There’s a trove of research that suggests women eat less because thinness is prized in our culture, and eating less in front of a date serves to show a commitment to attaining this prized body type. Of course, these studies show that these sorts of practices are closely linked to eating disorders and body images issues, but it’s a reality that is hard to ignore.
A team at Cornell University sought out to see if men differ from women in that regard. In doing so, they staked out an all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant (not the most romantic of venues, but it is still a place where men and women dine together) and came about an interesting practice.
The men studied would overeat dining with a woman than they did with other men. Like, a LOT more. How much more? Almost double. 93% more pizza and 86% more salad. Women ate the same amount regardless of their companions.
Obviously, after the shock value wears off, this begs the question of why men would overeat in the presence of a woman, as doubling your food intake seems counterintuitive from a mating standpoint in 2015.
One theory, from an evolutionary psychology standpoint, is, simply, that men are showing off to impress their date. And while this might be a plausible concept in the African Savannah among animals, it doesn’t seem to jive with current tastes or trends among dating humans. Kevin Kiffin, the lead author of the study, agrees:
“The new research article examines the question of whether overeating might function as a comparable kind of signal that a person is healthy enough that they can engage in unhealthful behavior of excessive eating (and still end up okay).”
This paradoxical approach, while still bizarre, seems a little more plausible, but is far from conclusive. However, it has opened up the researchers’ eyes to another phenomenon. Kiffin states, “The new article focuses attention on disordered eating among men and we include excessive eating as a kind of disordered eating.”