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Study: Women wearing fat suits eat more snacks

Illustration for article titled Study: Women wearing fat suits eat more snacks
Photo: mikroman6 (Getty Images)

Surely, after this experiment, there is no more science left to science. Everything has been scienced. Discover Magazine brings us news that researchers designed an experiment related to snacking in which men and women were outfitted with fat suits to determine whether “feeling fat” changed their eating habits. Turns out, it did, but only for women.

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The findings, set to be published in the journal Appetite, bolster researchers’ theory that self-identification as overweight leads to overeating and weight gain, regardless of whether the person is actually, by medical definition, overweight. Using both women and men as subjects, researchers outfitted the participants with fat suits that mimic an obese body, then measured whether the subjects ate more snacks than they did while wearing normal clothing.

There was no change in men’s snacking habits, but women wearing fat suits were found to consume more food. (Scientists conducted the snacking sessions in both private and public settings, and found that women ate more either way.) The exact reasons for this aren’t yet known, but researchers have some theories: “The psychosocial experience of feeling overweight may lead to increased snack food consumption in women, but the psychological mechanism explaining this effect is unclear.”

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As obesity rates in the United States remain higher than public health officials would like, better understanding the psychology behind eating is crucial. This study adds to what many women have known seemingly since birth: the way we feel about ourselves impacts the decisions we make about food.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

rebzelmele
RebZelmele

I assume they were confined to reduce the increased calorie load of the fat suit?

I’m guessing that this comes down somewhat to how the motivation to lose weight tends to manifest. In my experience, men tend to be extrinsically motivated, treat weight loss as a challenge (much like trying to get a better score or make a more impressive thing), or use it as a way to cultivate their own self control (so, to find the commonality, they do it for personal development/cultivation/betterment). Women seem to see weight loss as a way to self-actualize or take control of their lives more often. As such, failure tends to galvanize or even provoke men but demoralize women, while success tends to encourage women but makes men complacent.

Also, there’s apparently some evidence that women are more likely to eat their stress while men like to dive into a distraction or outlet, so a very simple explanation is that both genders were stressed out by the fat suit but that just made the men want to, I dunno, hit something? Of course, I’m now imagining a the researchers looking into one test room to find a female participant rocking back and forth in the fatsuit eating a Costco tub of ice cream and then tuning around to observe a male participant in his fatsuit hulk screaming through the one way mirror at where he imagines them to be.