People-Pleasers More Likely to Overindulge?

party over eatingPeople with a stronger ‘need to please others’ are more likely to overeat in social situations, according to the findings of a new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Although many factors shape eating behavior—ranging from hunger levels to portion size—social factors can play an important role. For the study, researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland evaluated questionnaire responses of 101 college students. They assessed their personalities and whether they exhibited characteristics of a ‘people-pleasing’ personality. Some of these characteristics included putting others’ needs before their own, being sensitive to criticism and worrying about hurting others.  After the questionnaire, the students were each paired up with a female actor, who posed as another study volunteer. The actors each took a small handful of M&M candies (about 5 pieces) from a bowl and then offered the candy bowl to the participants. The researchers found that ‘people pleasers’ took more candy, both in this experiment and in a second study involving the participants’ recollection of real-life eating situations.

The report explained that ‘people pleasers’ feel an extra burden of pressure to accept food offerings, even if they don’t want to and will often eat more in an attempt to match what others around them are eating. Additionally, these personality-types are more likely to indulge in foods they’d normally avoid, like sweet desserts or fatty snacks in a social situation. They don’t want to rock the boat or upset the sense of social harmony. The cost of this behavior, said the lead study author, is that “those who overeat in order to please others tend to regret their choices later. It doesn’t feel good to give in to social pressures.” Faced with situations in which food is the focus, this desire to please could be dangerous to their waistlines.  Research has also shown that there is an association between the personality trait of impulsiveness and weight gain. You can read about the study here.

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