People might not realize how setting affects eating decisions. According to a new study, eating with an overweight person makes people choose to eat more unhealthy foods.
Researchers from Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab and the Mayo Medical Clinic invited 82 college students to eat a lunch consisting of spaghetti and salad, and they were divided into four groups.
One group was paired with an actress wearing a fat suit and making a healthy choice by eating more salad than spaghetti, another was paired with the actress wearing a fat suit and choosing more spaghetti than salad. The third group was paired with the actress choosing the more healthy meal without the fat suit and the last was paired with the actress choosing the less healthy meal without the fat suit.
Participants saw the actress serve herself before serving themselves, and the results show that no matter what the person wearing the fat suit picked for their meal, more salad or more spaghetti, 31.6 percent of the participants ate more pasta. Participants even ate 43.5 percent less salad when the person in the fat suit ate more salad.
This means many people could be making poor dietary choices based on the people surrounding them.
"Look up the menu beforehand and select a meal that suits your dietary goals," recommends Brian Wansink, co-author of the study, published in the journal Appetite. "Or, if you're going to a buffet, pre-commit to selecting modest portions of healthy foods and with that goal in mind, those around you will have less of a negative influence over what you eat."