Looking for a sure way to cut down on your intake? Canadian researchers recommend having lunch in mixed company, after finding that women fill their plates a lot less when surrounded by men, and men imitate thin women.

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Do members of the opposite gender cause one another to lose their appetites, or do they want to impress with their good habits?

The answer is open to many different interpretations, but two things have definitely been shown: young women eat a lot less in the company of young men, compared to being in the company of other women or alone, and young men appear to pick their portions according to the body type of young women in their periphery – according to research conducted in Canada.

The researchers in one study, psychologists from McMaster University, lead by Professor Meredith Young, examined eating habits among 469 students in three large cafeterias in the university during lunchtime and dinner. According to the researchers, women who ate in the company of men chose significantly lower calorie foods compared to women who ate in the company of other women.

What happens when women eat with other women?

According to the research, when a woman eats in the company of another woman, each of them consumes an average of 670 calories per meal. Moreover, when there are three or more women around the table, every woman’s calorie intake grows to 750 calories per meal.

What happens when a man joins the meal?

The same women significantly changed their eating habits in the presence of one man, and consumed an average of 540 calories per meal. As the number of men rose, there was a parallel decline in the calorie intake, to only 450 calories per meal.

What is the explanation for the male’s influence over the female’s eating?

Professor Young says that choosing healthy food and eating smaller amounts is considered by women as a more feminine behavior. According to her, women believe that by eating less, they have a bigger appeal to the men and so fortify their position as “desirable women”.

Do men restrain themselves in the company of women?

They really don’t, according to this study. Here, the men were not affected by the company of the people with whom they ate with, and took in the same amounts in the company of both men and women.

Another Canadian study, led by Brent McFaren, research assistant in the Department of Business Administration in the University of British Columbia examined something similar.

In this study, the researchers wanted to find out how are we affected by the eating habits of the people eating around us. A total of 420 students took part in the research, 210 male and 210 female. The males were told that the study was about movie-watching habits, while the females knew the purpose of the research; among the females, half were thin and half were overweight. While watching the movie, the students were offered different kinds of food. The food was first served to the female students and only then to the male students.

According to the researchers, the participating male students tended to imitate the size of servings selected by the thin female students seated next to them, independent of the size of the serving. However, if the female student had a large body build, the male student sitting next to her took a smaller serving.

The researchers concluded that we’re affected, even without our knowing, by the choices of servings people around us have. The researchers even warn us of from having meals together with thin friends who have large appetites, which may cause us to eat a lot more than we originally planned.


These Canadian studies showed – not for the first time – that out calorie intake is highly affected by the company of the people with whom we eat. The benefits to dieting may be most pronounced in mixed-gender company.

To learn more about the Trim Down Club, click here.

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