Does watching TV actually make you eat more? Here are some reasons why that happens and what you can do to stop it.
It’s become the new norm. Instead of eating around the kitchen table, families gather on the couch and watch their favorite show together while eating dinner.
And I’m not immune to this either! When I’m eating alone, I tend to watch Youtube videos or scroll Facebook. And at least once a week my family will eat dinner while watching a movie.
But what happens once you finish your food? Do you even remember eating it? Did it taste good? Did you automatically go back and get more?
Being distracted while you eat is a common way to overeat without even knowing. So let’s talk about why that happens and what we can do to help.
Why do we like to eat while watching TV?
I think the biggest answer is- it’s fun. And we’re busy. We like to take advantage of every single second in our day because we’re huge multi-taskers. Sitting down and eating? Better keep our eyes busy and watch as much as we can.
Now, multi-tasking can be fine in some situations. For example, going for a walk or cleaning the house while listening to a podcast or audiobook. You’re doing something mindless, so you’re (usually) able to listen and work at the same time.
But whether it’s watching an actual TV, watching videos on your phone, or even scrolling social media on your phone, it’s all part of a phenomenon called “distracted eating”.
Do you really eat more while watching TV?
Think about it for a second. You sit on the couch with your plate of dinner and eat while watching your favorite show. Suddenly you look down and realize your food is gone and, thinking you’re still hungry, go right back to the kitchen and fill back up.
The same goes for a bag of chips. You could pull out a full-size bag and plop down with it, eating straight from the bag. You don’t notice how much you’re eating until the bag’s completely gone. What once served 12 has just served one.
Over time, that leads to MANY extra calories consumed, which then leads to weight gain. So yes, it’s SO easy to overeat when you don’t pay attention to your hunger cues.
Now, how do we stop this from happening?
How to stop distracted eating
Sit at the kitchen table
Sitting down with your family has more benefits than just keeping you from watching TV. For many families, this is their only bonding time. Keep the TV off, and place all phones outside the kitchen. Trust me, that’s a hard one- even for me.
Use smaller packaging
In situations where you can’t just sit and eat, using smaller packages helps. Or even taking a small plate to fill with food.
The problem with family-size bags of food or snacks is the number of servings. You’re much less likely to overeat if you eat a single-serve bag, because that gives you time to think whether you really want to open up another package.
Pay attention to your food
So what are you supposed to do if you can’t watch TV while you eat? Try really paying attention to what you’re eating.
Yes, it sounds weird. But just look at your food. Smell it. Take a bite and just really think about how good it tastes.
On average, it takes about 15-20 minutes for your body to realize it’s full. So taking your time with enjoying each bite makes you more likely to realize when you’re done, which means you won’t overeat.
So listen- this is hard. We’ve been trained to eat popcorn during movies. To gather as a family in front of the TV while eating dinner. Even as moms, sometimes we need that respite of scrolling through Instagram while eating our breakfast.
Distracted eating is a HUGE factor in weight gain, and following the above steps can help you eat less and maybe even lose weight.
I go more into depth on exercise in my NEW course, Weight Loss Kickstart! Originally a group program, I modified it into a self-paced course (and at a lower price, too!) so you can take your time with it and learn the healthy habits that come with weight loss.
Want more like this? Check out the other posts in my Healthy Habits, Healthy Life series!
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.