The Eating Habit Men Adopt To Impress Women

Illustrated By Anna Sudit.
How do you impress a first date? Maybe you dress up, talk about the cultural event you just attended (rather than the Netflix marathon you just completed), or even wash your hair beforehand — hey, it's a special occasion! For many heterosexual men, however, the answer to that question is apparently "overeat." A new study out of Cornell University, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychological Science, indicates that men tend to eat significantly more when they're with women.

To arrive at this conclusion, researchers studied 105 adults as they dined repeatedly at an all-you-can eat Italian buffet over the course of two weeks. The team noted each diner's gender identity, how many bowls of salad and slices of pizza he or she ate, and the gender of his or her dining companion(s); then, they instructed diners to complete surveys on how full they were and how hurried or comfortable they had felt during their meals.

The results were dramatic: Men in the company of at least one woman consumed 86% more salad and 92% more pizza than they did in the company of only other men. "These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off," said Kevin Kniffin, PhD, of Cornell University. "You can also see this tendency in eating competitions, which almost always have mostly male participants," he adds. Women, meanwhile, ate the same amount regardless of their dining companions' genders — but were more likely to report that they overate (and felt hurried) when they were with at least one man.

Traditionally, women have been encouraged to eat light on dates (can't let him think you're indelicate, or — gasp — enjoy cheeseburgers!). Thankfully, the directive to order "just the salad" has fallen out of vogue, but as this research suggests, gendered eating habits persist. We can't say that overeating is a turn-on for us, though; in an ideal world, we'd all base our food consumption on satiety. Until then, protect your half of the pizza.

More from Diet & Nutrition


R29 Original Series