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The impact of television on our weight

Published on January 1, 2017 at 19:55 / Updated on June 7, 2022 at 14:01

During the winter, we often swap our tennis rackets or running shoes for our sofas. We like to catch up on our favourite series, devour entire film trilogies or go out with friends to the cinema to see the latest fashionable film. Yet, without realizing it, the actors and actresses in front of us can stimulate our food intake, and even more so if we see them eating on screen. Let's take stock of a recent study published in the scientific journal Appetite which caught my attention. 

The media has a sometimes unsuspected influence on viewers’ diets. In fact, sometimes the mere sight of food on the screen is enough to generate food-related thoughts, even if it’s not the focus of the scene. One study examined whether viewers of a comedy ate more when the actors were also eating. To conduct this study, the researchers recruited 147 participants. They were randomly assigned to a viewing sequence of a popular comedy in which the actors ate for the duration of the scene (ongoing action) or to another sequence where the actors ate, but completed the action before the end of the scene (action completed). After the viewing, participants were offered snacks (ChexMix or M&Ms) in varying amounts. 

The results indicated that participants were more likely to eat more after watching the scene in which the actors ate continuously, only if they identified with the character. Researchers believe that the media can act underhandedly by tricking us into eating more, especially when actions aren’t completed. Completing one action leads to considering the next, according to them.

Finally, the type of movies or series may also have an impact on the amount of food eaten. It seems that people tend to eat a lot more during an action movie, following the frantic pace of the scenes featuring stunts and explosions. Viewers also ate a lot more in while watching a sad movie, probably in an effort to compensate for that sadness. The good news in all of this is that people only ate more if the food was readily available. Researchers also see it as a way to increase consumption of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables…so when will crudité be available at the movies?

Familiprix in collaboration with Hubert Cormier


Référence : The audience eats more if a movie character keeps eating: An unconscious mechanism for media influence on eating behaviors, Appetite. 2017 Jan 1;108:407-415. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.10.028. Epub 2016 Oct 22..

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