Lauren and I stopped owning a television about 3-years ago. Then something happened, I quit my retail job (ironically I worked for an electronics store that sold TV’s), and we started traveling full time. Because of this we were suddenly spending a lot more time in hotel rooms and people’s houses and were watching a lot more TV again. I couldn’t help but notice that whenever we were watching TV, no matter how recently we ate, we were always either snacking or talking about food. I decided to do some research and found some rather disturbing reasons why television is making you fat.
The Food Network Effect…
Have you ever stopped to think about how many food and cooking shows there are on TV? It’s pretty ridiculous when you consider it. Between primetime shows like “Top Chef” to cable favorites like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”, we’re surrounded by TV shows that are about food. Interestingly though, while the shows used to be primarily about cooking food, now many of them are just about eating food. (source) Why is this bad? Because it creates an image in your mind that eating deep fried everything, oversized burgers, and gargantuan portions of food in a competition style format are okay things to do. It completely disrupts the idea of normal eating. If you watch 10 hours of TV a week where people are eating artery clogging, heart stopping, fat filled foods, why wouldn’t your brain think it’s normal to do so as well?
How about Prime Time TV?
Let’s say you’ve never tuned in to food programming and you have no idea who Gordon Ramsay, Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay, and Rachael Ray are, are you still safe from food? I think not. Have you ever stopped and considered how much time is spent watching people eat on TV Shows? Sadly I couldn’t find any studies on this so I have to rely on anecdotal evidence. I can’t think of one sitcom I’ve watched or primetime TV show that doesn’t spend a portion of each episode with the characters eating. Why? It’s an easy thing to portray and it’s something we can all relate to. Whether it’s the guys eating at the Cheesecake Factory on Big Bang Theory or everyone hanging out at the Coffee Shop in Friends, we are constantly being bombarded with images of people eating. Once again they’re not eating healthy or fit foods, rather they are stuffing their faces with cheeseburgers and delicious pastries. Why’s this so bad? Because it’s been proven that merely looking at pictures of food can stimulate appetite! (source)
Evil Ad Men!
Interestingly the largest offender and grower of our waist lines isn’t the actual content on TV, but the advertising in between our favorite shows. Fast food companies alone spent more than $4.2 billion dollars in 2009 (source) trying to interest us in their processed and manufactured “foods”. The sad thing is, it doesn’t matter if you actually eat the stuff, you’re still being bombarded by “delicious” food images in between the shows you’re watching. Add to that the additional 2 Billion (source) spent on restaurants, food stores, and general food products, and you’ve got a pretty much non-stop barrage of advertising trying to stuff their brand of food down your throat. If that isn’t enough to make you want to stop watching so much tv, consider this: Yale recently published a study that shows that children eat 45% more when exposed to food advertising! There have also been studies linking food advertising in adolescents to an increased consumption of processed and fast foods as adults.
What does this all mean for you? Turn of the TV and do anything else! You’re more likely to be fit and healthy if you do. I don’t care if you replace TV with exercise, a great book, or a game of scrabble, but do something! Combat the food advertising regime, make healthy food decisions and get yourself on the road to fit!