Good TV Might be Bad for Your Weight
Television transports you to foreign lands, fantasy worlds, or into pulse-pounding car chases. But getting sucked into the action may hurt your weight-management efforts. That’s because TV watching and weight gain have some interesting connections.
One study found that two or more hours of television a day ties to high body mass indexes (BMI)—adding fat—in both men and women. So if you’ve ever wondered if binge watching your favorite show is making you gain weight, the answer might be yes.
And there’s two reasons for it—activity and eating.
Time spent in front of the TV often means less time moving around. Sedentary behavior—as opposed to physical activity—contributes to weight gain. So the tie between TV watching and weight gain makes sense. But it goes beyond the comfort of the couch.
Several studies have found that watching TV while eating increases calorie intake. In one study, they found that those watching more television took in more calories from snacks or large evening meals. The findings suggest that television seems to boost snacking overall.
And some types of programming have been shown to be worse than others.
A study from Cornell University compared two types of media—an action movie and a talk show. They wanted to see which encouraged more snacking. The result? Action-movie viewers ate 98 percent more.
The authors attribute this difference to the stimulation and excitement of the movie or TV show. The constant action—and cuts to different camera angles and scenes—distracts you. Not paying attention to the food being eaten translates to mindless snacking or overeating. Anxiety and agitation caused by the action on screen may play a role, too.
Avoiding action scenes might not be enough, though.
Another study found food-related content on television increased calorie intake. And the type of food seen on a show can influence cravings, too. Another study showed that if a character finishes eating in a scene, study participants preferred sweeter snacks—those that mimic dessert—to savory ones.
It’s clear that television—and media in general—can have a big impact on your waistline. But that doesn’t mean you should turn a blind eye to the current golden age of television.
You can manage your DVR and your weight at the same time. The key is moderation, mindful eating, and healthy snack choices. Put in the effort so you don’t fall victim to the trend of TV watching and weigh gain.
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Tal, Aner PhD; Zuckerman, Scott, MD; Wansink, Brian, PhD. Watch What You Eat:Action-Related Television Content Increases Food Intake. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(11):1842-1843. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.4098.
Zhou, Shuo; Shapiro, Michael A.; Wansink, Brian. The audience eats more if a movie character keeps eating: An unconscious mechanism for media influence on eating behaviors. Appetite. Volume 108, 1 January 2017, Pages 407-415.