The study consisted of a volunteer actress who weighed 82 pounds. In addition to her natural weight, in some scenarios she wore a prosthetic “fat suit” which added approximately 50 pounds to her frame to make her appear as someone who was overweight.
In the study, she had lunch in four different scenarios. In the first, she served herself more salad with less pasta (healthy choice) while wearing the fat suit. In scenario two, she served herself the same healthy choice, but this time as her normal self. In the third, she served herself a less healthy meal which consisted of more pasta and less salad in the fat suit, and in the fourth she served herself the less healthy meal as her regular self. After watching the actress serve herself one of the four ways, the study participants were then asked to serve themselves both pasta and salad.
The participants didn’t follow the lead of the actress. Instead, the researchers found that the participants ate more when she appeared to be overweight than when she wasn’t wearing the prosthesis. In fact, the participants fed themselves 31.6% more pasta when the actress appeared fat regardless of whether she served herself more salad or pasta. Even more surprising, when the actress served herself more salad while appearing overweight, the participants reduced the amount of salad they ate by 43.5%.
From this, the researchers concluded people may decide to consume larger portions of unhealthy food when they are eating with a person who is overweight. While a person’t weight shouldn’t stop you from eating meals with them, there are steps one should take to make sure that the person’s weight doesn’t influence you to eating more unhealthily than you would in other circumstances.
The researches emphasized the importance of pre-committing to a meal before even sitting down to eat so that outside forces, such as the eating partner’s weight, won’t influence what you eat. By choosing what you’ll eat and the size of the portions you’ll eat before even getting to the restaurant, you take away the outside sources which can influence you to choose unhealthy foods. This applies anywhere you are planning to dine out, whether it is the plate you will order or the portions you choose at a buffet.
(Photo courtesy of eric molina)