There can’t be a better symbol of American life than having no time to to cook, but having three hours blocked off on our DVRs for all of Gordon Ramsay’s exploits. As the number of cooking shows rises, do our appetites as well? Let’s take a look at some of the known psychological effects of watching cooking shows to determine if it’s a good enough scapegoat for those extra 20 pounds.
Watching What You Eat
Lizzy Pope, an assistant professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Vermont, conducted a study to see if she could find a relationship between people’s health and the types of media they viewed. While the study factored in a number of media sources (YouTube, magazines, newspapers, etc.), Pope found that only cooking shows could be linked to a higher BMI. Conversely, this might just prove that overweight people are more likely to watch cooking shows, since it was not clear whether cooking shows were the cause or result of the increased weight.
Pope claimed, however, that it was unlikely that overweight people just happened to be watching cooking shows due to the phenomenon of “social norming.” Essentially, because people see so many souffles and chicken-fried steaks, they assume that it’s a normal way to eat. For that same reason, if you watched nothing but beastiality, eventually regular porn (and even IRL sexual encounters) would lose their appeal for you. You sick freak. But if you did a calorie count of a typical cooking show meal, you could just save yourself the hour of watching, head to McDonald’s and achieve practically the same results.
Put Down the Skillet
Because of the two effects described above, people who cook their own meals may actually be worse off. Idolizing someone like Paula Deen (her cooking, not her racism) might lead a moderately skilled cook to think that creating butter-saturated dishes on a daily basis was par for the course. All that fat adds flavor, but also puts inches on your waistline. Maybe pick a hero with some healthier habits—like Keith Richards.
Sharing Is Not Caring
Another dangerous place to obtain your recipes is through social media. As our asshole friends post photos of the extravagant meals they eat on their birthdays or vacations (or just because they’re a big fat slob that goes HAM on every sandwich) we again associate this with normal eating habits. Maybe try taking interesting photos of your cholesterol count instead.
Running on Empty
Another interesting point is about those who watch cooking shows while working out at the gym. The theory is that sometimes you need to dangle a little carrot cake in front of a rabbit to make it run. While the results are physically healthier, the overarching concept is the same as those described above, with a healthy dollop of self-loathing thrown in for flavor. Think of it as visual bulimia, essentially punishing your body for the unhealthy foods you crave, even though in this case you’re not actually indulging in them. What could possibly go wrong with that?