Married people are more prone to obesity. That’s one of the negative health realities of marriage, though there are positives as well. In trying to understand why this is so, here’s an interesting nugget from a recent article.
People eat more when they’re together. A 1992 study that asked participants to record their food consumption for a week found that eating with one companion increased meal size by 41 percent compared with eating alone, while breaking bread with six or more people increased an individual’s caloric intake by a whopping 76 percent. Other studies have found somewhat more modest increases, but the effect is remarkably consistent.
Why do we eat more when we eat with others? It may be a result of social norms. Communal meals tend to last longer than eating solo, and people who sit in front of food can’t resist eating it. Another possible explanation is our habit of mimicking our dining companions: When they take a bite, we take a bite. More people means more cues to eat. The habit may, alternatively, lie deep in evolutionary history. Chimpanzees and marmosets spontaneously share food, probably to help form social bonds. From the innocent, altruistic act grew a regrettable human custom. Perhaps you feed (and feed, and feed) your spouse to strengthen your marital bond, even if you’re ultimately shortening its duration.
Think about your own eating habits. You might be able to make a real difference in your food consumption and overall health just by being more conscious of who you eat with and how often you do that. Finding more opportunities to eat alone can potentially have significant results!