Some of you will remember the days of TV trays. These collapse tables were stacked on a frame in the living room, displayed with pride. They allowed families a convenient way of eating while watching the national obsession – television.
The psychological association of eating with television is an enduring one. To this day, families either gather around the television to eat, watch from the dinner table, or take their dinners to their respective rooms and watch separately.
But can watching TV during dinner lead to obesity?
What research is telling us.
There is no question that the habit of watching television during dinner or other meals is a contributing factor to the worldwide childhood obesity epidemic.
In the study, Worldwide Trends in Childhood Overweight and Obesity, published in the Journal of Childhood Obesity, a definitive link was found to eating meals in front of the TV and overweight in children.
Obese children tend to become obese adults, so parents who encourage the habit of watching television while eating are not doing their kids any favors. What we do as adults is our choice, but children live what they learn and they’re learning an unhealthy behavior if this is what happens at your house during meals.
In July of 2010, a study was conducted following the viewing/eating habits of children in 8 European nations (Greece, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Belgium, Hungary, Switzerland, Norway and Spain). The study used complex analyses examining demographic markers and frequency of television viewing while eating meals.
The findings are conclusive. Children who were more likely to watch TV while eating at least two meals per day had a markedly higher BMI (Body Mass Index) than those who didn’t. The results also suggested that eating while watching television led to “mindless” eating. With the brain preoccupied with the action on the TV, it wasn’t readily able to register having eaten enough, leading to overeating.
Children’s programming was seen to feature a higher density of advertisements for foods low in nutrition and high in calories. Being bombarded with messages that these foods are desirable was found to be a contributing factor to childhood obesity in the 8 countries sampled, directly correlating to findings of earlier studies in the USA and Australia.
The traditional family meal.
Making the effort to host your family at the dinner table for a family meal (with the TV turned off) is one way in which the effects of eating while viewing can be neutralized. Getting everyone together to discuss the events of the day is a tradition in need of revival, if we’re to stem the tide of obesity that eating while watching TV is clearly contributing to.
Can watching TV during dinner lead to obesity? The answer is “yes” and unfortunately, that trend begins in childhood. It’s my hope that parents reading will take note of this effect and take steps to curb it.
Change begins at home, as education does. Need more information? Contact us at Back & Body Medical.