As we learned last month, binge-watching television is even more deadly than scientists originally thought, which is somewhat problematic seeing as 91% of respondents in a separate study said they’ve binge-watched a show in the past year, and 14% have watched an entire season of a show in a week or less. So if you plan on getting caught up on Boardwalk Empire or Homeland before the new seasons premiere this fall, or pounding through all those episodes of Fargo you’ve been telling everyone you already watched and loved, keep in mind that you are basically risking your life to do so.
And guess what… it gets worse. Even if you manage to survive your death-defying prestige television marathon sessions, they’re probably making you fat, according to a new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity titled “The Better The Story, The Bigger The Serving.”
In the end, the tendency of a person to become immersed in a program made no real difference to how much they ate. What upped their caloric intake was how much they were “transported by” the program. The more involved they were in the narrative, the more they ate. This seems counter-intuitive. If you are immersed in a program, aren’t you supposed to be glued to the screen, unmoving, hanging on every word? The problem, the researchers think, was not that people were distracted from the TV, it was that they were distracted from the food. If you’re concentrating only on potato chips, you’ll eventually feel either full, or satisfied with the taste. In order to be sated, you have to be aware that you’re eating. If you’re concentrating on the plot twists, you’re no longer concentrating on the food. You don’t remember tasting the potato chip. You’re not aware of the lingering sweetness of the chocolate. So you keep eating.
So, basically, if we combine the lessons from these studies, the takeaway is that binge-watching quality television will make you a fat slob who dies young. And if we apply the inverse, it means that watching crappy television in small doses will allow you to be a physical marvel who lives a long, healthy life. (This is how science works, yes?) For more on this second theory, please swing by and catch my keynote speech at this year’s Franklin & Bash-Con titled “BROS, WE’RE GOING TO LIVE FOREVER.”