Did You Eat Too Much? Blame The Other People At The Table!

people around dinner tableWill you be going out to eat this weekend?  Who are you going with – just your partner, your family, or a bunch of fun loving friends?  It can make a big difference in how much you eat – no kidding!

It might be hard to believe, but if you have reservations for eight you might end up eating 96% more!

Think about it – don’t you usually eat for a longer period of time when you’re eating with others compared to when you eat alone?  Maybe it’s due to mindlessly nibbling while someone else talks, or the good manners you learned in fifth grade, or because you’re just having fun and enjoying great food.

Most of us tend to stay at the table longer when we’re with others and the longer you’re at the table, the more you’ll eat.

Losing Track

Friends and family also influence how much you eat. Sometimes you can get so involved in conversation that all the monitoring of what pops into your mouth goes out the window.  Have you ever looked down at your plate and wondered where all the cookies went or how you managed to work your way through the mile high dish of pasta or the four pieces of pizza?  How many tastes did you take of everyone else’s meal and dessert?  Those tastes aren’t like invisible ink.  Those calories count, too.

Who Sets the Pace?

You tend to mimic your table companions. They eat fast, you eat fast.  They eat a lot, you eat a lot.  Ever wonder why you look at some families or couples and they’re both either heavy or slender?  As Brian Wansink, PhD says in his book, Mindless Eating, “birds of a feather eat together.”

How Much More?

Research has shown how strong the tendency is to increase how much you eat when you eat with others.  Compared to eating alone you eat, on average:

  • 35% more if you eat with one other person
  • 75% more with four at the table
  • 96% more with a group of seven or more


The pattern of eating more when you’re in larger groups compared to  when you’re eating alone is common for adults. One reason is a phenomenon called “social facilitation,” or the actions that come from stimuli such as the sight and sound of other people doing the same that that you’re doing. When you’re eating in groups, social facilitation can help override your brain’s normal signals of satiety – allowing you to eat more even when you’re not hungry.

Calorie Savers:

  • Think about how many people you’re eating with, who they are, and why you’re out to dinner with them.  If you want to have a blast and don’t care about how much you eat – eat with a big group and chow down.
  • If you want to be careful about what and how much you eat, think about eating lunch with your salad (dressing on the side, please) friends rather than the pepperoni pizza group.
  • You tend to adjust your eating pace to that of your companions.  So, sit next to the slow eaters rather than the speed eaters if you’re trying to control how much goes into your mouth.

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