just not healthy for your mind or body to be stuck sitting down all day long. I'm surprised treadmill desks aren't yet options for employees in forward thinking companies.
    1859 days ago
    I agree with your thinking, Moby - we watch very little TV, maybe just a couple hours on Friday and Saturday night. on weekdays, by the time I get home from work, work out, make dinner, clean up from dinner, pack the next day's breakfast and lunch and record my calories/activity, it's usually time to go to bed! That's what I always wonder when I sit at book club and listen to the other ladies talk about all the shows they've been watching - where the heck do they find the time?
    1859 days ago
    Now its socially acceptable in that we call it Cocooning.

    I gave up the tv years ago (back in the mid 90's). Stopped listening to the morning talk dj's because it seemed that the talk was mainly insulting to the guests or listeners. Very little music.

    I'm certainly a poor person for water cooler conversation. But I do enjoy how I spend my time and don't "miss" any of the shows. I figure they don't improve the quality of my life, so why bother. If I need to "veg out", I'll do it with some music on the stereo system.

    1859 days ago
  • BRIAN36
    My husband and I spent a whole Sunday watching the first two seasons of the Walking Dead in order to get caught up. I love the series and what I loved even more was an entire day snuggling on the couch with my hubby. I certainly wouldn't make a habit of regular marathon tv show watching. In fact, Walking Dead is the ONLY program that I watch religiously. It was a rare, lazy day and the exception not the rule.

    Moderation on a regular basis and rare "splurges".

    1859 days ago
  • DALID414
    Crazy! Just this past weekend I asked the boyfriend 'what are we doing Sundays now that football season is over?' He said 'watch movies!' I cringed!! Clearly I have to think of something with a bit more movement.
    1860 days ago
    I just recently blogged about Netflix, and how I think the lack of commercials is actually helpful, since the commercials to me are the trigger for cravings. That said, I don't watch a lot of TV either, much less than I used to! We do watch series through Netflix (or Amazon Prime) but maybe one or 2 episodes a night, depending on how late it is when we're done with the active part of the day!
    1860 days ago
    I try to watch Survivor and saw maybe 5 minutes
    of the whole show. I save my reading for the last
    10 minutes before I go to sleep. Even a good book
    lasts at least a week that way. I wouldn't change a thing.
    1860 days ago
  • NWFL59
    Interesting musing and reaction to the radio show's programming. Unlike you, I do spend way too much time watching/listening to the TV but not so much for whatever they're showing as I just want the background noise. I still don't have sufficient discipline to get in daily exercise to the level/length I should to meet my health goals but its in my daily plans and something I do track. emoticon
    1860 days ago
    Hmmmm. I like Barb's concept for treadmill entertainment -- but I read on the elliptical. And probably don't watch 2 hours of TV a year in any format.
    1860 days ago
    I am with Onekidsmom, I too watch from my exercise bike. And I have to say, I would never watch an entire series in a day. But if I am very tired and want to catch up, I love that I can watch an hour long show in 30 mins or less by fast forwarding thru the commercials. Or I use the commercials to do some housework or Strength training. Just have to be inventive. I have some shows that I love watching, but sitting on my butt doing it is a waist (spelled that way on purpose) of my time, unless I am multi-tasking. I love watching the documentarys on Netflix that inspire me to share with my students what I have learned. So it really is perspective.
    1860 days ago
    Ah, but some of us don't sit around while watching TV. I'm currently working my way through the series 24, having recently completed the series LOST. All of these support my marathon dream, because I watch from the treadmill.

    Of course, I doubt that the majority of viewers do it this way... but face it, running on a treadmill is boring. Netflix helps me stick with it! emoticon
    1860 days ago
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