Elizabeth Entenman
November 20, 2015 4:34 pm

Boy likes girl. Boy asks girl to dinner. Boy eats way more pizza on their date than he normally would? Wait, that doesn’t sound like the fairytale love story we’re used to in Cameron Diaz movies. Except, a team of researchers at Cornell just discovered that’s exactly what happens when men eat with women.

The study (which sounds like something out of Liz Lemon’s wildest pizza fantasies) observed the eating habits of 133 adults at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet for two weeks. You know, in the name of science. And they found some pretty enlightening statistics.

Apparently, when men eat with women, they consume 93% more pizza and 86% more salad. Meaning that men overeat both unhealthy and healthy(ish) food, something I guess you could see as a good thing. Interestingly, women’s eating behaviors didn’t change whether they were with men or other women.

Why the overeating? And why don’t men exhibit the same behavior around other men? It likely has to do with nerves or competition. “These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off,” said Kevin Kniffin, lead author of the study. As in, showing off for a female on a date. “Instead of a feat of strength, it’s a feat of eating.” Eating is a way for them to show off a skill and appear risky.

Sexual selection is often cited as a reason for eating disorders among women, but there isn’t much research around sexual selection and eating disorders among men. This could have to do with self-handicap behavior, in which a person avoids showing “effort” (in this case, eating less) to keep potential failure from hurting self-esteem. (Self-handicapping might be more prevalent for men.)

Basically, this study (while not perfect —location and demographic could play a huge part in the findings) suggests that some men perceive overeating as a display of the ability to tolerate challenges. We don’t know about that last one, but we do think that pizza on a first date is pretty much the most delicious thing ever.

Featured image via iStock

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