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How to binge watch TV during lockdown and LOSE weight

BINGE watching box sets has become one the only forms of entertainment during the Covid lockdown.

And hits like Bridgerton, This is Us and Married at First Sight Australia go hand-in-hand with mindlessly snacking on chocolate, crisps or popcorn.

Experts reveal how you can snack while watching boxsets, without piling on the pounds


Experts reveal how you can snack while watching boxsets, without piling on the poundsCredit: Alamy

Spending lots of time watching TV or using screens has previously been linked to being overweight by affecting our exercise and eating habits.

But we all need our comforts to get through the hard times – and it is possible to still “have your cake and eat it”.

Here’s how you can prevent your weight creeping up without restricting your favourite pastime, and maybe even lose weight.

1. Portion your snacks in the kitchen

Tempting as it is to open a whole bag of crisps, biscuits or sweets for your Netflix session, this relies on extreme willpower to stop.

Rob Hobson, Healthspan head of nutrition, said: “Portion out your snacks into little bowls and put the rest away and try to eat mindfully so you savour the flavour rather than mindlessly wolfing down and craving more.”

American researchers proved that people who have a “bottomless” portion of food find it hard to stop – in a study, they fed participants soup from bowls that slowly refilled.

Those who ate from bottomless bowls consumed 73 per cent more soup than those who ate from normal bowls – and they weren’t even aware of it. 

Most estimated their calorie intake to be the same as those eating from the regular soup bowls.

Portioning your snacks before you turn the TV on will help avoide overeating


Portioning your snacks before you turn the TV on will help avoide overeatingCredit: Getty – Contributor

2. Pick an unemotional genre

The saying goes, “you are what you eat”. But what you are watching also has an impact on your weight, research suggests.

A study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab found that action-packed shows, such as The Walking Dead, made participants eat twice as much (98 per cent) than others who watched milder talk show content.

Study participants who watched tear jerkers ate 55 per cent more food than those watching upbeat programmes.

This could be because emotion triggers us to seek comfort. 

According to the researchers, action and adventure shows may encourage viewers to eat more, because viewers subliminally try to keep up with the pace of the story.

You could try and avoid watching films in these genres on a day you want to snack less.

3. Skip the adverts

Watching live TV, it’s likely you’ll be bombarded with adverts.

And adverts of food and drink are known to act as visual triggers to fuel the desire to snack.

A study by Yale University found adults chowed down on more snacks – both unhealthy and healthy – when exposed to food adverts.

The researchers said the effects lasted beyond the TV viewing time, and participants were not even aware of their high consumption of foods.

Another study by Cancer Research UK found that kids who watched seven junk food ads ate the equivalent of a McDonald’s burger more than those who saw six.

4. Choose filling but low-calorie snacks

Rob said: “Try snacks that are high in water as you can really pile these high without having to worry about the calories.”

Instead of a snack high in fat, sugar or salt, you could eat a mountain of chopped vegetables – like cucumber, pepper or carrot sticks – with a dollop of dip.

You could also try sliced watermelon, strawberries and blueberries on a fruit platter. 

Rob said: “Try snacks that are high in water as you can really pile these high without having to worry about the calories.”


Rob said: “Try snacks that are high in water as you can really pile these high without having to worry about the calories.”Credit: Alamy

5. Or, choose snacks you know will leave you satisfied

Some days, veg and fruit aren’t going to cut it and the cravings for sugar are too strong.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing – eating your favourite snack may leave you satisfied enough to put it down after a small portion.

Dr Meg Arroll, chartered psychologist at Healthspan, said: “Think about exactly what flavours, textures and taste you want – you can even match them to the type of show you’re planning to binge on! 

“Make it an event – want to watch a box set of Bridgerton? Get some 19th Century treats like Nesselrode or Plum Pudding, or something similar. 

“These foods tend to be quite rich, so you won’t be able to eat too much of them.”

6. Invite company 

There has been a lot of lone Netflix binge-viewing over the past year, which Meg suggested was dangerous for mindless snacking. 

She suggested watching at the same time as friends, while planning the same snacks, to feel more of a connection to your food.

“Share ideas with friends so that binge watching becomes a social occasion,” Meg said, “which will also help to reduce feelings of loneliness, frustration and isolation that some of us are experiencing right now and which can lead to emotional eating.”

7. Eat meals with no distractions

If you eat your dinner prior to a TV binge, make sure you do so without distractions.

A study by the University of Sussex showed that snackers have a hard time realizing they are full if they are distracted by something else, leaving them wondering how they managed to get through a whole bag of popcorn in one sitting.

Professor Martin Yeomans, from the School of Psychology at the university, said: “This is important for anyone wanting to stay a healthy weight: if you’re a habitual TV-watching snacker – watching, say, 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!”

If you eat while distracted, you may not realise when you're full. Try to focus all your attention on meal times so you avoid snacking after


If you eat while distracted, you may not realise when you’re full. Try to focus all your attention on meal times so you avoid snacking afterCredit: Alamy

Rob said: “Get the eating over and done with before you settle in for the night in front of the TV. 

“Avoid eating your dinner on your lap while watching TV – this does nothing to help with satiety as you mindlessly much through your meal. 

“Sit at the dining table without distraction – chew your food properly and put your cutlery down between mouthfuls to help the body to recognise the signals of satiety.”

If you do decide on some extra treats while viewing, try and focus your attention on the food in hand – rather than the screen – to increase the chances of full satisfaction.

8. Switch the kettle on

When you are tempted to snack, switch the kettle on instead.  

A tea, hot chocolate or decaf coffee can give that same comfort as a snack while watching TV, but with fewer calories and sugar.

Rob said: “A low calorie hot chocolate drink is sometimes enough to curb a sweet craving without the added calories.  Make it a thing you look forward to after dinner when you’re sat in front of the TV.”

Avoid fizzy drinks

Fizzy drinks in themselves are linked with obesity due to the high sugar content.

But experts say even the diet versions – including sparkling water – can lead to weight gain, due to their effect on the body.

The bubbles may cause the stomach to feel empty as well as drive up hunger hormones, according to research on animals.

As well as this, choosing “diet” drinks can trick us into thinking we can indulge as much as we like. 

Meg said: “Avoid fizzy drinks, even sparkling water, while watching TV – research shows that consuming drinking fizzy drinks leads to higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin which will drive you to eat more. So stick to the flats while watching your favourite shows.”

Collect your wrappers

It may sound like a strange method, but collecting the wrappers of food you have eaten may help you to cut back on the snacking.

Meg said: “Pile any wrappers or containers in direct view when you’re snacking – this visual representation of how much you’ve already scoffed is often enough to let you know you’ve had enough even when eating with distractions such as TV.”

A study by the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University found that if people ate around empty food packages, they felt fuller – the larger the packet, the fuller they felt. 

It’s unlikely you’re going to surround yourself with random empty wrappers in real life.

But keeping the packet of what you’ve eaten in front of you may serve as a visual cue to remind you of what you’ve eaten.  

Get enough sleep

Lockdown has overhauled our daily structure, and one of the impacts of the pandemic has been on our sleep patterns.

But a lack of sleep wreaks havoc on our hunger hormones, making it harder for the body to work out hunger cues.

One study by a group of Columbia University Irving Medical Center researchers found that of 500 women, those with worse sleep quality tended to eat more sugar, those who struggled to get to sleep ate more calories, and those with insomnia ate more food by weight.

Sleep deprivation can cause you to reach for more snacks to keep you awake


Sleep deprivation can cause you to reach for more snacks to keep you awakeCredit: Alamy

Poor sleep followed by snacking to curb tiredness while watching TV can become a vicious cycle. 

If you struggle with sleep, make a conscious effort to cut back on the snacks late at night to cut the pattern. 

Have exercise breaks

A stretch or walk between episodes will limit boredom – which often leads to snacking – and offset harmful effects of sitting for long periods of time.

Even if you keep physically active by doing workouts over the course of the week, breaking up long periods of inactivity could help boost your health.

A recent study by Australian Catholic University in Melbourne of people with obesity and type 2 diabetes found doing three minutes of exercises – like squats and calf raises – every 30 minutes helped blood vessel function.

It worked better than six minute bursts of exercise every hour – suggesting the more frequent and short the activity, the better for keeping the blood pumping. 

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