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September 7, 2016 | 3 minute read

Adults Who are Obese Spend More Time Eating While Watching TV

No matter how much American adults weigh, the amount of time spent eating and drinking during an average day is similar, yet different patterns emerge when it comes to eating activities. suggests a recent government report. Adults who are obese spend about 30 minutes more each day eating and drinking while watching TV and movies compared to those at a healthy weight.


Source: USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS), 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics
American Time Use Survey and ERS Eating & Health Module

The findings from an Economic Research Service report, use 2014 self-reported data to offer a snapshot of Americans’ food-related activity habits and how this relates to weight. The report can provide insight for cancer risk, as staying at a healthy weight is one of the key steps people can take to reduce the risk for 11 cancers.

Overall, the report found that American adults spent 64 minutes eating and drinking as our main activity and 16 minutes eating while doing something else, such as watching a movie. Adults who were obese spent an average of 3.2 hours watching television and movies per day, compared to normal-weight individuals who spent about 2.5 hours a day.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Among those who made meals, preparing meat took an average of 51 minutes in meal preparation and cleanup compared to about half that time spent for the non-meat meals, averaging 26 minutes.
  • Two-thirds of individuals at a healthy weight reported exercising in the previous week, while slightly more than half (54 percent) of those categorized as obese said they exercised the previous week.
  • When eating and drinking is the main activity, this was occuring mostly in homes (71 percent); another 20 percent was happening at work and restaurants or bars.
  • Eating and drinking while doing another activity occurred about mostly at (54 percent) and at work (22 percent). The top activities that most frequently accompanied people eating and drinking were watching television or movies and paid work.
  • About 58 percent of adults had purchased some form of fast-food at least once over the previous week.
  • When categorized by BMI groups, those who were obese spent 5 minutes less grocery shopping and preparing meals compared to those at a healthy weight (42 versus 47 minutes)
  • Those who consumed diet soft drinks had a higher average BMI than those who consumed regular soft drinks.

Source: Hamrick S., Karen and McClelland, Ket. Americans’ Eating Patterns and  ime Spent on Food: The 2014 Eating & Health Module Data (pdf), EIB-158, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, July 2016.

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