Are Other People Making you Eat?

Debbie Hatch | Family & F.I.T.



As we approach Independence Day, I want to talk about breaking free.

Breaking free from eating because someone else is eating.

Breaking free from eating because someone else expects you to.

Breaking free from blaming other people in your life for making you fat.


Do you know what I’m talking about?


More than once I’ve talked about the fact that my mother fed me. I mean she FED me. All the time. There was food to celebrate, food to make me “feel better”, food because I was “eating for two” and food to calm my anger or disappointment. She still tries to feed me. Whenever I am fortunate enough to visit, she makes me special treats from my childhood, or takes me out to eat (multiple times if there’s any way to fit it into my schedule). I feel guilty if she went out of her way to get something for me and I don’t eat it.


A friend of mine just met a new guy and she’s finding it difficult to focus on fat loss while dating. “Going out on dates isn’t great for the diet.”


That never gets better, by the way. I’ve been married for over 20 years. Last night my husband wanted pizza. His question before actually going to get one was, “if I get a pizza, will you share it with me?” It’s easier for both of us to eat pizza if we’re both eating pizza.


You go out with friends and find yourself ordering drinks, eating bread, or getting dessert – not because you necessarily feel like you want those things but because your friends are having them so, naturally, so will you. It’s okay as long as you’re not the only one.


Fact is, humans are social creatures. We find solace and comfort in doing what the people around us are doing.


When it comes to eating, psychologist John de Castro has conducted several studies to look at how eating with others affects food intake. “Meals eaten with one other person present were 33% larger than meals eaten alone, whereas 47%, 58%, 69%, 70%, 72%, and 96% increases were associated with two, three, four, five, six, and seven or more people present, respectively.”


That means when we eat with other people, on average, we consume 44% more than when dining alone!


A successive study showed eating with family or friends can be even worse. In fact, 23% and 14% worse, respectively, than meals eaten with other people.


Here’s another interesting fact in the studies and then I’ll leave you alone.

I LOVE these kinds of studies!!

I LOVE studying human behavior.

We are fascinating creatures.


So, did you know that we eat fastest when we eat alone, faster with our families, and slowest with friends? There’s some proof that the longer we spend at the table, the more we’ll eat.


Now, knowing these things and doing something about them are separate issues.

What can you do?




The initial step to dealing with any issue is first identifying that it’s an issue. If you know you’re likely going to eat more just because other people are eating more, you’ll think about that as you sit down.


Use that information to make a mindful decision about what you’re going to have.

(See II)




Look at the menu (most are online today so you can even prepare well in advance if you’d like) and decide what you’re having before asking everyone else at the table, “what are you getting?”


As Jill Coleman (JillFitPhysiques. If you’re not already following her, you should be) said in a post earlier this morning, “I stay mindful of my choices. I make them from a place of personal awareness and genuine introspection about where MY hunger, cravings, stress, fullness, mood, boredom, etc. are currently.”


I also need to accept personal responsibility. It’s not fair of me to blame my feelings on other people. My mother is not trying to make me feel guilty. She’s trying to make me happy. The emotion I actually feel is MY feeling. It’s really got very little to do with the other person. The way I handle this is typically to express gratitude for what the person is giving me. I may ask them to share it with me, take a bite or two, or explain that I’m not hungry right now and I’m excited about saving this treat for later when I can really enjoy it. The difference is, these actions put me in control versus making me a victim.




I love spending time with friends and family. While I try to schedule active things for us to do, the fact is, many times we’re sharing meals together.


If that’s the case, try to focus on the social aspect: the conversation, the company, and time together. People generally aren’t paying attention to what you eat unless you make it a big deal. It’s easy enough for me to start by enjoying a glass or two of water with lemon as we sit down. I may have a glass of wine with dinner but I probably don’t need three or four (that’s just me…).


I can easily order a salad or some vegetables as an appetizer.  Or, I can nibble on some of the appetizers brought to the table for us to share. Dessert can be another great thing to share. Many restaurants also offer mini-sized sweets these days. A bite or two can often soothe that sweet tooth.


No one is going to bat an eye if I order a meal containing some type of protein, veggies, and perhaps a starch. Again, unless I personally make a big deal of it by complaining that I’m on a diet, or saying “I really want xyz but I shouldn’t, so I’m ordering abc instead.” You’re not a victim. You choose to eat whatever it is that you want. If you’re making a choice to eat healthy – good for you!!! That’s awesome. That’s not a negative thing to complain about.




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  1. Yes! And No! I suppose I could have turned down all those wonderful dishes everyone brought last weekend to help me celebrate my birthday. But I loved every moment of the attention, the food, the togetherness… how could I turn it down? Now my poor scale regained 2 pounds despite all my detoxing in May when I was so proud to lose 10 pounds. Hopefully I can quickly reverse that damage.

    1. Absolutely agree!!! If I want to enjoy all of those wonderful dishes, I do it, with zero guilt later. The thing is, I want to consciously make that decision – not feel like it’s being “forced” upon me. Happy belated birthday!!

  2. Ah yes, those other people that make us eat too much! I struggle with this a lot – most especially at home when my husband has no problems eating junk food and “crap” while I just have to smell it and I gain a pound. We’ve gotten around this problem, for the most part, by asking him to only eat the kind of junk food I hate – like ketchup potato chips and gingersnap cookies. I can easily turn my nose up to that! You’ve offered some great pointers to give a try too.

    1. Lol. It IS so much easier to turn down the things we don’t personally like. My husband loves glazed donuts. They’re not my thing. 🙂

  3. This is awesome information. Thanks for sharing. I ALWAYS felt guilty when I went to someone’s house or if we went out to eat with friends. I realize now that I am in the one in charge of who I am and what I put into my body. You were spot on with this post. Thanks for sharing and have a great day.


    1. I’m thrilled that you found the post helpful, Dave!

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