'People Pleasers' More Prone to Overeating: Study

THURSDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- A warning to certain types as those Super Bowl parties approach: People with a need to please others are more likely to eat too much in social situations, a new study suggests.

"People pleasers feel more intense pressure to eat when they believe that their eating will help another person feel more comfortable," study lead author Julie Exline, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University, said in a university news release. "Almost everyone has been in a situation in which they've felt this pressure, but people pleasers seem especially sensitive to it."

But there's an emotional cost to this behavior, according to the report published in the current issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

"Those who overeat in order to please others tend to regret their choices later. It doesn't feel good to give in to social pressures," Exline said.

The study included 101 college students who completed a questionnaire that assessed their characteristics for having a people-pleasing personality, such as putting others' needs before their own, worrying about hurting others and being sensitive to criticism.

Each of the participants was then seated alone with a female actor who posed as another study volunteer. The actor was given a bowl of candy and took a small handful (about five pieces) before offering the bowl to the study participant.

Being a people pleaser was associated with taking more candy, both in the laboratory experiment and in a second study involving the participants' recollection of real-life eating situations.

People pleasers "don't want to rock the boat or upset the sense of social harmony," Exline explained.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers advice about food portions.

SOURCE: Case Western Reserve University, news release, Jan. 31, 2012

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