TV and Your Child's Weight

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How does TV viewing affect my child's weight?

David Ludwig, MD
Commercially, TV viewing does 3 really bad things for a child's body weight. First, it, it displaces physical activity. We know we burn off less calories lying on the couch than we do in virtually any other pursuit. Secondly, television has become a vehicle for brainwashing children to eat junk food. The average child sees a staggering 10,000 food commercials a year and this isn't for broccoli, zucchini and cauliflower. We're talking about the highest calorie, lowest quality food products imaginable. And thirdly, a lot of unconscious eating takes place that goes in underneath the radar screen. We asked adolescent patients in our clinic to take home a video camera and film their life. We were shocked to find first, how much time was spent before the television set, but also the mindless quality, mindless quality in which many of our patients were eating. One teenage boy would sit before a bowl of popcorn, bringing hand to mouth, fistful of fistful of popcorn disappearing. Almost automatically we wondered whether he was actually even recognizing that he was eating the food. Um, another ate hot dog after hot dog, maybe 5 or 6 in one sitting. And so, simply um turning off the TV, especially during meals, can be a very powerful way to um promote healthy eating and say no to the messages that are really brainwashing our children to eat exactly the wrong kinds of foods.