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Sad Movies are Fattening

People Watching Tearjerkers Eat 28-55% More

People Watching Tearjerkers Eat 28-55% More

People eat more while watching sad movies than other movies, possibly to compensate for sadness

People can eat more healthy foods by making healthy snacks available while watching sad movies

To eat less while watching sad movies, keep food out of arm’s reach

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Wansink, Brian and Aner Tal (2015). Television Watching and Effects on Food Intake- ReplyJAMA Internal Medicine. 175(3), 468-469. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7880.

Sad movies are bad news for diets.  A study from the Food and Brand Lab showed movie-goers watching tearjerkers ate between 28% and 55% more popcorn both in the lab and in a mall theater during the Thanksgiving holiday.

According to findings published in a JAMA-Internal Medicine research letter, movie goers ate 28% more popcorn (125 versus 98 grams) when watching the tragedy Love Story than when watching the comedy Sweet Home Alabama.

Dumpster diving analyses of discarded mall movie popcorn in seven cities across the US showed similar results over a Thanksgiving weekend.  After weighing discarded popcorn and counting popcorn boxes, Cornell Food and Brand Lab researchers found that moviegoers who bought popcorn and watched a sad movie, Solaris, ate an average of 55% more popcorn (127 versus 82 grams) than those watching the more upbeat movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

If you love tearjerkers, don’t despair.  “Sad movies also lead people to eat more of any healthy food that’s in front of them,” says lead author Cornell Professor Brian Wansink, author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life, “It’s a quick and mindless way of getting more fruit or veggies into your diet.”

This study complements a recent finding also by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab  which shows that action and adventure movies also lead television viewers to eat more calories – but only if the foods are within arm’s reach. “With action movies, people seem to eat to the pace of the movie,” said Cornell researcher and co-author Aner Tal, Ph.D. “But movies can also generate emotional eating, and people may eat to compensate for sadness.”

Wansink provides a last piece of advice for dieting movie-lovers: “Keep snacks out of arms reach, ideally leave them in the kitchen and only bring to the couch what you intend to eat.  It's easier to become slim by design than slim by willpower.”

Summary by Brian Wansink