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How to Eat Less When You’re Being Influenced by the Eating Behavior of Others

Posted Jun 14 2011 5:00am

We—people, that is—are funny ducks. Put the following bit of information under the psychology of weight loss.

When you eat with someone else, it’s not just hunger that determines how much you eat. If it’s a stranger or an acquaintance you have lunch with, you are likely to eat less. Forming a good impression might be what motivates you to eat in moderation when you eat with someone with whom you are less familiar. If you eat with a good friend, you will most likely allow yourself to eat more. With the friend, the impression you make isn’t as important, and you might also have made a tacit social commitment to eat the amount that your friend eats.

To lessen this “eat more than you really should” effect, make sure you and your friend serve yourselves from the same bowl. Psychologically what might be causing you to eat less when you serve the food from the same serving bowl could be your politeness toward your friend. You do not want to take more than your share. Or, it could be that you don’t want to appear selfish or greedy. Perhaps it’s a combination of politeness and impression management. But, and here’s the kicker, even when you share from the same serving bowl with a friend, eating less only occurs when you and your friend eat from small plates.

We are funny ducks, aren’t we? These were the findings reported in “The effects of degree of acquaintance, plate size, and sharing on food intake” in the journal Appetite.

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