REAL BODIES: LIFE DOCTOR

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Indy Lifestyle Online
THE MEDICAL world is excited. I am a scientific gift. The answers lie in my front room. Yes, for a month now I've had no TV. I'm an incubated guinea pig. Is life more fulfilling? Am I thinking more intellectually? Am I shunned by my peers? Am I darning more socks?

It was my brother's television and he took it away. I was involuntarily de-televisioned. It felt strange. Coming home and thinking "Now what?". My reading levels shot up. My self-esteem rose - not because of enriching new pursuits but because when people said "How do you manage?" I'd say breezily "Yeah, TV - take it or leave it, me".

We believe that we watch too much television. American children born now will watch seven years' worth of TV in their life. TV can contribute to obesity, to anti-social behaviour, to the breakdown of the family and to materialism.

A study at Brigham Young University in Utah of 4,771 working women showed those watching more than three hours a day had twice the risk of being obese than those who watched less than one hour. Other research has shown that watching television for a long time leads to a deterioration of mood.

Dr Brian Young, psychologist at the University of Exeter, says: "Communities that grow up with no TV tend to form more social groups. Once television is introduced, leisure is based more inside - hiring videos, takeaway food, etc. Many leisure forms are threatened or indeed destroyed."

Clinical psychologist Oliver James recently indicted TV as a contributor to women's dissatisfied body image. But it depends. Watching EastEnders makes me feel more attractive.

It's not all bad. We are less enamoured of TV than we used to be. Says Dr Young: "The Fifties idea of television as a substitute for the hearth, or a 'window on the world', has been replaced by a view that it's just another communication channel. Studies show that when people watch television they are doing all kinds of other things too. It is not purely passive."

It is a question of balance. Two hours and more a night is pushing it. Like alcohol, try to have at least one night a week off. Do something interesting instead - something you can drone on about when you are too old to hear the TV.

Are you watching too much television?

1. Do you cancel social engagements when they clash with your favourite programmes?

2. Do you spend the entire evening slumped in front of the box more than once a week?

3. Did you think that Sex and the City was "really quite watchable"?

4. Do you find people at dinner parties not sharing your enthusiasm for the subject of postmodernism in contemporary TV advertising?

5. How much money would you have to be paid to throw away the TV?

6. Is it possible to buy a tape of that early Eighties sitcom Soap?

Answers

1. a) always; b) never; c) only when the video's broken.

2. a) always; b) never; c) only when depressed.

3. a) no, I loved it; b) no, it was trash; c) yes, in weak moments.

4. a) what dinner parties?; b) do they have ads on TV?; c) my interest is strictly academic.

5. a) true love has no price; b) a couple of salsa-dancing class vouchers; c) pounds 500 - you didn't say I couldn't buy a better one.

6. No really, I just wanted to know.

Mainly As: Cut down - or else marry your television.

Mainly Bs: Watch more - you're in danger of starting an anti-TV group.

Mainly Cs: Disingenuous, rationalising, spineless. You are normal. Keep it up!

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