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Turn Off The TV & Live Longer

Turn Off The TV & Live Longer

The fact that I donít own a television makes me a bit of a social misfit, especially when Iím the one ON the television, and my own kid canít tune in to see Mommy on the boob tube.

Itís been over seven years since I cancelled my cable subscription, and I can honestly say it was one of the smartest things Iíve ever done.

Iím no purist. Itís not that I donít enjoy watching†Sex And The City reruns on DVD, catching up on the last episode of†Glee on Hulu, or ordering the Oscar-winning films from Netflix. But I probably only watch about an hour or two of something each week.

Now, Iím even rethinking that!†A new study shows that, for every hour of†Glee I watch, I reduce my life expectancy by 22 minutes. 22 minutes! Not only did I lose that hour. Iím losing another 22 minutes! Is it really worth it?

The study also shows that those who watch 6 hours of TV per day live 4.8 years less long than those who watch no television at all. Were it not for TV, researchers estimate that men would live 1.8 years longer and women would live 1.5 years longer.

Of course, itís no surprise that being a couch potato isnít exactly conducive to a healthy lifestyle. If youíre watching TV for six hours/day, youíre probably not exercising, you’re probably drinking beer, and munching on the Cheetos the ads manipulate you into buying. Plus, youíre also more likely to be suffering from depression, antisocial tendencies, Vitamin D deficiency, and you’re probably numbing out in other ways as well.

But even when researchers took diet into account, TV was still the devil. Turns out that watching too much TV is as detrimental to long life as smoking and lack of exercise. Previous research showed that smoking reduces your life expectancy by 4 years. Every ciggie you smoke after the age of 50 reduces your life expectancy by 11 minutes – the equivalent of 30 minutes of TV time.

Most Shows On TV Are Crap

Now I know Iím going to come off sounding a bit judgmental and pious here, so forgive me in advance, because Iím about to rant some more about the shows that are on TV these days. (Read my rant about reality television).

I just spent the summer at my motherís lake house in Ohio, where thereís actually a TV hooked up to cable. And my mother is addicted to Cupcake Wars. Now we donít have a TV and my daughter attends a Waldorf school, where parents are discouraged from allowing their children to watch any television. So my 5 year old daughter was riveted.

From the glimpses I got, hereís the premise. Two bakers are competing with each other. The winner gets a deal to bake thousands of cupcakes for Dodger stadium. They only have an hour or two to show their best stuff – the yummiest batter, the prettiest cupcake display, the coolest signage.

Ready. Set. GO!

And theyíre off. Cupcake dough is flying. Stressed out participants are icing like mad. Construction dudes are cutting wood. And the host is narrating in a fake drama sort of way that makes you realize neither baker is going to finish in time. And then DING DING DING! Timeís up! They both failed miserably. (Tears ensue.) But the chick baker beats the dude baker, even though she failed to meet the assignment, because her cupcakes taste better.

My mother and daughter just lost 22 minutes of their life because of this show. And now my daughter is begging to watch Cupcake Wars tomorrow. Lord help me.

It’s Bad Out There

In the big picture of whatís on TV these days, Cupcake Wars is pretty tame.†I just read an article about a show called Bachelor Pad, for which contestants must line up half-naked, blind-folded, and with bull’s eyes painted on their backs so the members of the opposite sex can throw paint-filled eggs at the ones they consider ugly. No kidding.

Other shows are promoting plastic surgery makeovers, wife swapping, rich, catty, grown-up socialite mean-girl real housewives from wherever, bitchy unhealthy beach kids from Jersey, and toddlers in tiaras being force-fed Red Bull, fitted with fake teeth, and spray tanned so they can perform during nap time.

Stuff like this makes my heart hurt. It makes me want to move to Alaska and hang out with moose. It makes me literally nauseous. What has become of us?† Why are we watching this kind of shit? Are our lives so desperately pitiful that we have to numb out by watching counselors barge in on hoarders who are living in wall to wall clutter? Does this somehow make our own personal pain feel less acute?

Or can we just chalk it all up to pure entertainment and dismiss my thoughts as overly erudite, judgmental, and misguided?

How TV Can Change Your Life

I donít mean to diss all TV. Iíd be a total hypocrite if I did. After all, I appear on television myself, talking about things I really care about, stuff I hope changes peopleís lives. If I didnít believe that what I say when Iím on TV can change lives, I wouldnít get up there and spout off what I care about.

Iíve seen Oprah episodes that totally changed my life. Iíve watched a black president make history.† Iíve grieved with an entire nation during a post – 9/11 fundraising telethon that helped heal my heart. Iíve learned from experts I admire. And hopefully, I help others when Iím the television star, encouraging viewers to love their bodies, seek whole health, and heal from whatever is keeping them from living the most vital life possible.

If we limit TV to only those shows that seek to change the world – or at least entertain us in health-inducing, inspiring, empowering ways, I think the world would be a much better place.

But thatís just me.

How Much Do You Value Your Life?

In his book Love, Medicine, & Miracles, Owning Pink blogger†Bernie Siegel asserts that the people most capable of healing themselves from even life-threatening illness are the ones with the greatest will to live. When you ask these ďexceptional patientsĒ how many years they wish to live, they answer ďA hundred.Ē

Are you one of those exceptional patients who will do anything to live a high quality life for as long as possible?

Then shut off the TV, my love. Just do it. Live your life, rather than watching someone elseís.

I Feel For You

If youíre one of those people who sits in front of the tube for six hours a day, I donít mean to attack you or make you feel icky about your life. I get that youíre probably trying to hide from some unhealed pain in your life – some abuse from your past, some addiction, some fracture in your marriage, some disappointment about how your life turned out. I get that TV makes you forget for a while, distracts you from the thoughts that flit around your own head when the room is silent. I understand that watching some ugly bachelor get eggs thrown at him may make you feel better about yourself. At least youíre not the one getting eggs thrown at you.

But Iím asking you to be brave. Face your life. Heal your life. Find your wholeness. Unleash your spirit. Reclaim your health. Turn off the TV. And turn on your life.

Am I Just Full Of It?

Do you agree with me? Or do you wanna kick me right about now, turn off your computer, plunk down in front of Dancing With The Stars, and numb out?

Tell me what you think! Donít hold backÖ

Boob tube free,


Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of†,†Pink Medicine Revolutionary,†motivational speaker, and author of†Whatís Up Down There? Questions Youíd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend and Encaustic Art: The Complete Guide To Creating Fine Art With Wax.

Learn more about†Lissa Rankin here.


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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
12:40AM PDT on Sep 24, 2013

i shudder to think of how many years i have wasted on gossip girl

11:21AM PDT on Sep 23, 2013

Interesting. I do enjoy TV, and get a lot of the shows I do watch. Don't watch any reality tv though. That's what reality is for. Thanks.

8:51AM PDT on Sep 23, 2013

I could do without tv just fine although once in a great while there is something worth watching. My husband enjoys watching the old movies and old westerns though and we enjoy PBS and history channel so we have to keep a tv. You are right thought, most programs are crap and not worth watching.

8:00AM PDT on May 30, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

2:00AM PST on Dec 8, 2011

I honestly believe that watching TV is worth losing another 22 minutes of my life... But that's just my opinion.

4:43AM PDT on Oct 7, 2011

I definitely agree with you Lissa! My boyfriend and I enjoy watching a movie after dinner a couple time a week, but we don't have cable and don't want it! I have a friend who keeps her TV on almost all the time and whenever I'm at her house I'm amazed by the ridiculous things that get on TV. Of course there are also great things (National Geographic, Sesame Street, Gilmore Girls :) ) but a lot of that seems to get lost in all the other fluff.

8:49PM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

I can't be worried about losing 22 min. of my life for every hour of TV I watch. TV can be entertaining, informative, educational, picturesque and help loneliness. The computer can do that too and also become addictive.

You can shorten your life in so many other ways - smoking, drinking, not enough sleep, nutrition, overlooking physicals, lack of exercise, faith, attitude, as well as our genes. Balance in life Is good to follow. It takes self-discipline. Far be it from to to say TV or NO TV - to each his own.

8:49PM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

I can't be worried about losing 22 min. of my life for every hour of TV I watch. TV can be entertaining, informative, educational, picturesque and help loneliness. The computer can do that too and also become addictive.

You can shorten your life in so many other ways - smoking, drinking, not enough sleep, nutrition, overlooking physicals, lack of exercise, faith, attitude, as well as our genes. Balance in life Is good to follow. It takes self-discipline. Far be it from to to say TV or NO TV - to each his own.

11:04PM PDT on Sep 27, 2011

I'm all for turning off the stupid glow box!

12:27PM PDT on Sep 11, 2011

I gave up tv some years ago and I am happy I did. This article tells truth; if you think not, you are kidding yourself. When I disconnected, I did not know about the longevity factor. It is not difficult to see how that can be so. But, my greatest gain is in self-respect, among other things, many other things. "Try it, you'll like it."

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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people are talking

tired of the term super food

more than our partners?

Bright Blessings to the birdwatcher, the cows and all who helped this little one!

Thanks Ashlyn for the great info-graphic. Great suggestions!


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