Television and Obesity: A Deadly CombinationPosted on Jan 25th 2010 12:00PM by Jonny Bowden
We don't know for sure why there's a relationship between television watching and obesity, but there is. And it's a doozey.
Theories abound. The more time you spend in front of the tube, the less time you have for exercise (which assumes you'd be exercising if you weren't watching "Friends" reruns). Watching TV leads to mindless eating (no kidding). And finally, some researchers have floated the theory that staring passively at the screen in some way changes brain waves and lowers metabolism.
There's also all those hours of exposure to commercials for fast food, and don't think for a minute that doesn't creep into our subconscious. Whatever the mechanism -- or mechanisms -- there's no doubt about the fact that the more television you watch, the greater the risk of being overweight. And a new study suggests it may even increase the risk of dying.
The new study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that every hour spent watching television actually increases the risk of dying from any cause by 11 percent, and increases the risk of suffering a cardiovascular disease-related death by a scary 18 percent.
But I digress.
I don't think it really matters why television makes us fat. The question is what to do about it. One interesting suggestion made by a recent diet book is to watch one hour of television for every hour you spend being active. No exercise, no TV.
Another suggestion -- one I've made myself in books and specifically in my Diet Boot Camp program --is to not eat and watch TV at the same time. In fact, to the extent that you can make eating it's own activity and not an accompaniment to other stuff like driving, working or surfing the Internet, the more you help increase mindfulness about your food. That's always a good thing when you're trying to lose weight.
If you have kids or teenagers, consider this little factoid from a study done last year: The number of hours spent watching TV in childhood and adolescence is a significant predictor of dietary habits in the future. Teenagers who watched five or more hours of TV a day while the researchers collected their data had a significantly higher intake of trans fat, fried foods, fast food menu items, snacks and soda ... five years later!
There's absolutely no reason to think these relationships between TV viewing and overeating don't continue as we get older. So here's a good tip for turbo-charging your weight-loss program: Watch less television. That tip has nothing to do with food, supplements, or exercise, but it might just be one of the most effective tips of all.
For more information from Jonny on this topic, visit his Web site.
Jonny Bowden, author, nutritionist and weight loss coach cuts through all the misconceptions about diet and fitness to help you transform your body, your health and your life.