It’s pretty common to sit down with a snack when you’re watching TV. Food and television are just one of life’s perfect combinations. However, is it possible that one actually tells your brain to want the other? There’s a theory that watching television can make you hungrier in the long run, but is this all based on fact or fiction?
What is the theory?
According to Cleveland Clinic, food and TV aren’t the match made in heaven that many people believe them to be. That’s because television is supposedly an appetite distraction. In the clinic’s view, TV occupies so much of a person’s attention that they ignore certain cues their body is giving them. This includes the notion that they’re full, meaning the viewer continues to enjoy their food, despite no longer being hungry. This passive consumption can become an issue when it’s a regular occurrence, especially if there’s no exercise involved.
Has this been tested?
A study was published in 2015 that put this idea to the test. Nearly 600 students were surveyed, with results indicating a correlation between TV viewing and eating. The more television a person watched, the more they ate. What’s more, their views on eating habits were increasingly “fatalistic,” likely due to the mixed messages about food they saw on TV.
Is this learned behavior?
The findings of this study may be quite concerning, especially as there’s a suggestion that this problem is learned behavior. After doing it enough times, people are no longer snacking while watching television because they’re hungry. Instead, they’re doing it because their brains have come to associate doing one thing with the other. Your brain tells you when you’re hungry for a reason, so if you frequently chow down without that signal, you risk eating more than your body needs. This then leads to weight gain and all the potential health issues that spark from this.
Does TV have any other influences?
It’s not simply the association of food with TV that can be problematic. The type of program you watch may also influence the amount that you eat. A 2013 study found that subjects who watched a cooking show tended to eat more candy than those watching a nature series. The presence of delicious food onscreen and the way it was filmed was seemingly prompting viewers to eat the sweet treats. That’s despite everyone also being offered cheese curls and carrots with their show.
How can you avoid this?
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a snack when you’re watching something on television. However, it’s important to keep an eye on how often you do this and whether you eat automatically once the TV’s on. It could be worth teaching yourself to enjoy food away from other stimuli so you can savor it more. This should help you familiarize yourself with your body’s satiety cues so you know when you’re not hungry anymore.
Food and television are an amazing combination, but they’re not perfect. As long as you enjoy them in moderation, though, you should be okay.