REPORT
Aug 29, 2019
How is screen time altering American eating habits?

TV is more than just America’s favourite pastime. On-demand services like Netflix and Hulu are devouring hours of people’s waking life, while other screen activities, such as watching YouTube and scrolling Instagram, are filling shorter gaps. So how is “zombie eating” changing the dining landscape?

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In 2009, Serdar Tuncali, a skinny 24-year-old, moved from Turkey to the US. “American fast food habits caught up to me real fast, and I gained over 20 pounds in my first year in the USA,” he writes on his blog. [1] Mindless snacking while watching television was a significant reason for the sudden weight gain. “If I’m watching something,” he told NBC News, “I couldn’t go for more than two hours without eating something.” [2] Serdar’s story is indicative of modern American eating behaviors. First, that screens take up a large and often constant part of Americans’ time – about 3 hours and 44 minutes every day. [3] Second, that time spent watching TV can drive food cravings – in fact, 88% of Americans can be categorized as “zombie eaters.” [4] And third, that a sedentary lifestyle, particularly in conjunction with easy-to-munch types of foods, is far from beneficial to the viewer’s physical health. [5]

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