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Women Eat Daintily Around Men

Young women tend to choose lower-calorie meals when dining with males than when eating with other women, a new study shows.

Reporting online in the journal Appetite, researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, observed students in university cafeterias. When women ate with men, they skimped on their food; the more men, the more skimping. But when they ate with the gals, they consumed way more calories.

The men's food choices remained consistent whether they ate with women or other men.

The study's lead author suggests that women have been conditioned by the diet industry to perceive smaller portions of food as more feminine and that women feel that eating less will make them more attractive to men.

Do these findings surprise you? Or do they, as they do for me, remembering my single days, ring true? Why do we women behave this way?

Share your thoughts, please. And do take a moment to vote in today's poll.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  August 10, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness , Teens  
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Comments

As a woman I could never understand why girlfriends who I knew had healthy appetites would go out on a date and suddenly go down the salad road. I've never been that way, gimme a steak and tater any day! I've never held back when I was on the dating seen.

Posted by: nall92 | August 10, 2009 8:03 AM | Report abuse

I am not at all surprised by this, but I find it very disturbing. I think it is just a small example of the need to "put your best foot forward" otherwise known as being fake that happens in relationships. I don't understand why everyone can't just be themselves. If you want a steak, just order it! If a guy is going to think badly of you for that, why would you want to be with him? Or, are you planning to only eat like a bird around him and then inhale cheeseburgers every time he is not around?

I would also like to defend the salad. Salad is my favorite food. So, I order it often, but certainly not as diet food. My favorite salads usually include fried chicken, bacon, and copious amounts of creamy dressing. Yum! And, I don't care what any man thinks about that.

Posted by: SweetieJ | August 10, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

It's rather discouraging to see that young women are still "buying" into the stereotypes.

Posted by: lalava1953 | August 10, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

With a 18.5 BMI and an relentless metabolism, I'm regularly asked by complete strangers "are you going to eat all that?" If I ever 'restrain' myself, it's to be less in-your-face, as some people seem to think that my appetite on my frame is 'rubbing it in'. I never restrain myself around guys (no sense of 'competition' there), so unfortunately, it's only around a subset of other women who you'd get death stares from.

Posted by: ButterAndLittlenecks | August 10, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I don't give a rat's tail who I eat with, I'm not going to stop eating until I'm full! Many men have been amazed at the sight of my appetite. I used to be a very physically active individual (and still am to a lesser degree) and that called for a lot of calories. I could give a hoot who was looking. I had to stay alive.

Posted by: forgetthis | August 10, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm with ButterandLittlenecks. Women have been worse than men in my experience. I used to order dessert when out with my in-laws. My mother-in-law would look at the mountain of brownine and whipped cream in front of me and say "Dearie, you aren't going to eat all that?!?!" To which I would respond "I hope so. It's delicious." I was certainly not overweight. And I was enjoying a treat. (The food and the company, until her remarks.) But it was the woman at the table who was intent on killing the fun. Not the men.

Posted by: anonymom | August 10, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"We women"? Please, speak for yourself. -

Not only have I always eaten whatever I've wanted, but I was just reading through a middle school yearbook where someone had written that I was an "eating machine" (or something to that affect). It was said good-naturedly, of course. : )

But I'm small; I was about 100 lbs all through college, and while guys I was with were generally amazed I ate however much I ate, it also never occurred to me to eat less to appear more "feminine."

I mean, I wasn't spitting food all over the place and eating with my hands, so I'm not sure how the act of eating on its own can look more or less feminine; that's just insane...

Posted by: nagatuki | August 10, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

This has been going on for so long. Anyone else remember the first chapter of Gone with the Wind? Scarlet is going to a fancy party. In addition to squeezing into a corset, she eats ahead of time so she can "eat like a bird" at the party. I know it's fiction, but, like most fiction, it's based on human behavior.

Posted by: SilverSpringer1 | August 10, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

My girlfriend cares NADA about making a sweet impression. When we go out, cheap or expensive, she looks to clean my plate everytime if I have anything left. And if she's over my place and the meal was good, she hurries me to eat or else my plate becomes a victim...haha! She's been like that since day one and I love it.

Posted by: cbmuzik | August 10, 2009 3:37 PM | Report abuse

First of all, correlation does not equal causation. They found an interesting tendency, not any kind of cause-and-effect relationship.

They're comparing two different groups of women, not the same women when dining with different companions. There's no way to know why these groups of women eat differently. To give a really messed-up alternative, what if the women who eat less ALWAYS eat less, are therefore thinner and more attractive, and therefore men are more likely to eat with them?

Or, since they're at a University, what if it's the women in more male-oriented fields that are eating less? Let's say the science majors, being more aware of how their body works, eat less - and since they're in a male-dominated field they tend to have male friends to eat with.

Or the women eating less are more likely to be athletes, and eating with the guys they play/hang out with.

Or not. Maybe there are enough women who eat differently around men that it's statistically significant. Sigh.

Posted by: a1231 | August 10, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Are these delicate salad-pickers the same ones I hear at parties talking about how many carats a diamond must be to qualify as an "acceptable" engagement ring? Personally, I have no interest in appearing like a "traditional" female. I hear many stories from disgruntled husbands about all the habits their dainty brides hid from them until after marriage. That will not be me. ; )

Posted by: undercover_hon | August 10, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm a man--and, no, men or women I get what I usually get--but here's something I noticed about myself: In the days before I became much more careful about how much I eat I noticed I tended to eat much less around others than by myself. (By myself I tended to overeat. Truthfully, I binged a lot.)

Posted by: cmckeonjr | August 10, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Many women are deathly afraid that men will reject them if they are perceived to be at risk of getting fat later in life. Maybe they should also consider not introducing their dates to their mothers too early in the dating cycle....

Posted by: maus92 | August 10, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I'm at a healthy weight, too, but it rings true to me...think of Bridget Jones and all the eating she did with her girlfriends. I've done that -- and it was fun! You can't scarf ice cream with the guys, it's just not the same. And in college especially, I remember eating piles of cookies with my girlfriends but going to the salad bar when my boyfriend was around. I would also be careful on a first or early date, but I'd also be careful at a work function, too, not to eat too much. If I'm nervous already I'm more likely to spill or get food in my teeth so the less I eat the better.

I think a lot of women do eat less with guys, but when you meet someone you're comfortable with it doesn't matter. I remember impressing my now-husband on our first date by eating a decent meal; he found it a refreshing change from other women he'd been out with. He was paying and I was broke and hungry, of course I was going to eat! But I married him because I could be myself with him, he was different. Before he came around, lots of guys watched me pick at a salad when I really wanted some fries!

Posted by: NCgirl1 | August 10, 2009 9:30 PM | Report abuse

since i was in my teen years i always eat everything that i like even if my boyfriend (now my husband) is around.i think eating less with men is so fake specially when the food in front of you is your favorite.being true to yourself won't hurt you, it will even interest other people to know you better.

Posted by: may2nick | August 11, 2009 6:47 AM | Report abuse

I am a woman and I more or less eat what I want and the audience doesn't particularly matter in the way the article is describing. If I'm out on an early date or a business meeting I am less likely to order something potentially messy (think spaghetti with marinara, that ooey-gooey dessert) or if someone else is treating I am not going to order the lobster, the caviar, and the fifty year old scotch if the other person is just ordering soup and drinking water.

But those are really more on the end of not getting food all over myself and not spending thrice or quadruple what the person buying my dinner is spending on their own (since that seems a bit rude), not about appearing "feminine."

I will eat until I am full, thank you. And depnding on the day the amount it takes to fill me up may be an appetizer eaten as a meal or it may be cleaning all the plates on a three-course meal and asking for that delightful-looking chocolate cheesecake in a bag to go.

Posted by: forget@menot.com | August 11, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone think of timing? When I eat around men, it's order - eat - leave. With women, it's talk a bit, the waiter needs to give us time to think about what we order, then we order a little at a time, and eat slowly, and talk...and order more...it's more about the eating experience that I share with other women, which would explain why we order/eat more. I just don't get a chance to eat as much around men: 'hey, you gonna eat that?' and it's off my plate before I can protest. Also, men tend to almost always order beer, and I would too...and that suppresses my appetite a bit.

Posted by: fat_kitty | August 11, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

One cannot simply site the well-worn saying that correlation does not equal causation and discredit any study. This study fits into a larger literature that indicates this concept.

You are right that they might be comparing two groups of women, but you can't assume that. I would guess, and my admittedly anecdotal evidence supports, that people eat with different crowds on different days because of vary college class schedules. Furthermore, I think you are jumping to conclusions about the third possible variable in this.

Also, you are confused about athletes. Athletes, male or female, eat more than the average person because of their higher caloric requirements. They simply burn those calories off.

You acknowledge that maybe the results are statistically significant and your points are moot. This is probably the case. We are getting secondhand reporting on an academic study. They wouldn't have published the results without significance, or else there is a qualification that simply isn't being reported.


"First of all, correlation does not equal causation. They found an interesting tendency, not any kind of cause-and-effect relationship.

They're comparing two different groups of women, not the same women when dining with different companions. There's no way to know why these groups of women eat differently. To give a really messed-up alternative, what if the women who eat less ALWAYS eat less, are therefore thinner and more attractive, and therefore men are more likely to eat with them?

Or, since they're at a University, what if it's the women in more male-oriented fields that are eating less? Let's say the science majors, being more aware of how their body works, eat less - and since they're in a male-dominated field they tend to have male friends to eat with.

Or the women eating less are more likely to be athletes, and eating with the guys they play/hang out with.

Or not. Maybe there are enough women who eat differently around men that it's statistically significant. Sigh."

Posted by: hiatt1 | August 11, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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