Does the body size of those you eat with affect how much you eat?

The aim of this study was to investigate whether the eating desire would be lower in the presence of facial expression of an obese than of a normal-weight eater in participants who were or not themselves obese. Normal-weight and obese participants assessed their desire to eat liked and disliked foods. These foods were presented alone and with a normal-weight and obese eater expressing pleasure, disgust, or neutrality. Results showed that, compared with a normal-weight eater, perceiving an obese eater decreased the viewer’s desire to eat, whatever his/her facial expression. Thus, pleasant faces of normal weight but not of obese eaters increased the eating desire. Furthermore, the influence of eater’s facial expressions did not differ as a function of the participants’ BMIs. These data were discussed in the framework of the embodiment theory of emotion and of their implications in terms of nutritional education, either by enabling people to learn to like certain unpalatable foods or by helping them moderate their food intake simply through the sight of an obese eater.

Source: “The Desire to Eat in the Presence of Obese or Normal-weight Eaters as a Function of Their Emotional Facial Expression” from Obesity 18, 719-724 (April 2010)

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