One Another's Emotions Tied to Eating Desires

April 26, 2011

Does seeing someone enjoy a meal affect your probability of liking that same meal? Does their weight status have anything to do with this desire?

Have you ever wondered if seeing someone enjoying a certain food would affect your preference for that same food, or if a person’s weight status would affect your food choice? A study recently published in the journal Obesity demonstrates that both weight and emotion affect and influence our eating habits; moreover adults may influence children’s eating habits through their facial expressions and conveyed emotions. Previous research and this study demonstrated that adult’s desire to eat foods decreases in the presence of an overweight eater compared to a normal-weight eater. This study set out to understand influences on children’s eating desires.  
When the kids liked the foods presented, the eater’s weight status had no effect on their eating desire. They were more influenced by the eater’s facial expressions; an expression of pleasure increased the desire to eat the liked foods in the younger children, whereas an expression of disgust decreased it. The findings come at a time when about one-third of children are overweight or obese, which increases their risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, sleep apnea and other health problems.
This study reminds us of the extreme impressionability of children and the importance of teaching them good habits through our actions.  Adults, parents, and guardians should be mindful of the way they react towards certain foods, both those that are nutrient rich and nutrient poor.  For example, when food shopping with kids, parents are advised to spend lots of time in the produce section choosing carefully and sharing the wonderful scents of the fruit and vegetables with their kids- as compared with time spent in front of the processed meat case or freezers full of ice cream and other desserts. The same goes for eating occasions – kids look up to their parents and adults and thus we need to be mindful in choosing foods as well as our negative reactions to healthy foods. So bottom line to share with your customers, when you are eating healthy foods be sure to smile!