Sit back and binge

I could be a member of Binging Anonymous, a new 12 step program, and while going public removes the anonymity from this fellowship, its just a handful of us in the blog community who will know.

Binging Anonymous or BA for short could also be known as lip-smacking snacking anonymous (L-SSA), though L-SSA admittedly falls flat. BA has a better ring to it. It fits well with its cousins AA and NA. The Steps ring true:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over salty snacks – that our life had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of …..

By being a program, BA is an acknowledgement that I can not easily manage snacking in a short period of time, most often when watching video or TV. It often becomes a self-indulgence in munching as in “he went on a binge”, or ”he binged the last six episodes of that Netflix series and went to sleep really late”. Guilt and shame can play a part in it.

Many people especially during the pandemic have binged. Some profess to it as an achievement. Of course no therapist would suggest binging or snacking to excess as a means to good mental health especially right now with so many patients feeling anxious, lonely, stressed out and/or depressed during the pandemic.

For me, watching TV or video is the trigger that sets me off to binging. I do it even though I regret it afterwards. I often get a migraine headache from all the salt, or feel terrible the next day for the self-indulgence experienced. I look at my bod in the mirror the next day and think ”this is not the me I want to be”. I have to learn a more healthy way of being. Or watch less TV.

HBO, Netflix, Hulu and the New England Patriots is the problem I say to myself. I break down and stop my conscientious attention to healthy eating while watching. It’s not easy to stay ”snackingly sober”. And food marketers and food chemists don’t make it easy for the viewing public or sports spectator either to stay true to one’s lifestyle goals.

Marketers know how to combine sweet and salty into a mouth-watering snack that’s hard to put down. Sometimes marketers and food chemists dream up snacks that are the best of two worlds: sweet and delicious but low in calories, sugar or fat.

Consider the FAT SNAX cookie package: it boasts 2 chocolate chip cookies with ”no sugar”, part of a Keto diet. And it’s “gluten free”. A picture of the chocolate chip cookie is packaged in an attractive blue metallic foil package that’s small enough to fit in your pocket or purse. It promises a chocolate high without the guilt. It’s the perfect cookie for today’s consumer. It may not be a big brand name snack anytime soon, but you found it in a health food store or Whole Foods and you’re going to enjoy it. You’re in the know. You could even be a brand influencer and convey a new status attained just by eating and sharing it on social media.

On the back of the package it gives me permission to indulge it on my own time:

You can eat fat and be fit. We left the sugar behind and cut down the carbs, without sacrificing taste. We create unapologetically fat-filled snacks, so you can have your cookie and eat it too!

Since they’re so satisfying with no fat and no sugar, I could easily eat four, or six, or even 20 of them. Why not – they’re fat- free!

We hear it all the time: Live a little. Take it easy. You worked hard, take a break, sit back and relax. Be good to yourself, for a change. You only live once.

But I don’t really believe munching is what these messages were getting at.

So you sit back and binge to make the show even more special. You add another sensation into the mix. Whether its football with three announcers, replays and vivid color on a 54” wide screen or a new ”must watch” Netflix series, simply watching the show is just not enough.

Munching is also a way to try to control or manipulate an experience, making it more than what it is. It’s a way to make a show a media event, and munching forces the show to be even more special, more memorable, a better story for sharing on social media tomorrow (or while watching the show). But life doesn’t have to be spectacular all the time, does it? It is satisfactory just as is. Isn’t it?

Why do people drink? To help lose their inhibitions. To gain confidence, to laugh and make friends, to get on the dance floor, to make mistakes.

On further reflection, snacking is a little different. I eat snacks to enjoy two things that naturally go together: watching and munching. But I’m not inflicting pain on others or poisoning my liver.

Snacking or binging is not really enough to qualify as a new 12 step program. I don’t think BA has a future.

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

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