It's true, right? At holiday gatherings, family reunions, or just about any other gathering of the people we are fond of, we eat more than we normally do. I used to think this was just me, because I often perceive that everyone else around me is eating far less than I am. Getting together with others seems to trigger something in my mind, and I lose control, like a shark in a feeding frenzy, going after buckets and buckets of chum. However, a bit of research reveals that I am not alone in my temporary, get-together, food-snarfing insanity.
My first thought, when examining this mystery, was what I’ll call the “litter of piglets” scenario (I am not calling my family a litter of piglets… it’s just an analogy). Perhaps you’ve seen a litter of piglets struggling for access to the sow’s teats, when there are often fewer teats than there are piglets. With limited food, the piglets have to get as much as they can. Maybe that’s why I eat more when I’m around other people? Well, this hypothesis doesn't hold up, because I do not have a tendency to shove everyone out of the way to get to the taco bar first. So, forget the “litter of piglets” scenario.
What, then, causes this phenomenon? Decades of research reveals that the vast majority of people do indeed eat more when in the company of others. In fact, psychologists have called this the “single most important and all-pervasive influence on eating yet identified.” Wow, harsh—especially when I'm the poster child for this behavior.
Surprisingly, some researchers have ruled out hunger, mood, or distracting social interactions as important factors. Instead, they put the blame squarely on the length of the meals. When people are together, they simply eat for a longer period of time. They enjoy talking and laughing together, and they sit around the table (or stand around the food) for much longer than they normally would. Extra minutes at the table = extra food stuffed into the mouth. Studies show that bigger groups enjoy longer meals, and when the meal times are limited, they eat no more, on average, than when they are alone. In other words, we eat the same amount of food per minute, whether we are alone or in a group, but groups eat longer.
It’s simple math, dude.
- People eating together - DepositPhotos
Everyone needs a creative outlet. That's why I write.