Why do we eat more when we’re with other people?
Do you keep track of your eating habits when you’re eating with others? If you find that you consume much more when you’re dining socially with your friends and family than you usually would when you eat alone, you’re not the only one. Studies have shown that many people tend to eat more when they eat with other people.
A lot of socialising takes place over food, whether it be catching up with your girlfriends at brunch, going on a romantic first date to dinner, or celebrating the holidays with your family over a big feast. In many cases, enjoying someone’s company goes hand in hand with enjoying delicious food.
Studies over the years have found that those eating with others tend to eat up to 48% more food than they would if they were dining solo.
Why does this happen? After reviewing the many studies that have investigated this phenomenon over the years, researchers from the University of Birmingham have a number of theories as to why this might be the case.
It could be because eating with others is more enjoyable than eating alone, so the reward you feel from eating with company drives you to consume more and more. It might also be from social pressure. It’s more acceptable to eat and enjoy large quantities of food when you’re with other people than it is when you’re alone. Providing food to others can also provoke praise from your friends and family, which might encourage having larger quantities of food around when eating with groups of people.
On the flip side, some people tend to under eat when they’re in company with people they are not so familiar with. The way we want to portray ourselves to others might have something to do with this. People want to be liked by others and want to convey a good impression of themselves to other people. Eating little might be seen as a way to do this, which might be why you’d eat less than you usually would around strangers. Some people might also feel uncomfortable eating as much as they usually would in the fear of being judged for overeating by people they don’t know well.
These eating habits could stem from the way our ancestors lived. Our ancestors ate together because it protected against food insecurity – a survival mechanism that might still be with us today. Once upon a time when humans were hunter gatherers and food was harder to come by, hunting and eating in groups was more efficient than eating alone. However, eating more than the others in your group could have also led to ostracism, which would have threatened your survival. These behaviours in our ancestors could explain why today some people enjoy the experience of eating more with our family and friends, but also why others could refrain from eating too much around strangers.