a peek inside the fishbowl

26 Apr, 2010

Know More Do More Mondays: (almost) TV-free

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Know More Do More

As Emma was getting ready for school this morning I asked her for her thoughts about this past week, which was almost entirely screen-free (i.e. no TV, no Wii, no computer or iPhone games).

“Did you find it hard?” I asked.
“Did you find it weird or annoying that you couldn’t watch TV during the week?”

So there you have it. Right from the horse’s mouth. But for kids who rarely get to watch TV or play with video games during the week, five days without screen time is no biggie. I don’t like them watching TV after school or in the evenings. There are so many better things we could be doing instead.

It was me who suffered the most.

Mark was in Vegas all week and I was home alone. Instead of watching TV or mindlessly surfing the Interwebs in the evenings I read. I read a LOT. That’s all I did. Normally I only read in bed right before lights out, but I plowed through 1.5 books in only a few days.

I watch more TV than I think I do. Maybe an hour or two every night? After the girls go to bed I am so exhausted I just drop down on the couch and pretty much stay there. I watch a show, and then the news. 

I just have so little energy for anything else but I hate the idea of those lost hours. Two hours every night, seven days a week, that’s fourteen hours I could be applying to some other area in my life. Now that Mark’s home I want to get back into evening speed walks and visits to the gym. I normally burn too many daytime hours in the gym … hours that are best used for work and other creative endeavours.

I should point out that we have a PVR (or DVR, or TIVO, it’s all the same) and it’s really changed my television watching experience. Our PVR faithfully records all of our shows for us and files them away. I especially like it as it pertains to our children. We record a few choice shows for the girls. They love Saddle Club, Ruby Gloom, and Grossology. We record all three and that’s what they watch on Saturday mornings. They have learned how to skip the commercials. Recording their shows cuts way down on channel surfing. They watch their programs and then they’re done.

The only hiccup in our TV-free week was on Friday night. I had a date to watch Food Inc. (FYI you MUST see this film if you haven’t already) with some Twitter friends and I wasn’t going to back out for the sake of this challenge. Of course when I was heading out the door the girls were already planning what THEY were going to watch. Friday nights are always movie night at our house. Oh well.

But we did it.

This week’s challenge is a tip I made up. The girls are none too pleased.

Say goodbye to junk food for this week.

Personally, I found this little blurb from Wikipedia pretty interesting:

A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny at The Scripps Research Institute suggested that junk food alters brain activity in a manner similar to addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin. After many weeks on a junk food diet, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure. After the junk food was taken away and replaced with a healthy diet, the rats starved for two weeks instead of eating nutritious fare.

Food for thought?

I had the girls help me make a list of what they consider junk food and we attached it to the fridge. We don’t normally keep this kind of food in the house, but it’s still interesting how much of it we manage to eat: chips, fizzy drinks, chocolate etc.

For example, we walked to the candy store yesterday and bought gummy bears and taffy and I made Jell-o popsicles. We still have chocolate leftover from Easter. And it’s all going to have to wait!

I’m going to stock up on healthy treats this week and make them forget that it’s no junk week. I’ll pick up lots of fruit and I’m planning on making a batch of my granola bars too.

I know that a popular phrase as it pertains to eating junk food is “moderation is key!” but something about it still bugs me. Certainly, moderation is key, but eating habits are just that, habits. And when you get out of the habit of eating something for long enough it eventually gets hard to go back to eating that thing and you’re objectively able to recognize it for what it is. For example, I can’t eat canned chicken noodle soup anymore. Or salted butter. Or Shake N’ Bake. We got out of the habit of eating those things and they seem disgustingly salty to me now.

I’m not sure if a week is going to change anything, but it will put things into perspective.

Wish us luck!

11 Responses to "Know More Do More Mondays: (almost) TV-free"

1 | bushidoka

April 26th, 2010 at 9:41 am


As I think I’ve posted here before, we cut TV out completely shortly after our first was born, and have not looked back at all. For us the commercials were the issue – it is a very serious form of brainwashing that we did not want our kids exposed to. We tuned into over-the-air for the Olympics and kept it so far – but pretty much never watch it. I watched a Sens game the other night and it was the first time in weeks I’ve watched TV.

An old friend of mine was in town a few weeks ago, and we got to talking about TV. He read that the average person watches 4 hours a day! A little bit of math tells us that this is 2 WHOLE MONTHS A YEAR OF TV!!! So even 2 hours a day is ONE MONTH A YEAR! Wow, eh?

Now as for junk food, I don’t think snacking on healthy food is necessarily a whole lot better, to be honest. Snacking is snacking. People need to be able to live a few hours a day feeling hungry. If one cannot stand a slight feeling of hunger, one will eat. When one is constantly eating, one is at higher risk of becoming overweight and unhealthy. Does not really matter what one eats. I wrote something about this a couple of months ago. OK, it is a bit better to have healthy snacks, but I think the key is getting rid of the snacking mentality completely.

That having been said, our boys get unhealthy treats about once a week. We educate them on what is and is not healthy, and at 6 and 8 they seem genuinely concerned about it, and understand it. And by-and-large they want to eat healthily. They know that certain things are yummy but unhealthy, and accept that these things should only be consumed rarely, and thought of as a special treat when they are consumed.

2 | karen

April 26th, 2010 at 10:05 am


I tend to think that people think we need to have snacks. Very young children need to snack but I don’t think everyone else does. I think kids today think that they should never feel hungry. I think that come meal time you should feel hungry. I do think that sometimes small snacks are fine. I just don’t know what the balance is. If we don’t want are kids to grow up to be snackers we need to be very carefull what we teach them.

3 | andrea

April 26th, 2010 at 10:36 am


i agree with both of you! In fact, I have a whole post drafted on the topic of snacks. Look for it on about Wednesday or so. For us, snack time is (1) after school. (the kids are starving when they get home) and (2) as a potential “extra” item that’s in their lunchboxes.

Our no-junk food rule will also come into play re: dessert too.

4 | bushidoka

April 26th, 2010 at 10:48 am


BTW, there is a related thread on Ottawa Foodies that has been bumped a few times, and recently. A lot of people there seemed to think (and I was one of them) that kids should be allowed to have a small amount of junk food because otherwise it becomes “forbidden fruit” and they will be more likely to want it / abuse it. I tend to agree based mainly on what I see in our boys. They get a treat once a week and they seem very happy with this.

5 | Scatteredmom

April 26th, 2010 at 9:46 pm


After watching Food Revolution, Jake went and looked at everything in our pantry and read the labels. I have a real weakness for granola bars (especially the sweet and salty 70% cocoa ones), but now that I know what’s in them, I may eat them much less. If at all.

I can’t eat canned soups either. They gross me out.

I agree with bushidoka-I allow sweets every now and then, and Jake can actually let his Easter candy sit for MONTHS on end (sometimes to the point where I throw it away). I’d say we’re a once a week family too.

6 | Rae

April 26th, 2010 at 10:18 pm


We’re normally pretty TV Free, but the sitter sometimes turns it on when he is tired. I made a little sign with some vectors and a clip art TV and pasted it to the TV with some tape, and the kids actually /told/ the sitters that the sign said no and they should go outside.

Teehee!! :D

7 | meanie

April 27th, 2010 at 6:49 am


please post your healthy treats! i just blogged about healthy dessert recipes….we are trying as well.

9 | Tiana

April 27th, 2010 at 9:05 am


A few years ago I cut out all junk food and refined sugars. Wow 5 years ago! After the first week (which was hell let me tell you) it was great! I had never felt better and I didn’t even WANT the stuff anymore!

Over the years I’ve slowly slipped back and all bets were off when I got pregnant and wanted to live off of slushies.

This week I’ve taken myself to task to get back to that place. And since I now know how awesome it feels to be there, the ‘detox’ period isn’t so bad.

10 | Know More Do More Mondays: Junk food and snacking >> a peek inside the fishbowl

May 3rd, 2010 at 10:28 am


[…] I mentioned at the end of last week’s post, I asked one of the girls to help make a list of the junk foods we were going to banish for the […]

11 | Micheline Turnau

May 13th, 2010 at 3:57 pm


Hi Andrea,

I was at a conference last week in Toronto on Physical Activity and there is some great research being done around sedentary time with children/youth. Studies are showing that kids are spending too much time below the sedentary threshold – close to 50% of their day.

Here are 2 of the take home messages I took from this research area:

1) Standing instead of sitting can make a big difference with regards to energy expenditure.

2) Increasing the number of breaks/interuptions in sedentary time can also be very effective. They are doing some research in Australia with regards to some innovative ways to interupt sedentary time for children in school and at home.

Stay tuned for info from this on our Know More Do More Facebook Page.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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