Social Eating

In Diet and Weight, Mindless Eating on August 4, 2011 at 12:20 pm

In an earlier post I warned that there would be much more to come from Dr. Brian Wansink. His book Mindless Eating is a great read – I keep picking it up, shaking my head in amazement, laughing a few times, then blogging on it.

Chapter 5 is about the social cues of eating, called Mindless Eating Scripts. Wansink: “When we’re with people we enjoy, we often lose track of how much we’re eating. We eat longer than we otherwise would, and we let others set the pace for how fast and how much we eat.”

Come on, really? Isn’t that what you’re thinking? I’ve doubted and then been converted in each of the four previous chapters. Each time he throws out a “come on, man” statement then goes on to prove it and does it again here.

Apparently this “more table mates, more calories” thing is so well known that one of his colleagues has a math formula to calculate just how much more I’ll eat! Professor John DeCastro calculated the table below, showing how much more food people eat as the number of friends at the table climbs.

Unfortunately this makes a lot of sense. Who wants to be the rude one to leave first? Who can keep track of how many rolls or chips or buffalo wings they’ve eaten when the conversation gets loud and fun?

He talks about other studies where people are influenced by even total strangers to eat as much and as quickly as they eat. He describes a study by two of his colleagues that staged lunches of pizza and soda. They measured how much people ate when alone then compared it to later lunches when there would be a larger group present.

Of course, some people ate a lot and others ate less when alone. When placed in a group, though, the power eaters cut back to nearer the group average in pizza slices eaten and the picky eaters ate more to try to fit in!

Peer pressure is in our genes, people! Actually, this is one of his “take home” points for this chapter. We can’t fight the peer pressure every time but we can use it to our advantage. He recommends:
1) Pace your eating to the slowest person at the table
2) Be the last one to start eating
3) Decide before ordering how much you will eat then make that amount last the whole meal

Great stuff here, as always. I can’t say enough good things about this book and will keep coming back to the treasure trove for more healthy tips. In the meantime…

Change Your Food, Change Your Life!



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