Think before watching: Action movies can make you stuff your face


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While the boob tube is a known contributing factor in the rise of obesity in America, a new study at Cornell University suggests that the content of those shows could dictate how much food we are stuffing into our faces.

The study

Results from the study, recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that the more distracting the content, the more we’ll eat. This means action movies, the most distracting of all the genres, are bad for one's diet since they are chock full of quick-paced scenes that overstimulate the senses. According to the report, “The more distracting a TV show, the less attention people appear to pay to eating, and the more they eat."

Ninety-four undergraduates participated in the study. They were given "generous amounts" of snacks, including M&Ms, cookies, carrots and grapes and were split into three groups: one group watched a clip from “The Island;” the second group watched Charlie Rose on PBS; and the third group watched the same clip from “The Island” as the first group, but without sound.

Results: The first group ate 98% more grams of food (7.3 ounces versus 3.7 ounces) and 65% more calories (354 calories versus 215) than those who watched Charlie Rose. Group three ate 46% more calories (315) and 36% more food (5 ounces) than group two.

The report suggests future studies look into increases in anxiety, agitation and stimulation level as contributing causes of this face-stuffing phenomenon.

Practice mindful eating

Don't want the extra calories? The good news is you don’t have to cut action movies from your NetFlix list or swear off summer blockbusters. Just be mindful of the foods that are in front of you. Aner Tal, a researcher with the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, suggested the following tips in a Los Angeles Times article:

  • "Mindless eating occurs when snacks are right there. Keep them in the kitchen, and then it won't all disappear without you realizing it."

  • "People still ate more watching 'The Island' without the sound on than watching 'Charlie Rose.' That tells us that it might be the visuals that are affecting the eating."

  • "One thing we noticed is people eating without paying attention will eat anything. If you don't really like broccoli but you don't hate it, this could be a good way for you to get your daily dose of vegetables."