Scientists reveal you’re more likely to order fatty food or drinks if your friend opts for something unhealthy first ‘because you don’t want to embarrass them’
- People order less healthily if their companion’s choice is high in calories
- Experts say we do it to avoid embarrassing our friends or making them feel guilty
- And they say overweight companions might bring on stronger feelings of guilt
Scientists say if you dine out with people you like and they choose unhealthy options you are more likely to eat or drink things high in calories in order to avoid embarrassing your companions or making them feel guilty
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Have you ever tried to eat healthily but found yourself ordering a burger or pizza when you go to a restaurant?
Well now, scientists say, you can blame the people you eat with for guilt-tripping you out of choosing a salad.
Researchers have found people are significantly more likely to order fatty food or drinks when the people they’re dining out with make unhealthy choices first.
Those who order after someone who has chosen something high in calories are likely to also pick something unhealthy so they don’t embarrass their companion.
And the effect is likely to be stronger if your dining partner is fat, the scientists said, because you’d be more conscious of making them feel guilty.
Researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea made their findings by studying receipts at a cafe on their campus.
They found people who went in on their own had a 50/50 chance of choosing a high or low calorie drink, The Times reports.
But those who went as part of a pair and chose second – after a friend who ordered something unhealthy – chose unhealthily themselves in 80 per cent of cases.
‘People are likely to choose a high-calorie food, especially around others with whom they have communal relationships (e.g. friends),’ the researchers wrote.
They explained this was ‘because of the desire to induce in others feelings of pleasantness rather than guilt’.
And it appeared to only be choosing second which affected people’s decisions.
The first member of a pair had about the same chance of choosing unhealthily as someone on their own.
While the study was focused on what people drank, the theory of making choices based on how it would make your companion feel extends to food, the researchers said.
And to back up their findings, the researchers did a second section of the study to ask people how they thought the would act in certain scenarios.
People would consciously choose a less healthy option when their friend did, in order not to show them up or embarrass them.
But if they were with someone they didn’t like they were happy to choose a healthier option and show them up.
Although they didn’t examine it in the study, the scientists say they would expect the influence of a partner’s unhealthy choice to be stronger if they were overweight.
The researchers added: ‘We anticipate that altruistic indulgence will be greater when the indulgent companion is heavier.
‘This is because people should believe that a healthy choice will make a heavier individual feel particularly guilty.’
The research was published in the journal Social Influence.
‘FAT FRIENDS MAKE YOU EAT MORE’, STUDY CLAIMS
Going for dinner with friends who are overweight or obese will encourage you to gain weight, a study found in 2014.
US scientists hired a professional actress to wear a ‘fat suit’ and serve herself a portion of food in front of a group of study participants.
Researchers then encouraged the participants to serve themselves some food, giving them the choice of pasta or salad.
When the actress served herself while wearing the fat suit those taking part in the study opted for the more unhealthy option – pasta.
When she was slimmer, they were more inclined to choose the salad.
The scientists, from Southern Illinois and Cornell universities, concluded the effect is the result of people being less reminded of their health goals when they are around overweight people.
The study authors wrote: ‘Regardless of how the [fat woman] served, participants served and ate a larger amount of pasta when she was wearing the [suit] than when she was not.’
And they added: ‘More generally, this study provides evidence that the body type of an eating companion, as well as whether she serves herself healthily or unhealthily, influences the quantity of food intake.’
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