Dining with an overweight person makes you eat more.

By Seriously Science | September 22, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Ian Sane

Photo: flickr/Ian Sane

It’s well known that you eat more in general when with other people. But how can the weight of your eating companions affect how much you eat? In this study, the researchers hired a professional actress to put on an overweight prosthesis (AKA a “fatsuit”) and then serve herself some food in front of a group of study participants. They then had the participants serve themselves some food (pasta or salad). It turns out that when the actress took food while wearing the fatsuit , the participants served and ate more unhealthy food (pasta) than when she was “slimmer” (without the suit). Not only that, but when the “fat” actress served herself a large portion of salad, the participants ate less salad. The authors hypothesize that this effect is due to the subjects being less reminded of their health goals when they are around overweight people. Once again, going out to eat just got a little more complicated.

In good company. The effect of an eating companion’s appearance on food intake

“The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not the presence of an overweight eating companion influences healthy and unhealthy eating behavior, and to determine if the effect is moderated by how the companion serves himself or herself. A professional actress either wore an overweight prosthesis (i.e., “fatsuit”) or did not wear one, and served herself either healthily (i.e., a small amount of pasta and a large amount of salad) or unhealthily (i.e., a large amount of pasta and a small amount of salad) for lunch. After observing her, male and female participants were asked to serve themselves pasta and salad to eat. Results demonstrated that regardless of how the confederate served, participants served and ate a larger amount of pasta when she was wearing the prosthesis than when she was not. In addition, when the confederate served herself healthily, participants served and ate a smaller amount of salad when she was wearing the prosthesis than when she was not. Consistent with the “lower health commitment” hypothesis, these results demonstrated that people may eat larger portions of unhealthy food and smaller portions of healthy food when eating with an overweight person, probably because the health commitment goal is less activated. More generally, this study provides evidence that the body type of an eating companion, as well as whether she serves herself healthily or unhealthily, influences the quantity of food intake.”

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  • Steve Pittman

    This is BS. I lived for 4 years with 2 roommates weighing in at close to 600lbs together (and I weigh 160lbs). During that time they constantly pressured me to eat more, both at home (cooking tons of food every meal and blaming leftovers on me) and when eating out (ordering huge portions and making fun of me for not being able to finish a normal portion). My weight didn’t change significantly during that period from what it was before and since. By comparison, in the year since I’ve eaten almost exclusively alone.

    Stop blaming overweight people and take some responsibility for your own eating habits.

    • http://v2.videos.sapo.pt/E995A3WYMazet3ejVIFL Janet from Ames

      Kudos to you for being able to live with such people; frankly I’d be too disgusted.

  • hrdcore

    throwing the BS flag on this one, I once decided to lose weight by only eating what one of my skinny as hell friends eat and only in their presence. No snaking no sodas ect. I gained weight…

  • Marta Fernandes

    Dining with an overweight person has the opposite effect on me. I actually pay more attention to what I’m eating and eat less than I otherwise would. It’s not a very nice thing to say, but I don’t want to end up like that.

  • IAM

    Sure there are a lot of important variables that were not discussed in the article (e.g. will power, current eating habits, age, home environment, etc.); however, I think the key word is influences. It doesn’t say determined. I’d be willing to bet that the nay sayers have a much stronger will than most Americans, and at least once, thought about stealing a cookie from the jar. The proof is in the pudding (no pun intended), and I think the point is that most peoples eating habits would be at least slightly influenced. Extended periods of constant exposure to poor eating habits may add up. We see this with children, but it is interesting to see this in adults.


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