Tags: Health Topics | appearances | dating | romance | dieting

You Are What Others Eat — and Do

you are what you eat and more

(Olena Danileiko/Dreamstime)

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Tuesday, 09 July 2019 06:36 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Influences on What You Order in Public?

Hungry? What will you order? Apparently, part of the answer to that question depends on how who else is around — and how attractive they are.

Dieting can be a drag. Because unless you subscribe to a vague, unstructured model of eating less and exercising more (which happens to be very effective, go figure), you are likely counting carbs, measuring recipe ingredients, and otherwise strategizing every meal— which can be a time consuming, complicated endeavor.

But however you manage to exercise calorie control within the privacy of your own home, for many people, all bets are off when they are in public. This is an issue, because many people have schedules that involve frequently eating out.

For dieters, this involves spending time pouring over online menus of the restaurants they plan to visit, looking for acceptable menu options that would not blow their diet.

But there is more to dieting than diligent pre-planning.

According to research, some people are inspired to make healthy food choices by unconscious influences. When ordering in public, one factor that could increase the likelihood of selecting something sensible rather than indulgent, is the presence of attractive others.

Appetite: Appearances Are Everything

Most of us behave very differently in public than in private. We intentionally display good manners and dignified behavior whether we are out walking the dog, running errands, or socializing, out of a desire to put our best foot forward. But how far does this go?

Attention to public image drives decisions about what to wear, what to say, and apparently even what to eat — depending on who else is around.

When eating alone in public, or even with close family or friends, many people (who are not dieting) proudly snap selfies of themselves with sloppy Joes and dripping ice cream cones, posting to Instagram for all to see.

When out with a client, prospective employer, boss, or date, however, some of those same people order a salad, dressing on the side, which they demurely consume using a knife and fork.

What accounts for the often drastically different dining behaviors?

We know the answers. When the focus is on image and conversation, trying to talk while tackling a plate of BBQ ribs or a tostada does not make for good optics. We do much better navigating a meal that can be consumed in a more civilized manner with utensils.

Regarding meal choices, however, according to research, there is apparently more to the story than convention and convenience. Our meal choices are also potentially impacted by who else is around — and how attractive they are.

Dating: Appetite and Attraction

Singles are often very careful about what they order on a first date. Because appearance matters, they strategize both meal selection and portion control. Over time, however, things begin to change. Poached salmon on date number one turns into pizza by date number 10 — and it is delivered.

What accounts for the backsliding?

Perhaps the more important question in terms of promoting healthy eating, is what accounts for the initial self-control, before the relationship becomes comfortable.

A study by Tobias Otterbring entitled "Healthy or Wealthy?" (from 2018) tackled the issue of how the presence of others, and what they look like, influences both food choice and intake. He investigated whether mate attraction, created by the exposure to attractive individuals of the opposite sex, impacts food and beverage preference.

Otterbring found that exposure to attractive (as opposed to less attractive) men decreased women’s inclination to buy unhealthy foods, and increased their tendency to buy healthy foods. This effect was moderated by restrained eating, meaning that women with a high score (versus a low score) on restrained eating were especially motivated to buy healthy foods after being exposed to an attractive man.

What about the guys?

The impact for men was not on their diet; it was on their wallet. Otterbring found that for men, exposure to attractive (versus less attractive) women did not influence their preferences for healthy or unhealthy foods.

Instead, they demonstrated a difference in terms of spending behavior. Men were more motivated to spend money on expensive wining and dining after exposure to an attractive woman.

This effect was mediated by the men´s desire to display status.

Regarding the significance of his findings, Otterbring notes that none of these results were found after study participants were exposed to attractive same-sex individuals, which he explains supplies converging evidence that the fundamental motive supporting these findings is mate attraction.

What do we find if we apply these results to dating behavior? Perhaps that men in the throes of mutually budding romance often find themselves paying for very expensive salads.

This article was first published in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 4,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.

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However you manage to exercise calorie control within the privacy of your own home, for many people, all bets are off when they are in public. This is an issue, because many people have schedules that involve frequently eating out.
appearances, dating, romance, dieting
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2019-36-09
Tuesday, 09 July 2019 06:36 AM
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