Netflix’s online streaming service has changed the way people binge-watch television. It’s not easy to break away from a continuous loop of Chopped or Iron Chef America, but an infinite availability of television has had some unusual consequences on familial dining habits.
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics used a 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey of over 12,000 adult Ohio residents to determine the association between frequency of family meals eaten at home, eating meals in front of a television, and consumption of meals cooked at home and the odds of being obese. The results didn’t show any correlation between frequency of family meals and obesity; however, there was a clear link between obesity and eating in front of the television. Adults who never watched television during family meals had a 37 percent lower risk of obesity compared to those adults who always ate in front of the television, regardless of how frequent family meals occurred.
This is not the first study to establish a connection between eating in front of the television and weight gain. Research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity showed a similar pattern in adolescents. The data, which was based on questionnaires answered by 7,915 children from eight different European countries, showed that the children who never watched television at lunch or dinner had considerably lower odds of being overweight than those children who watched television at the respective meal.
But why do we eat more plopped in front of the television as opposed to sitting around the dining room table? The answer is pretty simple — the TV is distracting. Distracted diners aren’t aware of how much food or calories they consume, which leads them to unknowingly continue shoveling food into their bellies. A quick and easy way to take in fewer calories is to pay attention to your food and to truly savor the dining experience.