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Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese Buffets

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

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the eating behaviors of people at all–you–can–eat Chinese buffets differs depending on their body mass. Trained observers discreetly coded the behavior of 213 patrons at 11 all–you–can–eat buffets in order to investigate this relationship in a real–life setting. The 22 observers examined three main aspects of the patrons' eating experience: their seating behavior, their serving behaviors, and their eating behaviors and provided an educated estimate of the patrons' weight, height, and age. Seating behavior was coded to determine if observers sitting in booths rather than tables and towards the buffet or facing away from the buffet.

Serving behavior was coded to determine if patrons scanned all the buffet options before seating themselves and what size plate they chose. Eating behavior was coded on the use of chopsticks versus forks, the placement of napkins on patrons' laps versus the table, patrons' average number of chews, and the estimated plate waste at the end of the meal. The results of the data analysis of these observations indicated revealed that estimated body mass index (BMI) was correlated with seating, serving, and eating behaviors. Patrons with higher BMI's were more likely to sit at tables and to face the buffet. Patrons with lower BMI's were more likely to scan their food options before filling their plates and to use smaller sized plates. In addition, patrons with lower BMI's were more likely to use chopsticks, chew their food for longer, place their napkins on their laps, and leave more food on their plates. These findings are consistent with previous laboratory–observed results, further proving the relationship between BMI and specific eating behaviors. Small environmental changes can have a great impact on restaurant patrons' eating behaviors. Decreasing the convenience and salience of food and reducing its consumption norms can easily lessen one's tendency to overeat.

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