Be careful who you surround yourself with.
That’s the advice, anyway, from a recent study published by the academic journal Environment and Behaviour on how we order food in restaurants.
The takeaway? The size of your waiter — yes, the person who’s taking your order — can seriously impact the food choices you make.
In the study, researchers observed 497 interactions between diners and servers in 60 different restaurants.
The results were stark: the bigger the waiter, the more likely the diner would heavy up on calories.
People were four times more likely to order dessert and almost 20% more likely to ask for alcoholic beverages when served by waiters with a high body mass index (BMI), which correlates weight with percentage of body fat. The researchers defined a person as heavy if they had a BMI of at least 25.
How do waiters affect us? The researchers suggest that a “heavy person sets a social norm.” As a result, we feel comfortable consuming more calories since the environment’s “norm” is already tipped towards the heavier end of the scale.
We already know that there are a lot of factors that play into our food choices: our mood, the lighting, how a meal is described on the menu, who we’re dining with. This is just one more signal to pay attention to before you decide you really need that slice of post-dinner pie.
So next time you head to a restaurant, stick to your healthy eating resolution and consider this tip from the study: do your research in advance, and decide on your order before you even walk in the door. That way, no matter who’s serving you, you’re still in control.
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