The amount of food you eat at a meal is influenced by many factors – how hungry you are, how the food tastes, and even environmental factors like the color of the room, the lighting or the noise level. But there’s another big factor that can’t be overlooked – your dining companion (or companions) can greatly influence how much you eat, too.
The research in this area is really interesting. What it tells us is that the amount we eat at a meal is influenced not only by the eating habits of the person we’re with, but also the number of people who are at the table. And, even the gender of the person sitting across from you can have an impact.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, the way you eat in a social situation (as opposed to what you do in private) is influenced by something called modeling – in essence, you pattern your eating behaviors after the behaviors of those around you. As you eat with other people, their behavior influences your perception of what is the “right” amount of food to eat in a certain situation and, by modeling them, you tend to follow suit.
Light vs. Heavy Eaters as Dining Companions
When you eat by yourself, it’s a bit easier to pay attention to your body’s signals that tell you when you’re hungry and when you’re full. That’s one reason why it’s often easier to control your intake when you eat alone. But when you are modeling other people’s eating behaviors, it’s as if these internal signals have been dialed back. (more…)