I'll Just Have A Salad (And A Burger In A To-Go Bag)

A new study in the journal Appetite shows that when women dine with men, we tend to pick foods with fewer calories than if we were eating with another woman. Researchers at McMaster University observed college students eating in cafeterias with a wide variety of food options and dining companions, and found that not only do men subconsciously coerce us into picking salad over steak, but the more men we eat with, the fewer the calories. Which means that if you choose to break bread with a professional football team, you can count on filling your plate with a Cheerio and a baby carrot.

Two other findings:  When we chow with an all-female group, our meals are significantly higher in calories. As for the boys, this study showed their caloric intake was not impacted by the gender of their dining companions. In other news, the sun is a massive faming ball of gasses that floats high in the sky.

While the theory that women think eating smaller portions will make them seem more feminine and thus attractive makes sense, I’d like to think I haven’t fallen victim to this trap. Just last night we went out with some Aussie friends in town for ice cream (I wrote about them two years ago when I introduced Tanz to peanut butter and chocolate for the first time in her life!) and my food choices went as follows:
1) Ate a half-defrosted slice of chocolate cake as I waited for Dan, his friend Adam and his wife to finish up a Cubs game
2) Picked them up, along with Adam’s parents, and found they wanted to get ice cream instead of a drink
3) Announced to the entire car, including three men, “Wait, so I just mowed down a slice of chocolate cake and now I get ice cream?!
4) Ordered and polished off my mango and black cherry Italian ice
5) Asked Adam’s dad, who I’d never even met before, if I could try his Moose Tracks ice cream
6) Sampled Adam’s Chocolate Moose Tracks
7) Sampled Dan’s Mint Chocolate Chip
8) etc, etc.

Obviously, I didn’t skimp on calories to appear more feminine. Then again, I was wearing a short jean skirt and yet thought nothing of climbing into the picnic table we all ate at, likely flashing the entire Chicago Lincoln Park community. Also, I’m married and secure in the fact that my husband finds me attractive, so I suppose appearing dainty and birdlike wasn’t at the top of my priority list last night.

Not that gorging in front of boys is without repercussions: This study made me remember one double date in high school where the boys took my friend Jen and I to the Olive Garden, which seemed extremely fancy at the time. We all gorged on garlic breadsticks, oniony salad and pesto pasta, then wound up all making out together (well, I mean, one couple in the front seat, the other in back.) The car was a gross, foggy, hormonal, stinky mess.

This isn’t to say I never tailor my meals to my dining companion, but when I do, it’s more to avoid making myself look ridiculous. For example, if I’m meeting someone for the first time, I generally won’t order sushi because gigantic mouthfuls of crab stick and sticky rice can guarantee you some awkward pockets of silence. I also tend to avoid long strands of pasta because I’m a messy klutz and don’t want to spray my companion with Ragu. I also usually wait until I’m at least a month into a relationship before I start binge drinking my way into vodka-soaked oblivion.

How about you? Do you eat less to look better in front of The Men?

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