Did you know that you eat way, way more when you dine with other people? Funny, because so often I hear people say they honestly think they eat LESS when they’re out with friends or colleagues because they’re “so busy talking.” Well, I’ll tell you right now that’s a load of bull. Most of us are talking with our mouths full. Or listening as we chew. And chew.
I am not going on anecdotal research here, either–for matters like this I turn to one of my favorite experts, Brian Wansink, Ph.D., head of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab at Cornell and the author of Mindless Eating (a must read if you have any interest in peeking under the hood of your own eating habits and changing them).
I’ll add that he’s the lead author of over 100 academic articles and books on eating behavior, and a man who’s been called the Sherlock Holmes of food. So there you have it.
Wansink says if you eat with one other person, you’ll consume about 35% more than if you ate alone. Get a table for four, and you’ll take in as much as 75% more. Did you even know you could eat that much more? Now you do.
I’m not blaming you, by the way, nor implying that you’ve got lousy self control. The reason this happens is likely due in part to our natural instincts as social animals–to eat while others are eating, and sometimes keep on picking if your dining companions continue to graze. (It doesn’t help that most single restaurant servings could serve a family of five.)
What to do? Wansink suggests this tip: Try to be the last one to start eating when the food is served, and to pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table. And, he says, skip on seconds.
Here’s what I do: I try to let pleasure, appetite, and satiety rule by paying close attention to how the food tastes and how I feel as I eat. The first few bites are ALWAYS the best. So as soon as I feel that flame of appetite sort of snuff out, and realize that the food just doesn’t taste as good as it did in the beginning, I put my fork down and let the whole situation cool off–my appetite and the food itself. I’m done.
Now, of course I don’t mean that you have to eat alone to lose weight, etc. And while eating alone can be very calming and restorative, I don’t mean to imply that you shouldn’t eat out with a gang of folks. Please–one of the great pleasures on this planet is sharing food with friends. But tuning in to where you’re at with your meal and pacing yourself can make a big difference.