Television is the great American pastime. Most homes have at least one and many have more than one. TV entertains, informs, pacifies and captivates us. Unfortunately, it also enlarges us – and not in a good way. Why does TV make us fat? What can we do to slow the creeping of the pounds caused by indulging too often in our favorite shows? Here is what you need to know.
Watching TV distracts us
Most people underestimate the amount of food they consume. This is especially true for people watching television. Because they are so engrossed in the programming little attention is given to portions, which leads to overeating.
Snacking is strongly associated with television
Let’s face it, movies and great TV shows seem made for snacking. And not just any snacks but the ones that get us into the most trouble. You know the ones – they are salty, crunchy, sweet or fried.
Watching TV takes time
There are only so many hours in a day. Given a choice between spending an hour on the couch with the characters from your favorite show (that everyone will be talking about tomorrow) or hopping on the treadmill, it’s a good bet the couch will win.
TV food tempts us
Studies have shown that the more hours of television we regularly watch the more likely we are to be overweight. Rising obesity rates bear this out. You can turn the tide with these tips:
- Practice portion control – a Cornell University study found that participants ate 43% more popcorn from a large tub than they did from a medium tub, even though it was stale. Researchers theorize that larger portions encourage people to eat more even if they are not necessarily enjoying the food. Pour an individual sized portion into a cup or bowl instead of serving yourself from a container to save calories.
- Practice when and then – as in, when I have finished 30 minutes of exercise, then I can watch television; or when I have finished my water I can have a soda. This practice helps you make good habits a part of your regular routine without feeling deprived. You may even find that you exercise a little longer or eat a little less.
- Use combinations – watch TV while you’re on the treadmill or slip in a few minutes of jump rope during commercials.
- Slow down and notice – mindful eating can help you eat less. Slow down and experience the food as you eat it. You will find that you notice sooner when you are full and that you feel satisfied when you focus on the food.
You don’t have to give up TV. Just tweak your viewing habits a bit to avoid overeating and obesity.