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Slimmer Diners Choose Booths, Scope Offerings, Chew More Slowly

The growing popularity of cheap, all-you-can-eat buffets isn’t helping America’s obesity epidemic. But it turns out these eating extravaganzas bring out basic behavioral differences between obese and normal-weight individuals. While some differences are easy to guess (like who leaves more food on their plate) others (like napkin and chopsticks usage) might surprise you.

Researchers at Cornell University observed 213 diners at a Chinese food buffet. Among the findings: Slimmer patrons were more than twice as likely to sit at a booth (vs. chairs). Heavier diners were 50% more likely to sit facing the buffet. As for the main event, 71% of slim diners scoped the buffet before serving themselves, while two-thirds of the obese dove right in. One-fourth of normal-weight diners used chopsticks, compared to less than a tenth of the obese. Normal-weight people were also more likely to place napkins in their laps — and spend more time chewing their food.

If you’re worried about your weight, eat home-cooked meals or, if dining out, skip buffets and ask for half of your entree to take home. Buffets aren’t any better midday: Women who overeat at lunch take in 56% more total calories for the day. If business or social obligations make buffets unavoidable, start with soup or salad to cut your calorie intake.

Published February 1, 2009


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