Many of us spend the hottest months of the year glued in front of our favourite TV shows, but research shows that this can foster unhealthy eating habits. A psychologist explains why this is especially troublesome for teenagers
Binge-watching our favourite TV shows has become a popular way of escaping the summer heat across the Middle East. But research has shown that staying glued to movies or our favourite box-sets can often lead to binge-eating – and this trend may be especially dangerous for teenagers.
“Teens can be up until two in the morning binge-watching their favourite show and then the next day, they aren’t as focused and they lose concentration.” said Susan Albers, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Cleveland Clinic in the United States.
“Even if they miss an hour or two of sleep, this affects the appetite hormones and makes them more likely to eat more the next day.”
Dr. Albers said that when we sit in front of the TV for an extended period of time, that’s also when we tend to go for more snacks – which often serve the same escape as the screen. Just like adults, teens will use television as a distraction from the everyday world and sometimes even an escape from their feelings, which are the same triggers for emotional or comfort eating.
The average teen spends about six hours a day in front of a screen, and according to Dr. Albers, teens who spend at least three hours in front of the TV are at risk of eating too many snacks – anywhere from 200 to 500 extra calories a day.
To combat the binge-watching and binge-eating cycle, Dr. Albers recommends that parents talk to their children and set limits on how much screen time is appropriate.
She said it’s okay to snack every now and then, but to make sure those treats are well thought-out in advance.
“If you do have a snack, as you’re binge-watching TV, make sure to portion it. Don’t eat out of a bag or box, but rather, portion out your snack before you sit in front of the TV.”
Dr. Albers also said keeping hands busy with crafting or even moving on the treadmill can help curb binge-eating. She adds that it’s better to watch TV earlier in the day, if possible, because we tend to engage in binge-eating more frequently in the evening.