An interesting new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that people who hate letting others down are more likely to over eat in social situations. Case Western Reserve University researchers found that individuals who want to maintain a sense of “comfortability” in a social setting will be more likely to eat, whether they’re hungry or not. This can lead to over eating if others are eating a lot of food.
For the two-part research study, approximately 100 college students first responded to a questionnaire gauging their personality traits, including whether the students exhibited characteristics of a “people-pleasing” personality. The students were then paired up individually with a female actor, posing as another study volunteer. The actor was given a bowl of M&Ms and took a small handful (about 5 pieces). Then, the actor handed the candy to the study participant, to take some candies. The study revealed that people who scored higher on the people-pleasing characteristics in the questionnaire also took more of the M&Ms.
Julie Exline, study researcher and a psychologist at Case Western Reserve, explained, “People pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help someone feel more comfortable. Most people have been in a situation in which they’ve felt this pressure, but people pleasers seem particularly sensitive to it”, she concluded.
Also, people pleasers are more likely to eat foods that they’d normally avoid–like unhealthy snacks or indulgent desserts–in a social situation. The cost of this behavior is that those who overeat in order to please others often regret their decisions later. It doesn’t feel good to give in to social pressures, especially at the cost of one’s waistline.
Many factors shape eating behaviors, as this study demonstrates. For people suffering from obesity, weight loss surgery, such as the Lap-Band, can be an effective treatment. However, even with surgical treatment, sustainable weight loss requires lifestyle and diet modifications. You can learn more about the Lap-Band system here.