We might hate to admit it, but our eating habits are influenced to a large degree by the people we eat with. Go out with a bunch of health-conscious friends, and you’re more likely to choose fresh, organic veggies and farm-raised poultry. Families may automatically head to their favorite restaurants, and order the same foods over and over. You meet a friend for a bike ride, and she suggests ice cream afterwards – what do you do?
Mitsuru Shimizu, Katie Johnson, and Brian Wansink published an enlightening study on the effects of simply watching someone serve herself a lunch of pasta and salad, where the proportions of salad and pasta varied as did the body shape and size of the actress serving and eating the food.
You can guess what happened: the people watching the actress mimicked her actions.
- She served more pasta and less salad, and so did they.
- When she wore a fatsuit to look like she weighed more, the people watching her served and ate more pasta, which meant they consumed more calories.
- Even when wearing the fatsuit and serving herself more healthy portions, the people watching ate less salad.
The authors conclude that the body type of an eating companion, as well as whether she serves herself healthily or unhealthily, influences the quantity of food intake.
So how can we use this information to our advantage?
1. Be aware of what and how much you’re eating, no matter who you’re eating with.
2. Order first and set the stage for healthier eating.
3. Pick a restaurant that offers a variety of healthier food and talk up the great taste to your friends.