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December 20th, 2016

Did You Know: You Can Outsmart An All You Can Eat Buffet.

Research shows thinner people do this ONE thing when at buffets.

In the wise words of Cher Horowitz in Clueless, “Let’s do a lap before we commit to a location.”

We all have that friend who can seemingly eat whatever they want and never gain weight. New research dispels the belief that it is just the “lucky” metabolism of leaner people that keeps them trim. 

A 2008 study by Brian Wansink and Collin R. Payne, published in the journal, Obesity Society, looked at eating behavior and obesity at buffets and found some very interesting commonalities between individuals with similar BMIs. One of the first things they noticed was that before even grabbing a plate, skinnier people surveyed the food options (71% of them, in fact). The overweight diners, on the other hand, tended to grab their food first, most likely selecting foods that weren’t necessarily their favorite, and then continued to eat more. The leaner people scanned the entire buffet before putting anything in their mouths, perhaps leading them to make more thoughtful decisions about what they would eat. 

Once the patrons made their plates, Wansink and Payne observed something else too: thinner people had the tendency to sit further away from the buffet and in certain seats. 73% of the slim diners sat in seats that faced away from the buffet! This may have reduced temptation and made them less likely to visit for rounds 2 and 3 of piling their plates. Heavier diners did the opposite – they sat at tables that were closer to the buffet and were 3 times more likely to sit facing the food. 

What else can you do to help keep yourself from overindulging when faced with an “all-you-can-eat” situation? Once you’ve scanned the buffet for your favorite items, if there are different sized plates available, grab the smaller option (i.e. a salad or appetizer plate instead of an entrée plate). Although seemingly inconsequential, using a smaller plate can actually impact how much you eat and how full you feel. This is because our eyes play tricks on us: the same amount of food looks bigger on a smaller plate than it does on a larger plate so we feel fuller after eating it, despite eating less food. Also, studies show people eat more simply because more is on their plate. Smaller plate equals less food, and because it looks bigger, the difference in hunger is minimal.

Buffet-style gatherings are common during the holiday season. For more tips on how to stay slim at holiday parties, check out Tanya Zuckerbrot’s guest blog for Tarcher Perigree