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Who is sabotaging your weight loss?

8/24 9:58:45
Gennadiy Poznyakov - Fotolia

Who helps or hinders weight loss?

If you want to lose weight, you’ll be interested to know that how much food your dining companion eats can have a big influence on how much you consume.

This psychological effect, known as social modelling, leads people to eat more or less than they normally would if alone, depending on how much food their companion consumes.

"Internal signals like hunger and feeling full can often be unreliable guides. In these situations people can look to the example of others to decide how much food they should consume," says Associate Professor Lenny Vartanian of the University of New South Wales (UNSW) School of Psychology.

Matching bite for bite

Vartanian and colleagues analysed the results of 38 studies in which the amount of food that people ate in company was measured.

"The research shows that social factors are a powerful influence on consumption. When the companion eats very little, people suppress their food intake and eat less than they normally would if alone," he says. "If the social model eats a large amount, people have the freedom to eat their normal intake, or even more if they want."

The effect is observed in many different situations: with healthy and unhealthy snack foods, during meals, when the diner has been deprived of food for up to day, and among children, and it occurs independent of people's body weight.

"It even occurs when the companion is not physically present and diners are simply given a written indication of what that other person ate," says Associate Professor Vartanian.

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