Dining with heavier friends could make you eat more


Eating with friends

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Sadly, slip ups in our diet always seem worse when we’ve been pressured – consciously or subconsciously – by others.

We’ve all been there.

You’re not alone. You’re distracted in a social setting. They’re a bad influence. And actually, your chances of this happening increase if your friend is overweight.

Peer problems

A new study from scientists at Cornell and Southern Illinois universities shows that dining with overweight friends could make you more likely to indulge. The researchers hired a professional actress to dress up in a fat suit and serve herself food portions in front of study participants. The participants then were asked to serve themselves portions of food, choosing between pasta and salad.

The researchers found that, of the 82 total undergraduate college participants in the study, when the actress was wearing the fat suit, participants were more likely to choose to serve themselves a large portion of pasta, but when she was not wearing the suit, the participants were more likely to serve themselves small serving of salad. The scientists concluded that the presence of a thin woman reminded the participants of health goals, while a heavier woman did not cause them to focus on their own consumption.

The study brings together the long-held idea that what a dinner mate orders influences you, but also that the size of your dinner mate also is a major factor in your food and drink choices. The actress worked with several different participant groups, both in and out of the suit, and portioning food onto her plate at varied amounts between pasta and salad. She made sure to draw attention to herself by asking loudly about food such questions as, “Can we put both pasta and salad on the same plate?”

Researchers were surprised that it wasn’t the amount of food that participants, through a survey they filled out afterward, noticed the actress put on her plate, but the size of her body that gained attention. For example, participants didn’t notice when the actress wore the suit and portioned herself a small amount of salad, but they did recall her body size. This is further proof that people tend to not pay attention to what or how much they eat when with heavier friends, according to the study.

Moral of the story? Practice mindful eating no matter what the social setting, and your diet plans will stay on track.