* The outcomes of this diet depend on the person's individual predispositions and cannot be guaranteed in every person. We advise you to consult your doctor before you start a diet programme.
Horror movies will make you slim! A load of nonsense or a surprising fact?
Does your pulse start racing and your stomach end up in knots so you can’t take in even a mouthful when watching a thriller or a scary movie? And has it ever occurred to you that regularly watching emotionally gripping films could help you burn your unwanted flab faster? We have presented this controversial topic to a specialist and lecturer at the faculty of medicine Pavla Staňková, whose research includes metabolism, and asked her opinion.
The idea that you just sit down on the sofa, put some scary film on and voilà, you’re on your way to a slimmer you can be very tempting for many people. If you’ve ever tried to find out if this method really works, you’ve most likely come across a “proof” claiming that it does as several articles on this topic have been floating around the internet since 2012. However, the only study they refer to and that confirms the link between watching horror movies and increased fat burning is a study, or rather an experiment, conducted at the University of Westminster. Its results, however, have only ever been published in the media. You can find them in several articles by The Daily Telegraph which were then later quoted by many different websites worldwide.
Watching horror movies does increase your energy expenditure but at what cost?
The head of the Westminster study was Dr Mackenzie whose research includes the impact of physical activity on human health, type 2 diabetes, insulin signalling and obesity. The results of the experiment are actually not all that surprising because fear, just as with many other stressors, produces stress and it is this stress response that inevitably leads to an increase in energy expenditure. What is actually happening in the body at that moment?
“When we are scared, a whole cascade of stress reactions is triggered in our body (similar to when we are in pain or are physically active). The purpose of these reactions is to enable the body to cope with the stress. For this reason, we can observe many physiological, neurological and often behavioural changes in response to stress. One of the processes accompanying these reactions is the release of adrenaline which leads to an increased tension in muscles, increased heart and respiratory rates, whilst it also suppresses digestion. At the same time, however, it boosts bowel movement, which many people who have experienced anxiety know only too well. All of this results in a higher energy expenditure compared to a resting state,” explains the specialist KetoDiet consultant Pavla Staňková, whose research includes the study of a metabolic syndrome linked to obesity. And, with a twinkle in her eye, she adds that even just the idea of doing exercise can lead to an increased energy expenditure as it’s likely to trigger a stress reaction in many of us!
Deliberate exposure to stress can lead to health problems
As you know, people who are exposed to excessive stress are more prone to develop health problems. Stress reactions are a natural response designed to prepare us to either fight or flight. However, if neither of these happens, the stress reactions put a strain on the body. “When responding to stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. Apart from other things, cortisol’s function is to help release stored energy substrates into the bloodstream and boost glucose production. This is important to get the muscles ready for action and to activate the body’s defence system. Chronic stress, however, causes an imbalance in the body by increasing glucose and fatty acid concentrations in the blood and reducing insulin sensitivity. It also alters immune system responses and increases blood clotting,” explains our specialist. This means that a long-term exposure to stress can put you at risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as type 2 diabetes. In women, stress is also responsible for changes in oestrogen sensitivity which might lead to poor concentration, hot flushes, mood swings and, paradoxically, to unwanted weight gain.
Feeling stressed: Do you tend to eat too much or too little?
As you might have noticed, people fall into two categories when it comes to reacting to stressful situations – stress eaters and stress starvers. “What determines the impact of stress on eating depends on the intensity and duration of stress, gender and genetic factors. When experiencing acute or intense stress, we tend to eat less. On the other hand, chronic or recurring stress makes us eat more, especially fatty and sweet foods,” says Pavla Staňková. She also adds that it is these fatty and sweet things that make us feel better, which reduces our stress levels. Something to be particularly mindful of when trying to lose weight!
Can watching horror movies make you lose weight?
Now that you know what is actually happening in your body when you are watching horror films, it should be clear to you that it is not the right and healthy way to lose weight. “Watching a horror movie might slightly increase your energy expenditure, however, to be able to see any positive impact on your figure, you would also have to be exercising at the same time or go for a run afterwards and resist any temptation to soothe your nerves with something nice to eat,“ concludes Pavla. Besides, watching a 90-minute horror film will help you burn around 100 calories, an equivalent of a small chocolate bar or a slice of cheddar. The same number of calories, however, can also be burnt by reading a book or magazine for an hour, wrapping presents, knitting or having a 50-minute telephone chat.
Don’t let this put you off scary movies though. If watched in moderation, they won’t compromise your health. When it comes to slimming, however, you should try and look for other ways to lose weight. Why not start with a protein diet and regular exercise?
Author: Nikola Nevečeřalová