Ever since more and more American homes began boasting television sets in their living rooms, an interesting correlation can be noted: television screens have become progressively thinner, while the average American waistline has grown significantly thicker! It can also be noted, that more Americans than ever mindlessly munch while watching the boob tube, forsaking sacred family time at the dinner table.
I just came across a study showing that pregnant women who watched TV during meals were also likely to feed their babies in front of the tube. We know that watching TV at mealtime enables mindless eating and makes fully conscious eating nearly impossible. The researchers noted that watching TV during meals is also associated with poorer quality diets, and that mothers who watch television while feeding their children pay less attention to whether the babies are full. And they concluded that reducing television viewing during meals could be an important way to prevent early childhood obesity.
The researchers asked 189 pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy how often they watched television at mealtimes. And later, when their infants were three months old, the researchers asked how often the babies were in front of the screen while being fed. The study found that 71 percent of the pregnant women reported watching television during some meals and 33 percent of them said that the TV is on when they’re feeding their three-month olds. The mothers most likely to feed their babies in front of the television were those under the age of 25 and those who did not exclusively breastfeed their babies.
We already know that eating in front of the TV isn’t good for kids. In addition to fostering obesity, studies have shown that for kids watching TV is associated with cigarette smoking, early sexual activity and poor academic performance.
No More TV Dinners!
As I was googling the subject of the impact of television on meals and weight I came across some good news on the website of The Atlantic magazine: sales of TV dinners are tanking. The reasons? Cost (research suggests that Americans feel frozen food is no longer cost-effective and prefer to cook for themselves) and increased skepticism about the health claims of frozen meals; 40 percent of adults see no nutritional value in frozen dinners. Younger consumers (those under 45) said they were more interested in “freshness” when choosing food.
Let’s hope that freshness trend continues.
Eating your meals in front of the TV may be a national norm, but it’s a bad habit, particularly if you want to lose weight. In my book “The Omni Diet” I suggest limiting your eating to only one place in your house. For most people that spot is the kitchen table. The idea is to focus only on your food and on how much you’re eating, not on a TV program, the newspaper, computer or other activity. This rule pertains to snacks as well as meals.
If there’s a TV nearby, do yourself a favor and disconnect it. As for your kids, the sooner you can break them of eating in front of the TV, the better: no doubt about it studies show that TV viewing in childhood predicts obesity later in life.