Lose Weight by Watching Horror Movies?

What a Load of CrapSeveral readers asked me to comment on articles that are making the rounds that suggest that watching horror movies helps people lose weight.  It’s actually a recycled story that comes around every year or two but I haven’t talked about it before so let’s have do it!

Having apparently answered all other movie-related questions, Amazon’s LOVEFiLM commissioned a study of the effects of various horror movies on heart rate, oxygen intake, carbon dioxide output, and calories burned.

According to this study, the movie with the highest calories burned was The Shining at 184 calories in 146 minutes.  That’s 75 calories an hour. If that’s something that interests you, you may also want to know that according to one of those annoying calorie burning charts, knitting burns 85 calories an hour.  Don’t get me wrong, your chances of long term weighloss are still abysmal, but at least you can get some mittens out of the deal and don’t have to sleep with the lights on.

But even if you love horror movies before you sign up to watch hours of them as your new diet, it might interest you to know that the fight or flight adrenal response that horror movies cause that it responsible for the calories burning has been shown, over the long term, to be linked to serious health consequences as well as creating…wait for it… weight gain! And this is where we shake our heads at all the sources that picked this up claimed that watching horror movies is “good for your health” based on the fact that they may burn a few calories.

What does all this mean?  I think it means that some places will publish literally anything that is purported to be about weight loss, which might be funnier if actual serious conversations about health weren’t getting constantly drowned out by ridiculous and pointless conversations about weight loss.  I think it also helps to illustrate the issues with confusing things that might burn calories or make someone’s body smaller (albeit, likely temporarily) with things that might support their health.

I look forward to the days when we can leave the weight loss talk behind and have some real conversations about health and our options  (including the fact that health is not an obligation, barometer of worthiness, completely within our control or guaranteed under any circumstances).  As for the articles about this study, I’m trying to think of them as more dark comedy than horror.

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19 thoughts on “Lose Weight by Watching Horror Movies?

  1. Wow. People seriously calculate the calories burned while watching different kinds of movies? That’s a thing?

    And eighty-five whole calories? I feel pretty sure I burned more calories yesterday in teaching my neighbor to bake a cake from scratch. And at the end, delicious homemade cake with chocolate buttercream, yum. Plus excellent relations with my neighbors.

    Though I do like the idea of mittens and no massive adrenaline rush.

  2. Hey, I like to watch horror movies while I knit, cross-stitch, or crochet! Sometimes I’m also drinking green tea, which gets billed with having magic weightloss properties. You’d think my weight would be in the negative numbers by now, yet somehow I am not floating up against the ceiling.

  3. So if I knit while watching The Shining I’ll burn 160 calories per hour?

    Can you just hear folks thinking, “Hey, yeah, I’ll knit and watch horror flicks to thinness!”

    Just wait… it’ll happen.

  4. Stress from being scared causes weight gain.

    If we want to burn calories from watching TV, shouldn’t we watch comedy? You burn calories from laughing too.

    I remember someone asking to be moved to be as close to the A/C as possible because they read being cold burns more calories. So she can sit an be uncomfortably cold 8 hours a day for the chance at burning maybe 50 extra calories.

    1. That’s the same argument for only drinking ice-cold drinks. I do prefer my water icy, but I am just fine with room temperature water, too. And you know what? When I’m really thirsty, and want to guzzle it, room temp doesn’t give me brain freeze.

      However, being cold may gain you a few calories, but it also makes you sluggish and sleepy, and lowers your productivity, so it’s not good for a job.

  5. Quoted from the article: “Watching horror films even elevates our level of white blood cells, which fight infections, according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.”

    OK, why don’t they go into more detail about this? Why is the lead the “weight loss” issue? Why is all the focus on size?

    Now, long-term, watching horror films is bad for you. The article also said that if you have heart conditions, you should avoid horror films.

    However, short-term, while I’m fighting a cold or flu? Yeah, I think I’ll make watching a horror flick part of my holistic treatment to fight the infection.

    Meanwhile, I have a scarf, a sweater vest and a bedspread to knit, not because I want to burn calories, but because I want a scarf, a sweater vest and a bedspread, I have some lovely yarn, lovely patterns, and it soothes me. Knitting is very zen, which is good for the heart. Long term.

    1. I think the findings point more towards “watching horror films might be bad for you” rather than “watching horror films might help you lose weight.” But anything related to weight loss gets more clicks so that’s how the news will spin it.

      1. Watching too many horror films also jades us to violence. I mean, how often nowadays do you see people at the scene of an accident, or some violent crime, and instead of offering to help, or even running away screaming, they are taking out their phones and cameras to get video footage and selfies?

        Back in 1800, people read books like The Mysteries of Udolpho, and they were reacting with fear and adrenaline, reading a six-hundred page novel in two days, with their hair standing on end the whole time. Meanwhile, a modern reader takes much longer to plow through it, and is bored the whole time. (Yeah, I’m the reader – and I’m not even into horror movies, except at Halloween, during daylight hours and the lights on).

        But they just can’t report on THAT, now can they? Nope. It’s all about the weight loss.

  6. I just now heard an awesome joke from Fozzie Bear on The Muppet Show. “Hey, I went to a diet doctor, and in just two months I lost $300!”

  7. Wow, and I always watched films because I liked them, quilted because it satisfies me and did the sports that are the most fun for me, never looking for the calories I burn – but will change that immediately with all this new information. 😉
    But seriously, it’s a pity that in so many areas that is just what happens – people want to be cold, they do sports they hate but that burn more calories than those things they would really love to do and eat things they hate only because they are low in calories (I am one of those crazy persons that really love celery, but if I read those tips: if you crave chocolate, eat a stick of celery instead, I get furious – I eat celery if I crave celery, but certainly not instead of chocolate)

    1. Celery instead of chocolate? Does it have flavenoids, or something?

      I read an article a few years back, and it still sticks with me. It was a list of 10 foods you should NEVER eat, and was touted as being “for your health.” I thought it was going to be something like, “This food is actually poisonous, if you have this hard-to-diagnose disease, so play it safe and avoid it.” Nope. It was ALL about the calories.

      Cucumber was listed as a food you should NEVER eat, because… dun Dun DUNNNNNN… It has calories! It has more calories than you think! Then they suggested that instead of putting celery in your salad, “if you want a crunch, put in thin slices of raw zucchini, instead.”

      Most of the commenters thought it was ridiculous, and many pointed out that they eat cucumbers because CUCUMBERS! YUMMY! and it wasn’t about “crunch” at all, and raw zucchini is the stuff of yuck.

      Meanwhile, in this whole list of salad foods (seriously, it was all a list of things NOT to put in your salad, “for your health,” because they have more calories than you think, and won’t help you to lose weight), they never mentioned that iceberg lettuce has practically no nutritional value, and you should stick to lettuce with more color in it, green or red or purple, and the deeper the color, the more nutritious. Nope. It was all about the calories, “For your health.”

      They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means.

      1. My dad and his cohort believe this myth of celery actually burning 7 calories when you eat it (since it’s sooo crunchy), or merely more calories to burn than supplies. I looked it up and it’s a myth, who knows where it came from. But celery (and all food) supplies energy, it doesn’t take away, although digesting takes a lot of energy to do. In fact it has the same cals as lettuce! I checked.

        1. I eat celery because it is wonderful. Not only is it an excellent Ranch dressing holder (or peanut butter or cream cheese), but it is one of the all-time best soup ingredients EVER.

          I always hated lintels, until my sister introduced me to lintel soup WITH CELERY. Something about the celery made the lintels’s flavor just pop, and it was delicious. And it goes so well in chicken soup, beef soup, or just plain old veggie soup. Really, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot consider my kitchen properly stocked unless there is celery present, somewhere.

          In fact, I purchased online a big old can of freeze-dried celery, so that in case of an emergency, I will still be able to enjoy its yummy, soupy goodness.

          But as a diet thing? Nope. I always hated it, when it was something I HAD to eat, to lose weight. Probably because that meant eating it plain, with no dressing, peanut butter, cream cheese, or other ingredients, including salt (makes you hold onto all that nasty water!), or anything to bring out the flavor.

  8. Minor quibble here but most research on stress is about chronic stress rather than acute stress. Being in a constant state of fight or flight for years is very bad for you. There is little evidence that occasional adrenaline rushes like from horror movies, rollercoasters, bungee jumping, etc. are a risk unless you have a serious heart condition (of the type where you are advised not to engage in strenuous activities of any sort). The article is complete BS but unless you are watching horror movies 40 hours a week they are not providing the kind of stress that is health damaging.

    1. That was actually my point. Even if one believes in the idea of energy balance (which I think the research points out has some serious flaws – like not working long term) and wants to try to achieve significant weight loss (short term though it may be) through watching horror movies, they would have to watch a number (46- 63 hours a week to equal one pound based on the numbers given for different movies.) which would put them in a state of chronic stress that is shown to cause weight gain.


      1. Chronic means long-term, though, and as we all know, weight-loss is NEVER about long-term health benefits but about looking good RIGHT NOW.

        Like with that gut-funnel thing they just came out with. Long-term study? What for? “Everyone knows” that acute weight loss always turns into chronic benefits, right? Except for those lazy bums who go back to their old donut-snaffling ways and re-gain the weight, but that’s all THEIR fault. Couldn’t possibly be the fault of people using short-term treatments for a chronic issue. Nope.

        Like a diet, short-term, yeah you’ll lose weight, but long-term, it’s a leading indicator of weight gain. Short-term horror movie watching, yeah you may lose a pound or two, but long-term, the stress will destroy you.

        But who cares about that, if you can just fit into a sample size?

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