Obesity in children caused by widescreen TV

Sometimes the truth is hidden in plain sight. As so many researchers are struggling to comprehend why the percentage of kids and teens who meet the definition of obesity is increasing at what some consider an alarming rate, consider these facts:

  1. kids watch a lot of television
  2. kids are very influenced – actively and subliminally – by what they observe on television
  3. in 2007 sales of flat panel TVs surpassed the 50% mark of all televisions sold for the first time since they became a significant category in 2003
  4. approximately 95% of all flat panel TVs – and 100% of all large screen flat panel TVs – are widescreen models (i.e. with an aspect ratio approximately 16:9 vs. the “traditional” 4:3 of old, or about 1/3 wider for the same height)
  5. traditional TV broadcasts (whether your favorite sitcom, or the news, or sports, and regardless of delivery method, i.e. by antenna, cable, satellite) are still broadcast in 4:3 format with very few exceptions
  6. most widescreen TVs are configured to display 4:3 images “stretched” to the size of the screen, or about 1/3 wider than than they really are

And now, our dramatic conclusion? I’ll show you in pictures.

Here’s a basketball… and here’s a basketball on s-t-r-e-t-c-h:
Basketball, normal vs widescreen

And more to the point, here’s a person [in this case, not just any person, but Shakira] both “as shot” and “as shown”:
Shakira, normal and widescreen

You can judge for yourself. Are kids susceptible to patterning themselves after what they see around them, particular in the media? Sports figures, music figures, etc.? Absolutely. Are these sports and music people often seen on TVs whose proportions are completely wrong? Yes, absolutely! So even if the kids “know” that they’re not seeing them as they really are, the brain plays funny tricks. It’s hard to say what normal is, you can’t necessarily make the adjustment in your head.

So are kids obese because of widescreen TV? Don’t rule out the possibility!


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