Turn off the TV

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Do you watch TV while you eat? If you do, and you’re trying to lose weight, you might want to think about shutting off the television and finding other ways to enjoy your meal and to prevent unwanted snacking. Why? When you watch TV, you are distracted and are not paying attention to how much you consume.

Before We Get Started

Before I get into the nitty gritty of it, I just want to be clear that while I do think we should turn off the TV while we eat, I’m not anti-TV.  I love sitting down in front of a movie, show or video. I have my favorites, and I’m not beyond the occasional binge.  The point to this post is to show that many of us have formed a relationship between watching and eating.

The bad news is that this relationship wasn’t really a good one.  It’s the type of relationship we have that seems fun at the time but that only gets us into trouble in the long run.  We’ve all had those friendships or romances.  They’ve been wild, silly or downright out of control.  They gave us entertainment for a while, but it was to the detriment of our health, it placed us at risk of illness, or it made it difficult to keep up with the rest of our lives.  To those relationships, I say it’s time to turn off the TV!

Science Says Turn Off the TV

It’s not just me. I’m not just ranting here. Research, conducted by University of Massachusetts scientists, found that those who watch TV while consuming a meal ingest more than 280 calories, on average, compared to those who don’t. Participants in the study were put into two groups.

The participants in both groups had either macaroni and cheese or pizza. However, one group listened to music while eating, the other watched television. The TV viewers consumed 36% more calories from pizza and 71% more from the macaroni and cheese than the music listeners. According to the study author, Elliott Blass, Ph.D, when people are distracted by television their brain might not realize that they are full and continue eating.

In addition, some TV shows are worse than others. For instance, food and cooking-based shows and commercials can actually increase your level of hunger and make you crave the foods that are being discussed or advertised.

What can you do to avoid TV and eating?

Try the following:

  • Prepare food with your family – This will help to increase the level of joy and satisfaction you take from the food you make. Instead of rushing to prepare food, concentrate on what you are making, and you are likely to make better food choices.
  • Listen, don’t watch – Eat your meal listening to your favorite tunes, talk show, or even listening to an audio book. It will help to keep your mind occupied and cut through the silence without completely distracting you from your meal.
  • Eat with others – As much as you can, enjoy mealtimes with your family or in the company of other people. Conversation slows down your eating, which helps you to recognize when you are full.
  • Eat at the table – Even if you live alone or happen to be eating by yourself, this doesn’t mean that you need the TV for company while you eat. Instead, consider eating at the table and being mindful about the experience of your meal.  Bored? Listen to some music or listen to an audio book. There’s no reason to add video to your mealtime. Look at your food and be aware of what you’re eating!
  • Allow yourself 30 minutes of digestion before settling in front of the TV – You should feel satisfied by your food before you watch anything. Usually, time is all it takes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’ve had enough.  Once you’ve had a good meal, wait a half hour for the feeling of satisfaction to kick in. Then, you’re ready to sit down in front of the TV.  Until then, turn off the TV before it drives you to overeat!
  • Keep your hands occupied – When you do finally settle down to watch TV, keep your hands busy, so you will be less inclined to want to reach for food. Consider knitting, sewing, squeezing a stress ball, etc. As long as you’re doing something that makes it inconvenient to hold food, you’ll avoid unnecessary snacking without having to turn of the TV at all.
  • Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time – At some point; you are likely to feel hungry when you watch television. Have some good-for-you munchies ready, such as raw veggies, fruits, and other healthy alternatives to junk food.

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