There’s a long popular opinion that buffets are the bane of a diet regime; men and women simply cannot resist piling their plates high when presented with a banquet table full of food. A new study, however, has suggested that when you serve yourself you actually tend to make healthier meal choices.
The Psychology Of Healthier Eating
The study, which will be published in the Journal of Marketing Research, found that when the people studied were served food they were more likely to eat unhealthy food and less likely to do so when they served themselves.
In the study, the researchers conducted a series of five experiments. In one, which was conducted at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, participants in a waiting room were given the option of dried fruit (classified as healthy) and Reese’s Pieces (considered unhealthy). Both the snacks were laid out on a table, but were either placed in sampling cups or in a larger bowl and spoon to self serve.
The results found that when the Reese’s Pieces were in the sample cups, 325 of the participants ate them while when they were in a larger bowl with spoons, no students chose to serve them to themselves. There were no significant differences in the students who chose to eat the dried fruit when it was placed either the sampling cups or in larger bowls.
“We suggest that this behaviour occurs because being less physically involved in serving one’s food allows participants to reject responsibility for unhealthy eating and thus to feel better about themselves following indulgent consumption” the researchers wrote.
In other words, when they were served unhealthy food by others, they could attribute the blame of eating it to the person they were served. However, if they served themselves, they would have to bear full responsibility for eating unhealthy food and therefore more guilt.
Why not try this experiment the next time you eat out? Instead of allowing a server to ladle food on your plate serve yourself. You may just be a little closer to sticking out that New Year’s healthy eating resolution.
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