Appetite for Distraction: Does Watching TV Make You Hungrier?

Sitting down in front of the TV with a meal or snack after a long day is a popular pastime in the U.S., and thanks to streaming services that play every episode of a TV series automatically, some viewers aren’t even burning a few calories to reach for the remote. So, is it convenience that keeps us chewing, or something else? Is it possible that the experience of watching TV can actually stimulate our appetite? According to the Cleveland Clinic, television isn’t so much an appetite stimulant as it is an appetite distraction. When we watch TV, we’re engaged in the program, which means we’re paying less attention to the neurological and gastronomical cues that tell us we’re getting full. Instead of taking note of how we’re eating, we’re engaged in somewhat passive consumption. Studies have shown that the more we watch, the more we eat. One reason is the conflicting messages about food that commercial advertising sends. Commercials might not tell you to eat more fruit, but you'll likely see advertisements for every snack and fast-food available. Another reason for the viewing-eating phenomena is that when we reach for a slice of pizza or handful of chips, we’re not doing it because we’re hungry, but because we’ve come to identify television with eating. So, is snacking while watching television that bad? Like most things, it’s okay in moderation. However, eating meals away from the TV can encourage mindful eating, which directs our attention to the food in front of us. We’ll be able to pick up on satiety cues when we're not fully focused on the screen. Better yet, we won’t have to struggle to hear our favorite show over all that chewing.