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Medicine

Diners Tend To Eat More If Their Companions Are Overweight 126

BarbaraHudson writes: A University of Illinois study (abstract) that shows that people tend to eat more in the presence of an overweight person. From the article: "The test involved a sample of 82 college coeds who were observed helping themselves to a simple pasta and salad meal. Each of the coeds were themselves of normal weight. The students first required to watch what they believed was a fat woman serving herself some of the food. The fat woman was actually an actress wearing a fat suit.

After observing the "corpulent" woman serve herself, the students were allowed to come forward and serve themselves pasta and salad. On average, the coeds each served themselves more pasta than the "fat" woman had selected while taking less salad than she did. When the same study was performed with the actress appearing sans the fat suit, researchers observed that students ended up eating more salad than pasta. The conclusion was simple: people may consume more unhealthy food and eat less healthy food when in the presence of an overweight person." As anyone on a diet will tell you, a waist is a terrible thing to mind. Weight control is a lot more complex than the article makes it seem, though some will welcome the opportunity to blame someone else.
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Diners Tend To Eat More If Their Companions Are Overweight

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Give money grant money! Give! Give!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So obesity in America is a snowball effect and cannot be stopped.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      An advertising campaign: fat women eating salad.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So obesity in America is a snowball effect and cannot be stopped.

      Look at photographs from the sixties and seventies of Americans or even earlier. Normal people.
      From the eighties onward they've become walking Bibendums. It's tragic if you think about it. An entire people incapable of eating healthy food. Children are obese, parents are obese. It's clear something went wrong between the seventies and the eighties. What ?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05, 2014 @05:46AM (#48067123)

        The "low-fat" craze that caused everyone to start eating a lot more sugar and spiking their insulin constantly.

        • I have lost 75 lbs by exercise and avoiding "diet" food.
          Real butter and fatty food fills you up faster and stays longer. Diet foods keep you hungry and eating more.
          Most people will start to diet when they notice that they are getting a little fat. But the diet with diet food makes them more hungry and they overeat and loose will power this you get fatter.
          There is a good trend toward Diet Food and obesity.
          McDonalds Coca-Cola have been around for generations. However diet foods started in the 80s

          • by master_kaos ( 1027308 ) on Monday October 06, 2014 @10:24AM (#48073127)

            I just started a keto diet a month ago eating nothing but butter, steak, eggs, cheese, bacon, chicken, and green beans.. I am already down 20lbs (fair enough most of it water weight), and 2 belt notches tighter.

            Yes I am morbidly obese, i have tried things in the past but my stomach was a bottomless pit. It was actually here on slashdot where I first heard about keto. I did more research, and this is the first time I have tried a diet where I am actually not fucking starving all the time. Tried pure calorie counting in the past but always was hungry.
            Now after a normal sized meal of steak with a slab of butter on it, and steam greened beans with another slab of butter on that, it fills me up.
            It is awesome that I can now eat awesome good foods, that are actually healthy (although not perceived healthy in normal society because OMG FAT AND CHOLESTEROL) 70% of my calories come from fat, 25% from protein, 5% from carbs (and most of carbs from natural occurring in vegetables).

      • by flyneye ( 84093 )

        A lot of additives, preservatives, were approved in the 70s.
        Look at the list on the back of any snack wrapper. Look at the amount of oils, salty preservatives or just plain sugar/corn syrup present.

        Unfortunately this article is more about a scam to resell knowledge we already possess as something new to $tudy.
        The more intricate and involved "Americans" lives get, the less their ability to overcome with logic their base animal brains directives about feeding in a pack situation.
        Obesity is less about the qual

        • Even if "everyone knows" or "it's common knowledge", we still have to dot every "i" and cross every "t". After all, "everyone knew" that heavier objects fell faster than lighter objects. And that "bleeding someone" was good for them. And that "trains going faster than a horse could run would suck the oxygen out of their passenger's lungs." And "We can see canals, water canals, and plants growing on Mars with our telescopes."

          Portion control is a huge problem. In the original submission, I had added "BTW

          • by flyneye ( 84093 )

            Yes, portion control IS the problem. You see, our lives have become so complex, our brains are always trying to handle more than they should. To offset the load on our conscious thinking, we go on autopilot, with more primal thinking using the layer beneath consciousness; the animal brain, our base functions handed down through genetic memory. Think of it as the Basic programming language for the animal kingdom. People and all others have been PROGRAMMED through survival of the species to eat until full. It

            • That could also explain why people over-eat when sitting in front of the couch. They're stuffing their face on autopilot. Ditto with sitting in front of their computer or packing on their cell phone - so we could say that facebook makes you fat (give people another reason to stop using it so much). So it's not the physical inactivity per se, but the behaviors associated with it.

              I think fight or flight is more complex, because in dangerous situations you often don't the time to think - you're already rea

      • It's clear something went wrong between the seventies and the eighties. What ?

        The coddling, enabling, reactionary post world war two generation started taking over.

      • by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @12:20PM (#48068447) Journal

        Look at photographs from the sixties and seventies of Americans or even earlier. Normal people. From the eighties onward they've become walking Bibendums. It's tragic if you think about it. An entire people incapable of eating healthy food. Children are obese, parents are obese. It's clear something went wrong between the seventies and the eighties. What ?

        The share of spending on food has fallen from %30 of the household budget in the 50's to less than %13. Simply put until quite recently overeating was something only the rich could comfortably afford.

      • It's not just America
        Although Europeans love to act like that...
        We're just a few years ahead of the rest of the pack
        I go to Western Europe semi-regularly, no shortage of fatasses, especially the UK...
      • So obesity in America is a snowball effect and cannot be stopped.

        Look at photographs from the sixties and seventies of Americans or even earlier. Normal people. From the eighties onward they've become walking Bibendums. It's tragic if you think about it. An entire people incapable of eating healthy food. Children are obese, parents are obese. It's clear something went wrong between the seventies and the eighties. What ?

        Marketing. I watched a show "The man who made us fat". Someone in a fast food chain (ok, I didn't pay a lot of attention...) worked out that if you gave out bigger portions and charged more, people still ate it all rather than leave it half-finished and 'waste it'.

        Makes sense, if you think of it. When's the last time you just said "that's it, I've had enough" and didn't finish a meal that you'd paid for? (Especially a dessert...)

    • by burni2 ( 1643061 )

      The snowball has reached europe, and it hit the U.K.
      first, but we europeans are starting to catch up.

  • So can we expect all the junk food emporiums to now start recruiting fatties to serve their customers?
    • So can we expect all the junk food emporiums to now start recruiting fatties to serve their customers?

      Sound reasonable. Though with the current overweight ratio in America.. Don't they already by simple stastical chance?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So can we expect all the junk food emporiums to now start recruiting fatties to serve their customers?

      I take it it's been a while since you've actually seen the staff that work there now...

    • I, for one, completely lose my appetite in the presence or morbidly obese people. Fat people too, to lesser degree.

      The fact that I'm very lean probably has something to do with it.

    • First time I read that I thought it said recycling.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "The fat woman was actually an actress wearing a fat suit." It must have been too difficult to find an obese person in Illinois.

    • by burni2 ( 1643061 )

      Not really, it's just if they paid a fat lady to stuff food into herself, they could have been sued for damages.

      • Not really, it's just if they paid a fat lady to stuff food into herself, they could have been sued for damages.

        An obese lady would attempt to sue due to one meal?

        This would be that one time where I would actually welcome the term "pre-existing condition", since it would be quite obvious and fitting here.

    • "The fat woman was actually an actress wearing a fat suit." It must have been too difficult to find an obese person in Illinois.

      No, this was to reduce the number of variables in the experiment. Same woman, same hair color, same face, same eye color, etc, but different apparent body build.

  • The fat woman was actually an actress wearing a fat suit.

    Why ? I can't imagine it would be too hard to find a genuinely fat person to take the job.

    • I assume they wanted to control for facial attractiveness, for whatever that's worth.
      • And control for lots of other things like body language.

        In fact, I doubt facial attractiveness was on anyone's mind here except yours.

    • The fat woman was actually an actress wearing a fat suit.

      Why ? I can't imagine it would be too hard to find a genuinely fat person to take the job.

      No, but a bit harder for her to do the control as 'normal sized'... I assume the study wanted the same person in both tests to eliminate as many other variables as possible.

  • Is the reverse true? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Brulath ( 2765381 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @06:32AM (#48067197)

    If the reverse is true, which seems fairly likely, there'll be an equilibrium at some point. If that point is overweight for both persons, it'd be interesting to which trend continued (assuming fat people eat less around slimmer people). I guess they'll publish more papers exploring the other combinations of people in the future.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No. Basically, thin people think they can eat more and not get fat because they're not fat right now and they don't plan on eating so much next time (or next time, or the time after that, until they realize they've become fat).

      For fat people, they have to want to lose weight for a thin person to affect them because they'll be looking at what that person is eating and figure they'll slim down if they can just limit themselves to only that much. Oh, and they also have to have the willpower to ignore the dull

  • Mirror Neurons. [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Everyone seems to be focusing on imitation but what if the reason is different? What if the reason is lack of pressure? Namely "They're heavy, they won't judge me." is taken as an excuse to let self control loose. Seeing it controlled vs eating alone would be interesting and could help narrow it down. If alone and feeling unwatched would people eat more alone than even with someone heavier would imply the pressure theory, while eating more with someone heavier than while alone and unwatched would imply imit

    • Good, now go get some grant money and prove it.

      The conclusion section of any study, especially in social sciences, is basically the op-ed page. At some point, the studies pile up and people have to give up their opinions and do science.

      But anything sufficiently novel is the author seeing what they expected to see. And it will remain so until another study figures out how to answer questions like you raised.

      Now, how do you propose to separate those variables and answer those questions?

  • by pholus ( 127383 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @07:07AM (#48067265)

    As opposed to where the OP wants the blame placed.

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @07:14AM (#48067279) Journal

    So, do we put them in special sections with visual barriers, or just make them eat outside where we can't see them? Will we see fat people huddled around doorways in winter, banished outside while they eat their Snickers?

  • I propose we immediately isolate the carriers of "fattening disease".

    After all, it's infectious and it creates more casualties than ebola and the black plague combined! And since we don't know the vectors yet, other than "fat women", we should isolate anyone with a BMI over 25. In any case they shouldn't be allowed to travel. I mean, it might spread to Europe. Or even Africa, which has so far been mercifully untouched by "fattening disease"!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The summary says, "each served themselves more pasta than the "fat" woman had selected while taking less salad than she did."

    The articles both say that the amount of food that the actress took was irrelevant. All that mattered was whether she was wearing the prosthesis (what the summary refers to as a "fat suit").

    Given the way that they did the study though, I'm not terribly convinced. We're talking about 82 people here. Wouldn't it make more sense to monitor their behavior over multiple visits with mult

    • by u38cg ( 607297 )
      Yes, but it's difficult to argue for a big study without a small study that suggests there may be an effect worth investigating. Also, we have statistics to tell us how likely it is the pasta-lovers all ended up in one group.
  • Prepare for the experiment:

    1. Gather one hour and fifty-one minutes of food and drink
    2. Get comfortable

    Perform the experiment:

    4. Visit this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVCbIzeQb30 [youtube.com]
    5. Report results.

    SPOILER: AT 1:28:33 he says the word, "inconceivable"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This hall experiment seems like a good lesson explaining why correlation is not causation and how NOT to measure correlation.
    1. First of all, they published only the mean and not the variance so we can’t tell how different the quantities were among the participants. Another data that is missing is the time and day of the different meals.
    2. It seems the fat person was only the first person in the line so it’s very strange it affected the rest of the people waiting in the line who did not

    • by u38cg ( 607297 )
      A small study with interesting effects is necessary before you carry out a large study. But since you're such an expert, it's likely that you knew that, because of correlation.
  • Not science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Sunday October 05, 2014 @09:46AM (#48067697)

    Studies involving a small (82), biased (coeds) number of college students who were primed (required to watch) are not science. "The conclusion was simple". As is anyone believing said conclusion.

    Yet another case of a prior conclusion being reached by a fabricated "study". Groundwork for controlling people's diets.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...and this not one day after another Slashdot article where the research involved 19 PARTICIPANTS .

      When will the Slashdot editors (and the news media in general) stop reporting these barely preliminary results as if they're commandments from God?
      When will all these "researchers" grow some ethics, do proper research and analysis, and report statistically significant findings?

    • Why shouldn't people's diets be controlled? It's obvious that people can't control themselves. So, government has to step in. It's not a FREEDUMB issue, it's a public health issue. Someone has to step in and put a stop to this problem. It won't be private industry that does it.
      • Why shouldn't people's diets be controlled by the government? Because everyone has different needs, and treating everyone as the statistical mean person is bad for almost everyone. For a simplistic example, controlling food to make it very hard for people to gain weight is bad for underweight people.

  • Considering the bulk of human evolution has been spent hungry, looking for something to eat, it makes perfect sense to emulate people who appear to be the opposite of hungry.
    .
    Not only is (whatever they are eating) fundamentally safe, it's so abundant they're fat. For all but the last 50 years, those were purely positive cues.

    Note the actress wrote a 50 lb fat suit....I'm curious if she was morbidly obese (ie 150lb fat suit, obviously unhealthy) if the same would still be true.

    • And if the result had been the opposite, you would say that it makes sense because we don't imitate people with negative food related outcomes. Like poisoning, or fat, because it is harder to outrun a bear when poisoned or fat.

      What really happened was you read thus, decided you had no pre existing beliefs that were threatened, and worked it into your mental framework. Then you pulled it back out, along with all of the information you used when evaluating it initially.

      And that's normal. I'm just cautioning y

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )
        I'm just cautioning you, but your reaction looks like a bad study with unsupported conclusions.
      • What? That doesn't even make sense? Yes, different results might have prompted me to speculate on different bases for the behavior. Is that astonishing?

        In the first place, using your backwards example, if there was a study showing that people watching thin people took less food, yes, I'd probably say that it could be because people watching healthy people are going to emulate them. We're a social species, we do lots of things because of simple emulation.
        If there was a study showing people behaved CONTRA

  • After observing the "corpulent" woman serve herself, the students were allowed to come forward and serve themselves pasta and salad. On average, the coeds each served themselves more pasta than the "fat" woman had selected while taking less salad than she did. When the same study was performed with the actress appearing sans the fat suit, researchers observed that students ended up eating more salad than pasta. The conclusion was simple: people may consume more unhealthy food and eat less healthy food when

  • Any study that tells me something I don't like about myself is actually someone else's fault has to be accurate. These fat people are now making the rest of us fat! We need to pass some new laws (likely written by lobbyists for Hostess Twinkies) to put a stop to this! Won't someone please think of the (fat) children?!
  • Isn't this just an illustration that - no matter how we try to believe it was otherwise - standards level down?

    If someone's stuffing herself silly then as long as you eat a bit less than she does you can get away with it because you're not the pig of the group.

    It wouldn't surprise me at all if a similar situation existed around beer consumption, pinching things from the office, speeding or illegal parking etc.

  • Isn't it not just that one eats less when fraternising with slimmer people?

I have a theory that it's impossible to prove anything, but I can't prove it.

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