Eating while watching TV leads to weight gain - this is why 3 years ago

Eating while watching TV leads to weight gain - this is why

Leave that Netflix binge till later

We've long been told that eating while watching TV is bad. Experts have now discovered why that is the case.


Scientists from the University of Sussex say that eating while doing something 'perceptually demanding' makes it more difficult to know when you are full.

'Perceptually demanding' is just a posh way of saying 'something that distracts you', by the way.

The team of scientists found that when your senses are taken up by an engaging task, you are less likely to be able to adjust how much extra food or drink you knock back.

Photo: Erik McLean on Unsplash

Just imagine how much grub Manchester United fans got through watching Maguire and Lindelof try and defend against Sevilla.

So how did scientists come to this conclusion?

Researchers tested 120 people, giving them lower and higher calorie drinks and giving them tasks which demanded both low and high amounts of attention. The drinks were then followed by snacks, to judge how much people would eat while distracted.


People who were given a task where they had to pay a high level of attention to something distracting them were less able to judge when they felt full. As a result, they ate more of the snacks offered to them.

However, people who were given a less-distracting task consumed 45% less of their snacks.

Why is eating while watching TV bad for you?

Scientists concluded that your ability to notice when you feel full depends on how much available attention there is 'left' in your brain. The take-home tip here is that your brain only has a limited amount of attention it can pay at any one time.


Participants were tested on how much crisps they ate while distracted. (Photo: iStock)

Professor Martin Yeomans from the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex, said:

"Our study suggests that if you're eating or drinking while your attention is distracted by a highly engaging task, you're less likely to be able to tell how full you feel. You're more likely to keep snacking than if you'd been eating while doing something less engaging."

This has implications if you're trying to lose weight, says Yeomans.


"This is important for anyone wanting to stay a healthy weight. If you're a habitual TV-watching snacker - watching, an engaging thriller or mystery, or a film with a lot of audio or visual effects - you're not likely to notice when you feel full. Video-gamers and crossword solvers should also take note."

Previous studies have shown that feeling full can be affected by the texture and appearance of your meals.

"Now we also know that feeling full depends on how much sensory information our brains are processing at the time," says Yeomans.