In 2008, I gave away my TV. Living with four friends in a sociable house on Brighton seafront, music, chat, drunken darts and the odd suspicious-smelling rollie on the balcony were proving more popular than whatever shite was costing us 140 quid a year in license fee, so the communal box was just taking up mug space on the furniture. Retiring to my bedroom at the end of the eve, if I turned on my own set, late night ads for Domino's or Cadbury would invariably convince me I was hungry and send me skulking to the kitchen to stare despondently at my perpetually pitiful food cupboard. After a while I started to feel a bit like a prowler in my own home, creeping around in my pants at 2am, staring covetously at my flatmate's bag of ruffles or ginger nut biscuits. Of course, I could have tried to horde my own midnight snacks but those suspicious-smelling rollies coupled with my lack of willpower manifested in me a scoff-everything-immediately-and-then-feel-sickapproach to rationing treats, so my food shelves generally remained bare.
Salvation for my predicament came in the rise of the dodgy online streaming sites which gave me the freedom to ditch the TV and choose what I watched, thus avoiding the slew of punch-me-now reality TV stars and constant adverts telling me to buy things I didn't want and eat things I didn't need.
In the decade since, I've legitimised my operation by having a family, buying a house, smoking far less suspicious-smelling rollies and subscribing to Netflixas opposed to pirating everything. I reckon in ten TV-free years i've avoided somewhere in the region of 85 billion adverts and while without constant reminders I do sometimes forget it's Mother's Day or Christmas or whatever, I think those on the non-receiving end of my thoughtlessness can appreciate i'm happier for it. I'm able to decide on most purchases based on whether I actually need something rather than whether someone better-looking than me toldme I needed it and I no longer find myself staring forlornly into food cupboards in the dead of night.... admittedly in part cos I'm now 37 and physically can't keep my eyes open past 11pm.
That's not to say I'm immune to the influence of screens on my consumption habits. I tend to put on about half a stone each season of Masterchefand whilst (re)bingeing the excellent Justified, the bourbon-soaked Kentucky setting had me and my partner hitting pause to scour the net for booze deals - It's the type of show that's even more fun to watch if you drink when the characters do. Yesterday morning saw a delivery of three bottles of whisky..... or twoif you asked again thismorning. Needless to say, my girlfriend staggered from the house to work with less of a smile on her face than she'd had three episodes and three large glasses in. Having dropped my son at nursery an hour ago, I at least get to work from home, if you can call this work. The fact a whisky hangover makes no discernible difference to the quality of my writing is, I think a damning indictment not on me, but my publishers, who let me get away with this shit each month.
Anyway, the point it's taken me this long to reach is that television is proven to affect the way we consume, not just messages, but calories. In short: TV MAKES YOU FAT. That's no revelation in and of itself but a wealth of recent research gives us greater insight into the fallout.
TV watching is associated with “sedentary behaviour” (sitting on your arse), greatly increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other life-shortening conditions as surplus “fuel” in the form of blood sugars flood the bloodstream. A study published in JAMAwhich followed more than 50,000 middle age women over six years reported a 23% hike in obesity and 14% in diabetes for every two additional hours of daily TV. Another more recent study showed those same two hours increased the risk of heart disease and early death by 15 and 13 percent respectively.
It's not just the sitting. We eat more because ads during shows tell us to and because what else are we going to do with our hands whilst gawking at the screen??... ok, don't go there.
A study in the journal Pediatricsshowed teens who reported paying the most attention to the TV screen on average weighed a full stone more than those paying least attention (probably on their phones...)
Watching television quite literally slows your metabolic rate and what's more, when we view whilst eating, distraction leads to missed satiation cues. We ingest 10% more at meal times if we turn on the box, with habitual TV diners consuming on average 25% more daily calories than those who like to chat or stare at a wall. Program content itself can further affect consumption habits, with high-energy TV particularly distracting and consequently fattening.
Watching TV before bed can significantly disrupt sleep, wreaking havoc on hunger signals and natural biorhythms and leading to weight gain, particularly in young people. A study presented in Pediatric Obesity demonstrated kids allowed a TV in their bedroom were one and a half times as likely to be obese as those who weren't. The latter group's increased life expectancy affords them more years to hate their parents for not letting them have a fucking TV in their room.
At the end of the day, we all need some screen time to unwind but given the proven risks, it's worth being more mindful of what both our eyes and mouths consume. There's a debt to be paid so make sure it's worth your time.
If you're still hungering to be convinced, I'll break this down into something bitesize before ending with a signature bit of swearing my mum can tell me off for next time we speak....
A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicineused a huge data set and parameters too complex for me to comprehend mid-hangover to ascertain that on average, each hour of TV watched after the age of 25 results in an an approx 22 minute reduction in life expectancy. Adults averaging 6 hours per day can expect to croak a full 4.8 years earlier than those with no TV. Coupled with research indicating each cigarette inhaled knocks 11 minutes off your go-around, smoke 3 ½ ciggies whilst watching an hour of TOWIEand you've in fact wasted TWO hours of your life!
If only watching an hour of TOWIEinstead knocked 22 minutes off the life of the silly orange c*nts on the screen, I might just get into it.
Ian Greenland www.iangreenland.uk