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Is Your Sofa a Silent Killer?

SofaLast week was a very stressful for me. I found myself spending more time on our sofa as comfort seeking behavior. While parking myself on the sofa with food was easy, it didn’t reduce my anxiety, stress or improve my mood. Worse, I found myself feeling guilty about the bad food choices that accompanied my time on the sofa.

A few years back, Dr. Prochaska, a health psychologist had a very interesting insight. He thought being a couch potato was a largely ignored and unrecognized silent killer. The more hours people spend on the sofa translated to more TV watching, more eating and less exercise. Dr. Porchaska pointed out the healthcare system is all over high blood pressure as a silent killer, as most of us will have our blood pressure taken each time we go to the doctor. But it ignores the risk of couch sitting activity as an adverse health activity. In truth, time on the couch does little to reduce stress, lessen depression, or improve our food habits. But when we need comfort, we all to often take to our couch to unwind.

Not that seeking comfort is bad. There are times when we feel bad, lonely, or down, and we need comfort. Most of us don’t give ourselves the proper opportunity to pick a healthy comfort activity like meditation, a walk, a cup of tea, reading, cooking a healthy meal, calling a friend, going for a bike ride, scheduling a massage or taking a yoga class. For many of us, food is a source of comfort that we bring to sofa lounging. If we feel bad or stressed and choose isolation too, we may find ourselves binging on more food than we intended and later feeling worse about our choices.

Setting an intention to make healthy choices when seeking comfort, allows the possibility for new choices. In my health coaching practice when looking at lifestyle change goals, I start with a couple of basic questions. I ask my client to make a list of their favorite comforting activities. Then we look at the list and ask does their comfort seeking behaviors cause more problems than they solve? If yes, the next step is identifying healthy comfort activities to replace the silent killer comfort activities. We begin the process of setting health related intentions and goals for the next week or two that the client feels are important and are confident they can achieve.

I have a client that typically spends two hours a day after work on the couch in front of the TV. Between a long commute and a demanding job as an air traffic controller, she is looking for comfort by the time she arrives home. Her weight changes are related to total time in front of the TV. When she spends more time exercising, meditating, socializing with friends, meal planning, and meal preparation she loses weight and feels better about herself. As her coach, my job is to help her lay down track for the new behaviors. In coaching we say, you wire what you fire. New habits have to be repeated enough times to forge new wiring or pathways in the brain.

Soon fall will be here with a new line up of TV shows and football. I encourage you to track your TV couch time for a few days. Once you have a baseline, consider some substitute activities. Back on track, I found the best way to watch my favorite shows is while I am exercising on an elliptical trainer which happens to be nowhere near my sofa.

For new clients, I am offering a six 45 minute sessions health coaching package for $275. This includes weekly online emails to hold you accountable to your goals. Health coaching is a great way to kick off your fall season.

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