Why you eat more when you’re in company

Eat with a friend instead of alone and you might find that you can’t say no to dessert. Why does dining with friends affect our appetite?

How well do you remember the dinners you enjoyed with your friends, the ones where you left feeling as if you had eaten more than you could manage? Or in the opposite direction, the meals where you didn’t order a pudding, because nobody else did?

Perhaps you can blame social cues for eating too much or too little. Several decades of research shows that we eat more in company, and we follow what and how others eat.

But how exactly do our companions affect what we eat, and can we tap into these social influences to cut down on fats and sugar, and even lose weight?

A series of diary studies by health psychologist John de Castro in the 1980s alerted us to social influences in eating. By 1994, de Castro collected diaries of over 500 people recording their meals and the social context of how they ate them – in company, or alone.


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