Ryan: Netflix & Fast


When I was a kid, I loved Saturday morning cartoons.  One of my all-time favorites was Spiderman and his Amazing Friends, a show that captured all the elements that lit me up.  Superheroes. Secret Identities. Cool gadgets. Awesome battle scenes.  I remember anticipating those episodes all week long, building excitement for whatever new story awaited me.  The show itself was over quickly, only 22 minutes plus commercials, but they were a highlight of my entire week.  When it was over, I was content to think about all the things I loved about the episode, knowing that another one would come along in just seven days.

The advent of Netflix has given me access to many more shows that light me up in the same ways Spiderman did.   Recently, I pushed play on episode one of The Umbrella Academy, a show based on a comic book series of the same name.  This show has it all: Superheroes. Secret Identities. Cool gadgets.  Awesome battle scenes. Maybe you’re noticing a theme here?

Two weeks later, I’m still in the middle of the season, and it’s making me a little anxious.  In the old days, I savored a season of a show for months, watching one episode a week for an entire school year.  Netflix has introduced the concept of the TV binge, and it’s really changed my relationship to the shows I love. No more need to wait for chapters to play out over months; the entire story is available with the click of a button.  I sometimes find myself cramming in an entire show in one weekend, or even one day, simply because I can. I have an entire queue of shows in the pipeline, so I have to keep it moving. I feel a vague, irrational sense of accomplishment when I finish a show and remove it from the list.  I’m taking in more, but I’m enjoying it less. Where’s the anticipation, the build-up, the living in the moment of the actual event, the reminiscing about it after the fact while waiting to do it all again? I’m trading value for volume, and it feels satisfying….and not…at the same time.

This dynamic started to feel eerily familiar.  Then it hit me. My relationship with Netflix is a lot like my relationship with food.  I have loved to eat for as long as I have loved superheroes, probably longer. Both light up my brain in a pleasing way.  Both trigger anticipation, build up, payoff, reflection, repeat. In both cases, it is deceptively easy to overemphasize quantity over quality.  It even feels good to overindulge in food, to eat the whole cake in one sitting to be ready for the next thing…but it doesn’t feel very satisfying.

So….am I doomed to spend the rest of my life fighting my own brain, either binge eating because it “feels good” and facing all the negative health consequences or white-knuckling it from one sensible episode of eating to the next?

No.  Intermittent fasting is the answer for me. For the first time in my life, I am living in a way that works with my hard-wiring, not constantly trying to change it or feel guilty about it.  I can eat the foods I like in my window. No more being locked in battle with bread.  No more placing false pride in rejecting certain foods because it fits my latest diet plan.  Sometimes I eat a lot, sometimes not so much. I’m still learning every day to listen more carefully to my body while acknowledging that pesky hard-wiring that can get me into trouble.

You see, IF is amazing, but it doesn’t remove all personal responsibility from the equation.  It doesn’t guarantee a hot, sexy body if we just check our intellect at the door and blindly follow some strict rules.  That’s diet mentality, and while feels kind of good in the short term, it will never be satisfying for your life.

I’ve come to realize that my relationship with food AND my relationship with Netflix can be healthy, but it must be mindful.  There is true freedom in making the decision to do what really serves your larger goals, not overdoing it in a petulant desire to do whatever you want without limits.

There’s nothing wrong with a Netflix binge on a rainy day or two big pieces of cake on your birthday, but it’s even better to anticipate the good things in life and truly enjoy them when they come.

The whole story of life-changing transformation is in our book, Unbelievable Freedom:  How Intermittent Fasting Transformed Our Health and Happiness, available on Amazon using the link below.