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The Curse of the Chinese Buffet

Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese Buffets

Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese Buffets

At buffets, the differences in behaviors between normal weight customers and heavier customers have implications to prevent overeating

Normal weight customers had more leftovers than obese customers and were more likely to choose smaller plates

Sitting in a booth facing away from the buffet makes it less tempting to get seconds

Using chopsticks will help you eat less and take your time while eating

Look at all of the food available before deciding what to serve yourself to avoid overeating

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Wansink, Brian and Collin R. Payne (2008). Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese BuffetsObesity, 16(8), 1957-60. doi:10.1038/oby.2008.286

We've all heard the adage, "You are what you eat", but what about how you eat? A study by Cornell University found that normal weight individuals behave differently from obese individuals when they eat at Chinese buffets. Here's the scoop!

What Happened? Trained observers fanned out to 11 all–you–can–eat Chinese buffet restaurants across the country and examined the behaviors of 213 randomly selected customers. The observers estimated the BMI (Body Mass Index) of these customers and divided them into 3 groups based on their estimated BMI; the 3 groups generally represented people that were normal weight (these were the customers with the lowest BMI's), overweight (customers with BMI's in the middle range), and obese (customers with the highest BMI's).

Here's what they saw:

First: the customer looks for a place to sit. Obese customers were more likely to sit at tables instead of booths. They were also more likely to sit facing the buffet–41.7% of obese customers compared to 26.8% of normal weight customers faced the buffet while they ate.

Second: the customer approaches the food. While 71% of normal weight customers would browse the buffet before making their selections, the majority of obese customers would serve themselves immediately; only 33.3% of obese customers took the time to browse beforehand. 98.6% of obese customers and 86.3% of normal weight customers opted for big plates over smaller ones.

Game time: the customer begins to eat. Normal weight customers were nearly 3 times more likely to use chopsticks than obese customers. They were also more than 2 times more likely to put a napkin on their lap. Upon finishing their meal, 10.6% of normal weight customers had unfinished food on their plates while only 6% of obese customers had leftovers.

Tips for Slim Eating:

Adjusting how you eat may help you obtain a healthier body weight. Try these tips to prevent yourself from overeating!

  • Before you begin putting food on your plate, survey everything that is available and then decide on which foods you actually want to put on your plate.
  • Try chopsticks instead of a fork.
  • If at a buffet, don't sit with your face to the buffet table. It'll help keep your mind from being fixated on the food.
  • Eat on a smaller plate.
  • Thoroughly chew every bite that you take.
  • Don't force yourself to clean the plate.
  • If at a buffet, try sitting at a booth instead of a table. It will make getting up for seconds or thirds less convenient.

Article Summary by Jessica Seah