It’s not enough to watch your own weight.
Now you might need to watch your waiter’s weight, too.
In the latest study of environmental cues to overeating, researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University have identified a new indulgence trigger—a pleasingly plump server.
In a study of 497 diners at 60 restaurants—mostly casual American spots such as Applebee’s and TGI Fridays—customers who were served by waiters who were heavier ordered more food and drink. They were four times more likely to order dessert than those served by thinner waiters, and they drank 17% more alcoholic beverages, too.
Solution? No one is advising that you spot-check the wait staff’s BMI before choosing your dinner locale—or to ask for svelte Jim over chubby Bill when you sit down.
But the research does highlight how easy it is to let go of our dietary restraint when we go out to eat. After all, just eating out itself means we’re likely thinking of pleasure first, virtue second. Bright lights and loud music can also lead people to eat more, and more quickly, according to other research at the Lab. The best defense? According to Cornell lab director Brian Wansink, PhD, it’s planning ahead. If you’re watching your weight, decide before you go out whether you want, for example, either an appetizer or a dessert. For more tips, see Bottom Line’s Surprising Restaurant Tricks That Keep You Slim.