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Don't eat in front of TV if you want to lose weight

If you watch TV while eating lunch, you're likely to snack more later in the afternoon. Appetite psychologists discovered this when they did an experiment with sixteen female students. Watching TV increases your appetite.

Don't eat in front of TV if you want to lose weight
How you eat determines to a large extent how much you eat. We eat more if we eat together with the family or regularly with the same people. We eat less if we are in the company of the other sex, or if we go to eat with someone we regard as a potential partner.

Distraction increases our food intake. If you listen to music or watch TV while eating, you eat more. It seems that distraction delays the process of reaching satiety in the brain.

None of this is new, however. The British researchers wanted to know what the effect of eating-in-front-of-TV is on satiety after the meal. They wondered whether this kind of eating makes you feel hungry again more quickly, and therefore makes you more likely to snack.

To test their theory the researchers gave sixteen healthy nineteen-year-old women lunch in the lab. Sometimes the women ate without distractions, other times they watched a DVD of the comic Peter Kay.

After lunch – which contained four hundred kilocalories – the women were given bowls of cookies. The researchers recorded how many of these the women ate. The figure below shows that the women snacked more after a TV-lunch than after a TV-less meal.

Don't eat in front of TV if you want to lose weight

Watching TV did not affect the way the women felt. A possible explanation of the increased consumption of snacks is that watching TV weakens one's memory of the meal. The better you can remember what you ate earlier in the day, the less likely you are to crave snacks.

Would what you watch while eating make a difference? We wonder.

Do you eat more cookies after watching a George Romero movie? Probably not...

Appetite. 2009 Feb;52(1):39-43.

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