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Sad Movies are Fattening

People Watching Tearjerkers Eat More

People Watching Tearjerkers Eat 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% more popcorn when watching a sad movie like Love Story than when watching a happy movie like Sweet Home Alabama.

A dumpster diving analyses of discarded mall movie popcorn in seven cities across the US showed similar results as documented in Food and Brand Lab director Brian Wansink’s book Mindless Eating.  After weighing discarded popcorn and counting popcorn boxes, researchers found that moviegoers who bought popcorn and watched a sad movie, Solaris, had 29% less popcorn left in their buckets after the movie than those who watched 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 Wansink, “It’s a quick and mindless way of getting more fruit or veggies into your diet.”

Furthermore, a 2014 finding also by the Cornell Food and Brand Lab  found 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.”