Staying with a spouse who is a light eater, especially at night, will decide whether you will follow your partner’s footsteps and shed some extra kilos faster than ever.
As per a new study, how much food your dining companion eats can have a big influence on how much you consume and eventually lose weight.
This psychological effect, known as social modelling, leads people to eat less than they normally would if alone when their companion consumes a small amount of food. Internal signals like hunger and feeling full can often be unreliable guides.
“In these situations, people can look to the example of others to decide how much food they should consume,” explained associate professor Lenny Vartanian from University of New South Wales’s school of psychology.
For the study, the team analysed the results of 38 studies in which the amount of food that people ate in company was measured. The research shows that social factors are a powerful influence on consumption.
“When the companion eats very little, people suppress their food intake and eat less than they normally would if alone,” Vartanian added.
If the partner eats a large amount, people have the freedom to eat their normal intake or even more if they want. The effect is observed in many different situations: with healthy and unhealthy snack foods, during meals, when the diner has been deprived of food for up to day and among children.
“It even occurs when the companion is not physically present and diners are simply given a written indication of what that other person ate, the authors wrote.
The effect appears to be stronger in women than men. This may be because women tend to be more concerned about how they are viewed by others when they are eating. Media reports usually focus on how portion size affects how much we eat.
“But this modelling effect deserves as much attention, because of its big impact on people’s ability to regulate their intake of food,” Vartanian concluded.
The results were published in the journal Social Influence.