TV Dinner

Evidence for Unhealthy Eating Behaviors That Matter

Getting advice on how to eat isn’t hard. “Don’t eat that standing up – it will make you fat” is unsolicited advice you’ll hear a lot, especially abroad. Apparently, Americans have a bad reputation for eating on the run. What we don’t hear much is any evidence about how much or whether any of these unhealthy eating behaviors really matter.

A new study in Obesity fills in some of the gaps and points to more information that’s needed. In a prospective cohort of 1,638 individuals, Luz M. Leon-Muñoz and colleagues assessed six potentially unhealthy eating behaviors: not planning how much to eat, consuming pre-cooked/canned food, buying snacks, eating in fast-food restaurants, not choosing low-calorie foods, not removing visible fat from meat or skin from chicken, and eating while watching TV or seating on a sofa.

Following this cohort for up to four years, they found that three of those behaviors were associated with the greatest risk of weight gain: not planning how much to eat, eating at fast-food restaurants, and eating while watching TV.

Individually, the risk of gaining weight linked to each of these factors was not terribly significant. For people with all three of them, the risk of gaining six pounds or more was nearly tripled.

Obviously, these are observational data, rich with possibilities for confounding factors. Despite that limitation, it’s a significant improvement upon the suppositions that back up much advice about healthy eating behaviors. And it sets the table for an intervention study to test the effectiveness of advice about these unhealthy eating habits.

But on the subject of eating on the run, we’ll have to go with our gut. Though you won’t find much definitive evidence, we have a hard time arguing with the pleasure of sitting down to enjoy a meal.

Click here for the new study in Obesity. Click here for a bit of data on sitting down to enjoy a meal.

TV Dinner, photograph © adrigu / flickr

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April 3, 2016

3 Responses to “Evidence for Unhealthy Eating Behaviors That Matter”

  1. April 03, 2016 at 9:28 am, Stephen Phillips said:

    Mark Twain said. “there is nothing more unusual then other peoples habits”

    Stephen Phillips
    American Association of Bariatric Counselors

    • April 03, 2016 at 10:04 am, Ted said:

      Love the quote! Thanks.

  2. April 03, 2016 at 9:43 am, Joan Ifland said:

    There is so much evidence that the problem is addictive processed foods and the triggers that stimulate cravings for them. Would anyone do a study of whether snorting cocaine standing up would make a difference?