You are what your friends eat - or don't eat


The hot topic of over-indulging at social events is always circling the social web but can socialising with friends cause restrictive eating patterns?

Current research has found that eating with our friends and family heavily influences us when it comes to food portions and selections. 

Do we adjust how much we eat to feel welcomed within a social circle? Or does mindful eating just go on a holiday in a social circumstance?

A recent study by Dr Vartanian and his team recognised the power of social modeling, where a group of people who weren’t fed for hours were then placed at a diner table with small eaters.

The results were shocking.

                                                                                                                        Photo by  Ed Gregory

                                                                                                                        Photo by Ed Gregory

Even though these people showed signs of hunger, they tended to follow the social norm from the surrounding people, consuming less food when compared to what they would normally eat alone or with a generous eater.

Why should you change your eating behaviors to fit in?

Ever noticed when you go on that first date, with someone you barely know, how little you eat? You never order that ENORMOUS bowl of pasta, but instead something quite the opposite. 

Why is this? Shouldn’t you display your true self?

A research report by Salvy et al acknowledged how the choices and quantity of selected food is a form of communication. “It is a self presentational statement”. In other words, you regulate your own behavior to create a certain image for the person you’re trying to impress.

Do we adjust what we eat as a form of politeness or conformity? Or is to simply form a good impression?

So this must mean eating with friends, who you feel comfortable around, will not have the same effect?


Growing up near the beach, there was pressure to have that perfect bikini body. Who will look good this summer? Who wore that bikini better?

And that’s when the restrictive/ detoxing diets would come into play.

High school can be a very judgmental time.

Are you willing to pull out a burger or sandwich at school, in front of friends who are either munching on salads or have packed no fuel for the day?

I once heard a girl bragging to her friends, about only eating an apple for the entire day. Alarming, I know, but she wanted her friends approval.

A study by Howland, randomly assigned groups of 3 friends, of which two were told to restrict eating the choc-chip cookies and the other to carry on as normal. The friend who wasn’t informed on any conditions ate significantly less cookies than she normally would of, matching the intake of her two friends. Employing self-control to guide her eating, rather than eating freely.

Was she scared to be judged on how many cookies she could demolish? Who was she trying to impress?

It depends on who you socialise with when enjoying food.

Photo by Amy Neunsinger

Photo by Amy Neunsinger

My group at school had very diverse eating behaviours, some indulging in canteen goodies or nachos, with others having a pre-packaged salad and fruit.

No one felt secluded or judged based on what they ate. Creating a comfortable and happy environment to be apart of. Ideally, you want the people in your life to be accepting of your own personal eating habits and support you to make healthier choices.

Our life is shaped via many transitional periods, we are constantly shifting through relationships and friendships so it is important to be selective on who we want to share these experiences with.

3 strategies for healthy socialising

Here are some strategies we recommend trying when socialising in a food environment;

1. Choose who you dine with.

Will they be a or negative health influence? For example if you’re in the dating circle, try to find a partner who shares common interest with you. Dating someone who also loves being healthy will have a positive impact on you – and your relationship.

2. Change up the social plan.

We all have that one friend who can eat anything but still remains a twig. Next time suggest a morning walk followed by breakfast as apposed to dinner, followed by ice-cream then cocktails.

3. Remain true to yourself.

You chose the lifestyle you wish to follow, based on your health and wellness. Don’t let others talk you out of it.

About the author

Jade Condon is also known as The Active Nutritionist, a fourth year nutrition and dietetics student who is on a mission to help people eat healthy food and lead an active lifestyle! Jade is an intern with The Nude Nutritionist and regularly bakes pear and raspberry loaves for their team meetings. She runs an inspiring instagram account so we recommend following @theactivenutritionist

Lyndi Cohen