By Anita Cassidy, author of APPETITE, a new novel from RedDoor Publishing, £8.99, January 2018

Anita Cassidy

Anita Cassidy

“Our enemy is sleep.” These are the words of Netflix online and their CEO, Reed Hastings said: “…the market is just so vast. You know, think about it, when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night. We’re competing with sleep, on the margin.”

Recent coverage of the way in which Big Food markets their products shows that the latest tactic is to encourage consumers to see the larger bars and sharing bags as better value and an acceptable portion for one.

With the rise of sharing bags, takeaway apps and the normalising of binge boxset watching it has never been easier, or more acceptable, to sit on the couch and consume media and food. We feel tired, fed up, dissatisfied or we feel happy and want to celebrate with a treat, a box set, a take-away. The same behaviour is sold to us as a way to both celebrate and commiserate. The last thing we are encouraged to do is question why.

And yet, we are the ones who pay the price. What can be a fun thing to do can become ALL we do and so we gain weight, feel lethargic, get caught in a cycle of seeing the sofa as a refuge from a world that just feels too darn difficult to face sometimes. Worn out and worn down, we rarely wonder at the fact that it is the same media companies frightening us with news on one channel and placating us with entertainment on another. 

We sit, we watch, we snack. 

In my book, Appetite, we see how aware the teenager David is of the power that advertising has but, at first, he feels powerless to change the comfort-driven habits of a lifetime. But, feeling hungry and lethargic are biological responses to the hormones in your body being out of whack. David discovers this and, armed with this powerful knowledge as well as finally feeling tired of only seeing life from the corner of the couch, he makes changes to how he eats and behaves.

There are limits to the amount of pleasure that snacks, takeaways and TV can add to our lives, especially if we do them frequently. What activities are you missing out on every time you allow the next episode to play? Which friends are you not seeing? Which family are you not connecting to? More importantly, what hobbies and interests of your own are being neglected?

Many of us want something different for ourselves and our families. To achieve that, we have to look at our habits, look at them non-judgementally and with compassion, and then decide if we are going to make some changes for ourselves. Because only we can do it. And, in Appetite, a teenage boy shows us that real change is possible.