Parties pose an eating problem for people pleasers

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 18th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

With Memorial Day just around the corner, you might already be planning the menu at your barbecue or checking out which of your neighbors will have the best spread. But if you’re a people-pleaser, you might want to think less about what type of burger meat is best and more about how to navigate noshing on all that fattening food.

New research from Case Western Reserve University found that those who avoid rocking the boat at social gatherings are more likely to overeat to appease the host — and while they’re at it, they’ll probably treat themselves to foods they’d normally avoid, like mac and cheese or cake.

Researchers had about 100 undergraduate students complete surveys on how strongly they wanted to please others. Then, a stranger, who they thought was a study participant, offered each of them a bowl of M&Ms. Researchers recorded how much the students took and then asked them how much they ate and why.

The results revealed that people pleasers tend to eat more if they thought others wanted them to, and they were more likely to match their peers’ portions bite for bite. They were even more likely to say they wanted other people to feel comfortable, even if it meant forgoing their own diet restrictions.

While it’s harder for everyone to turn down food like chips and cake at parties, it’s more than a test of sheer willpower for people pleasers because they believe their enjoyment of the food will put others at ease. But they pay a price — people pleasers tend to get a guilt trip afterward, in addition to their stuffed belly.

All that peer pressure could be put to good use, though — enlist others to help keep you accountable around the snack table. Instead of trying to please others, make it a point to put your health first. Gracious hosts will understand and encourage your endeavors to keep cravings at bay.