Time magazine recently published an article, reviewing research discussed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on how the eating habits of teens and tweens are influenced by how much their friends weigh. Observing the participants in this study, the researchers found that the children ate more when they were with a friend than when they were with a peer they did not know; however, they also found that children who were overweight ate up to 300 calories more when with a friend who is also overweight.
Although this is important information for parents who are committed to helping their child be healthy, the ideas can also be applied to yourself. We have made eating a social activity, but eating alone may help you stick to your food plan and limit your caloric intake. Another idea might be to find an eating “mentor,” eating with someone whose food habits you would like to emulate. The research suggests that simply by eating with them, you are more likely to behave like them. With whom are you sharing meals?
In addition to this research, the Time article discusses the theory that we are attracted to others we find similar to ourselves, suggesting that when two people who are overweight are together it can be a self-feeding loop that gives permission for obesity. The article also mentions that we are generally more relaxed with close friends and family and less concerned about judgment for our choices. Lastly, there is the theory that spending time with those who are overweight helps us to accept it as more normal, in effect giving permission to behave similarly. The Time article also mentioned other research that reports that we generally consume fewer calories when accompanied by the opposite sex.
Have you noticed any of these things to be true for you, impacting your eating habits? I challenge you to be more conscious of how much you are eating, especially when you are with different people. I have found that this is not always true for me and my mindset and will power play an important role as well. I would love you to comment here and post your observations.