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A recent article in the LA Times carried a headline that said, in effect, that watching television makes you gain weight.
No news there. After all, unless you’re doing sprints across the living room while watching your favorite show, you’re not burning calories.
But it isn’t television itself that’s the problem (although we often add insult to injury by snacking while we watch—more on that later). Simply sitting for long periods—whether it’s in front of the big screen or the little one—leads to biochemical changes in the way the body stores fat and sugar that negatively impact health.
We humans were designed to have an active lifestyle. We share our genetics with our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors who spent many hours a day searching for food. We’re meant to be active all day long, and our biology is adapted to a high level of physical activity. So, when our behavior (sitting all day) goes counter to the way we were designed (engaging in lots of physical activity), our biology works against us.
If you’re watching the big screen, don’t couple the (in)activity with snacks. If you can, set up your TV at home so you can stretch, walk on the treadmill or lift weights while you watch. If you spend the day in front of the computer, deliver messages to nearby colleagues in person rather than by phone or e-mail. You can also try sitting on a stability ball or walking on a treadmill at a slow pace while you work.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.