What restaurant should I go to and what dishes should I choose? This is not the things you should be thinking of! American scientists have found out that the important thing is the people you are eating with. The horrible news is, when eating with overweight table companions, slim people and people of medium build eat more and make less healthy choices, because they think that they do deserve it.

Food Laboratory of Cornell University (New York, USA), under the guidance of Brian Wansink, whose team is famous for their study of “clean dishes society”, has published a new experimental data.

This time, the scientists were considering how social is the eating behavior, and the extent, to which its reactions are influenced by people that surround us during lunch or dinner.

People eat more in the company of those, who are more corpulent than they are

  1. Having lunch in a society, we unconsciously assess how our fellow diners look and what they eat.
  2. We try to include ourselves in this context in a more profitable way.

As a result,

  • slender people eat more in the company of overweight people,
  • overweight people, on the contrary, take a grip over themselves alongside those who are thinner.

This research was done in a very original way. The subjects initially shared a meal with one of the specially hired actresses, dressed in a “fat suit” that visually added 25 kg to its wearer. Then, they were sharing a meal with her, as well, yet without the suit.

The choice of food in both cases was the same. The participants of the lunch-experiment could have a desired amount of fresh vegetable salad or pasta with a seductively rich sauce.

“We found out that people, who had lunch with a person, who is significantly fatter than they are, eat 32% more pasta and 43% less lettuce, on average,” said Brian Wansink. However, the message of the study is not that you should avoid relationships with overweight people. We want to draw your attention to the existence of implicit signals that make us overeat”.

Actress in the “fat suit” was joining the volunteers and sat next to them in the restaurant (they agreed to participate in the research and knew its subject, but were not aware of how exactly it will take place, because the awareness could distort the results).

One way or another, she was additionally attracting attention – for example, by dropping the fork – and then she was serving her own food by serving herself more pasta in one case, and salad – in the other. A similar scheme was used, when the actress appeared again, without the fake kilos.

Researchers were carefully watching from a shelter.

It became clear pretty quickly that all 82 experiment participants stuff themselves with pasta and extremely absent-mindedly react to the salad when they are accompanied by the overweight woman,

  • regardless of what and in what proportions she places on her plate”.

Eating behavior specialists considered it a proven fact that people tend to eat more when in company, than alone. And now, this knowledge is complemented with another important nuance: the weight of your companion affects the amount and composition of our lunch or dinner!

The experiment did not expect surveying the participants, yet Brian Wansink does have a few ideas as to what directs the subconscious in such situations.

In a personal conversation, some participants, when discussing the results of the study, admitted that they felt “pretty skinny” compared with other people, who were sitting at the restaurant at dinner time, so they were giving themselves an inner permission to eat a little more, than usual.

Interestingly, the data obtained by the New York scientists, is logically consistent with the conclusions of their fellow psychologists from the University of Toronto (Canada).

They found out that we always gradually appreciate what other people eat, and seek confirmation, that we can eat more, without looking like a gobbler.

  • At the same time, the mechanism works in another, positive way.

When you are sitting at a table with slender people, you tend to control the full amount of your portions, eat less and choose healthier options.

Here it is, the power of example and social compliance!

Nutritionists, psychologists and doctors are in agreement: the most important and difficult thing in eating behavior in public is to be yourself and sensibly assess the needs and opportunities of your own body, not focusing on how the surrounding people look and what they eat.

It is extremely difficult to fight the desire of becoming a “mirror” in a company, diligence to meet the expectations and look a little bit better than friends and partners not only at the dinner table, but also in everyday life. Agree?