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In an interesting US study conducted by Cornell University behavioral scientists, which was performed in an Italian restaurant offering an all-you-can-eat buffet containing unhealthy food “pizza” and healthy food “salad”, they observed that women are keen to eat a minimal quantity of food, such as a bird in presence of men. On the contrary, observations on men included different eating patterns in presence of women, where they keen to eat like a horse and appear to eat larger quantities of both unhealthy food “consumed 93 percent more pizza” and healthy food “consumed 86 percent more salad” when in the company of women.

“We find that while men disproportionately over-eat in the company of women, women felt like they overate and felt rushed when eating with men even though there was no evidence that they actually ate more,”

The lead study author Kevin Kniffin shows the influence of the social environment on eating patterns, regardless of the food on the plate, where he explains that men “eating heavily” behavior when women are watching could reflect a subconscious intent to prove their masculinity and health, which could be an element of attraction for the other gender “showing-off”. On the contrary, women “eating lightly” behavior when men are watching could reflect an internal self-perspective feeling of being rushed, overate, and sensitivity to maintaining femininity.1

Investigators in human behavior, gender-driven eating habits, and eating disorders have noticed that social gender stereotyping puts extra pressure on the way women deal with their eating habits. This in return reflects on their social acceptance and self-esteem to conform societal norms and could result in food-related conflicts and eating disorders such as anorexia, where they restrict their food intake, and bulimia, which include binge eating followed by vomiting to get rid of the calories consumed. Notably, there are inescapable physiological facts related to women eating patterns including hormonal fluctuation during pregnancy, menstruation and childbirth that affect food behavior and response.2-3

“In the United States, women are approximately threefold more vulnerable than men to psychiatric eating disorders”

When it comes to what we eat men and women are different studies have shown that women tend to consume more fruit, vegetables and legumes. This reflects a greater interest in a healthier diet and tendency to eat in a more feminine style compared to men, while men tend to consume high-fat, high-protein food and higher carbonated drinks consumption, which correlates to overweight and obesity4-5. In a world like the one we live in today, where people’s lives especially women become more dependent on societal acceptance and limited beauty molds, this affected negatively the pattern of consuming food and women become more concerned about limiting their food portions as they have more dissatisfaction with their body size compared to men. Hence, gender differences will impact consumer behavior which could influence healthy eating behavior and public health.

“The human body is not a thing or substance, given, but a continuous creation. The human body is an energy system which is never a complete structure never static is in perpetual inner self-construction and self-destruction we destroy in order to make it new” Paul Schilder- author of –The Image and Appearance of the Human Body

  • Kniffin KM, Sigirci O, Wansink B. Eating Heavily: Men Eat More in the Company of Women. Evolutionary Psychological Science. 2016;2(1):38-46.
  • Baker JH, Girdler SS, Bulik CM. The role of reproductive hormones in the development and maintenance of eating disorders. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2012;7(6):573-83.
  • Chaiken S, Pliner P. Women, but not Men, Are What They Eat:The Effect of Meal Size and Gender on Perceived Femininity and Masculinity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 1987;13(2):166-76.
  • V Leblanc, Begin C, Corneau L, Dodin S, Lemieux S. Gender differences in dietary intakes: what is the contribution of motivational variables? J Hum Nutr Diet. 2015;28(1):37-46.
  • American Society for Microbiology. Men And Women Have Different Eating Habits, Study Shows. ScienceDaily. 2008. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080319120318.htm


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