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How to Avoid Overeating in Stressful Social Situations


Your waistline might not appreciate your willingness to comfort people’s emotions. That’s because people pleasers—that is, people who are preoccupied with pleasing others and maintaining social harmony—are more likely to overindulge when eating with others, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

“People feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable,” says lead study author Julie Exline, Ph.D., a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University. To make matters worse, those who give into the peer pressure tend to regret those eating choices later.

The study looked at 101 college students who had their personalities analyzed before being tempted with food in a social situation. The participants were seated alone with a female actor who posed as another study volunteer. The actor was given a bowl of candy and took a small handful before offering up the treats. Subjects who were people pleasers took more candy, both in the experiment and in a second study involving the participants’ recollection of real-life situations.

If you feel the urge to overeat in an attempt to overcome a stressful social interaction, try a different tactic. Eat healthier than your company! A previous study concluded that women who ordered a chicken sandwich and salad were rated as being more attractive and conscientious than those who ate a burger and fries. Remember: Overeating is a coping mechanism, but your mind is a true problem solver. Let your personality shine during social settings and you’ll feel better about yourself while earning greater respect from others.

Click here for more tips to avoid food traps when you’re stressed.

Tags: Health, Eating Out, Stress