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Yet another way we legitimize fat prejudice

5th December 2008

Yet another way we legitimize fat prejudice

The crux of my graduate research on the social and cultural history of food (and food-related disorders) is on examining the multitude of factors beyond hunger itself that influence our food choices — for a list of just a few of those, see the site’s mission statement. I’ve read parts of Brian Wansink’s 2006 book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think” and find many of his arguments to be astute or at the very least, thought-provoking. For example, Wansink commandeered the “McSubway Study” referenced in this New York Times article on Monday. The study found that the “health halo” marketing campaign crafted by Subway leads consumers to believe that even those Subway sandwiches with more calories and fat than a McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich to be the healthier choice. The study found that the average Subway diner thought he/she was eating 34 percent less calories than they really were, in large part, because McDonald’s makes no health claims of its sandwiches while Subway does.

Wansink’s research into the hidden psychology of food is fascinating, but some findings in his latest study border on the absurd. Fellow blogger Harriet Brown posted this week on an assumptive and prejudicial wire story published in her local paper, opining that it provides just one example of how discrimination of fat people is legitimized. Wansink’s newest study is just another example of the same.

Wansink, a food psychologist, is also the director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. His research team sent trained voyeurs, err, “observers” to watch 213 randomly-selected patrons of 11 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets across the United States. The observers recorded the approximate age, height and weight of each patron of each patron spied upon. As you might conclude, the study found that “heavier people are more likely to… engage in other behaviors that lead to overeating.” Below are some of the study’s findings.

They found that heavier patrons, whether overweight or obese, were more likely to:

  • 1) Leave less food leftover on their plate
  • 2) Chew fewer times per bite.
  • 3) Begin serving themselves immediately instead of surveying the buffet.
  • 4) Sit at a table vs. a booth.
  • 5) Face the buffet while eating, rather than have their side or back to it.
  • 6) Put their napkin on the table or tucked into their shirt vs. on their lap.
  • 7) Use a fork instead of chopsticks.
  • 8 ) Pick up a larger plate vs. a smaller one.

For the sake of argument, I’ll give Wansink points 1-3. And I won’t even go into how very creepy it is to spy on people and use them in a study without their consent or even knowledge of it. The rest of the study’s findings, however, are subject to bias, interpretation and even sheer coincidence — hardly subjective scientific rationale on which to base sweeping claims about any one group, especially a group as diverse and large (no pun intended) as overweight and obese people. Points 4-8 are further dissected below:

4) Sit at a table vs. a booth. AND 5) Face the buffet while eating, rather than have their side or back to it.

The study does note that booths are more difficult for heavy folk to sit in, but only after emphasizing first that booths tend to be further away from the buffet. That and the following statement that fat people prefer to sit facing the buffet instead suggests that fat people want as little obstacle as possible between them and the feast they will undoubtedly soon devour. I haven’t been to a Chinese buffet since at least 2002, but I doubt little has changed since then. In my experiences, patrons are usually seated by a host/ess, and even in those seat-yourself establishments where people sit is dictated more so by accessibility and seat availability than buffet proximity. It also makes sense that since fat folks do sit more often at tables — tables can better accommodate their size than booths — that they are more apt to sit facing the buffet. Think about it: If tables tend to be closer to the buffet, fat people don’t want to obstruct the paths of other patrons to and around the buffet, which could happen if their back is to the buffet.

6) Put their napkin on the table or tucked into their shirt vs. on their lap.

Wansink explains that putting a napkin in one’s lap interferes with fat people’s ability to sit close enough to a table to eat comfortably. This is a simple size accessibility issue having nothing to do with food really, but Wansink seems to suggest that it’s yet another example of how fat people are loathe to do anything that gets in the way between them and food. The fact that fatness represents a class issue and/or that people might just lack good manners isn’t even up for consideration here.

7) Use a fork instead of chopsticks.

This has to be the most insulting and outrageous claim made of the whole study. According to Wansink, chopsticks mean less food per bite and more effort to pick up food. In other words, it’s easier to shovel food down one’s throat with a fork than a chopstick hence why fat people are less likely to use them. Like I said, I haven’t been to a Chinese buffet in six years, but our family used to frequent them often (they still do; I don’t). Of all the times I’ve eaten at a Chinese buffet, I can probably recall only a handful of people who opted for chopsticks — these talented folks usually stood out to me because I never could grasp the chopsticks concept and I tried to mimic them. Chinese buffets usually aren’t the first spot for Chinese foodies, who are usually more apt to know how to dangle two sticks between their fingers without spilling lo-mein all over their shirt. And in my local area, Chinese buffets are frequented by more middle-class and poorer people less likely to be masters of Chinese tradition than by yuppies who can afford to be Chinese epicureans. Regardless, I don’t see many people, fat or thin, at P.F. Chang’s or Shangai Mama’s using chopsticks, either.

8 ) Pick up a larger plate vs. a smaller one.

The smaller plate theory underpins much of Wansink’s entire food psychology mantra. Past studies of his have convincingly shown that people eat more when they use larger plates. Considering that many people are raised to be members of the Clean Plate Club, this makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the application of the theory within the context of Chinese buffets — where often only one plate size is available to all patrons — to suggest that fat people eat more than their thin counterparts. I’ve been to buffets that do offer smaller garden plates for fruits and salads, but these plates are often made of glass, which doesn’t retain heat as well as porcelain dinner plates and can be hot to the touch when plated with hot food. Soup bowls and teensy-sized dessert plates are usually available, but I don’t recall ever seeing anyone ever use a dessert plate in lieu of a dinner plate at any restaurant, least of all a buffet.

To his credit, Wansink does admit that he and his colleagues don’t know whether these so-called habits that encourage overeating exist independently of weight. Nonetheless, the assumption that these behaviors (or a lack thereof) are what made these 213 people fat (or thin) is presented as a statement of fact. He plans to release the full study findings in an upcoming issue of the journal Obesity.

I think Harriet put it best:

…every one of these stories underlines, subtly or overtly, our cultural attitudes and assumptions about fat people, and so leads to more fat prejudice and stereotyping.

And there’s already plenty of that to go around.

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 5th, 2008 at 2:20 pm and is filed under Class & Poverty, Fat Bias, New Research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 43 responses to “Yet another way we legitimize fat prejudice”

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  1. 1 On December 5th, 2008, Carrie said:

    I found this study (as well as the coverage) particularly disturbing.

    But if you look at things like the BMI Project on Flickr, you can’t always tell who’s “overweight” and who is “obese.” I guess if you went for the super extremes, then it would be visually obvious. But otherwise? How would the researchers know? And is it an accurate picture of a) the population as a whole, b) “overweight” and “obese” people as a whole, and c) how people eat in general? Also, with high food prices, it would almost make sense to overeat at a buffet if you were short of food/money.

    Sigh.

  2. 2 On December 5th, 2008, Rachel2 said:

    Aside from bordering on creepy and stalkerish by doing this without people’s consent, a gross error was made and not even mentioned by the genius behind the study: taking into account the viewer’s personal prejudices with fat people. In something like this, it would be very, very easy to fudge the actual findings. One extra bite here, one extra bite there. A larger plate instead of a smaller plate. “Oh, that fatty over there SURELY has chewed more times than their thin counterpart.”

    That’s about all I’ll say about this creepy, and grossly unaccommodating study.

  3. 3 On December 5th, 2008, buttercup said:

    This is absurd. Truly. Like people of size needed another reason to be paranoid about eating in public-now we need to worry about some pseudo-scientific wanker counting how many times we chew.

    And on the napkin? I can put a napkin on my lap six ways to tuesday and it won’t do a damn bit of good. my boobs or belly catch any wayward food long before the napkin would.

    Also, I do make a point of using chopsticks. I have a good pair that I carry in my bag in a case. I’m not kidding. In a pinch (a pinch, get it? chopsticks? pinch? HA) , I’ll use the restaurant ones but I much prefer my own. They’re a lot easier to use, for one thing.

  4. 4 On December 5th, 2008, Becky said:

    It is not possible to tell whether somebody is overweight, obese, or “normal” weight by looking. And say there were two people who looked kind of borderline. One of them eats slowly and leaves food on their plate. Another eats quickly and cleans their plate. Which one do you think the researchers would be more likely to classify as “overweight” and which as “normal”?

  5. 5 On December 5th, 2008, JM said:

    I noticed a glaring absence among the observations:

    “Fat people made XX more trips to the buffet than thin people.”

    Perhaps this information was in the full study and left out in subsequent summaries. Wouldn’t this be the best indicator (short of actually going up to the plates and staring at their contents) of how much people ate? why wasn’t it included?

    Maybe the spies didn’t take notice of the number of trips. Or — more likely — they didn’t actually find any real difference between the number of trips made by thin and fat people.

    So, without anything approaching objective data about how much food the thin and fat people ate (and perhaps with some actual observations that thin and fat people didn’t actually consume radically different quantities of food, which wouldn’t support his theory), Wansink was forced to rely on these (mostly ridiculous) other observations.

  6. 6 On December 5th, 2008, Halle said:

    This is ridiculous. You would have to know what else those patrons had eaten before the buffet and what they would eat after the buffet to take what was eaten at the buffet in proper context. When I know in advance I am going to eat at a buffet, I eat lightly all day before hand, and then I eat until I am full. Not STUFFED full, just not hungry and satisfied. That’s usually one or two plates max for me. Less if I eat soup. And usually I am fine for the rest of the day, except for maybe a coffee or a glass of wine before bed. I also know a tall skinny man who eats before he goes to a buffet with family, so that he will not embarass everyone by the amount of food he needs to eat to be happy. He is afraid that one day they will kick him out of an all you can eat buffet! He is not fat by anyone’s standards. Eating behavior doesn’t necessarily predict body size/shape or weight. I eat slow, chew my food well, take small bites and prefer small plates and small utensils. And I am FAT, FAT, FAT. Observations about where one puts one’s napkin while dining are ludicrous, insulting and invasive.

  7. 7 On December 5th, 2008, Twistie said:

    I also notice nothing about food choices or number of servings eaten in this article. Is it covered in the full study? After all, two servings of low-sauce veggies and rice are going to be very different from five of deep-fried anything, in terms of caloric intake. If a thin person eats more servings of something higher calorie, but leaves an extra few bites, does that mean (s)he ought to be fat but isn’t because they didn’t join the Clean Plate Club? Does taking one to two servings and clearing the plate really indicate a complete inability to control one’s food lust? There are about a million variables not being covered here that strongly impact the value of anything this study could potentially say.

    Oh, and I use chopsticks. I learned as a child. I’ve used them a hell of a lot more years than I haven’t used them. Mr. Twistie (whose mother was from Japan) doesn’t. Guess which one of us is actually heavier. That’s right, it’s the little Anglo lady. Once you get the hang of them, it makes next to no impact on the speed of food intake, too…unless you get faster with chopsticks.

    All in all, this is a gross invasion of privacy coupled with pseudo-scientific (or ‘scienteriffic’) reinforcement of popular prejudice.

    Shame on Mr. Wansink!

  8. 8 On December 5th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Perhaps this information was in the full study and left out in subsequent summaries.

    I looked for the full study, but it doesn’t appear as if Wansink has released it yet. Guess we’ll have to wait till its published in Obesity to see the full results and methodology used.

  9. 9 On December 5th, 2008, La di Da said:

    I can eat Chinese/Japanese/Korean/etc food faster with chopsticks than a fork. You basically pick up your little rice bowl (which has rice and a couple of bites of food from your dish) in your left hand, and quickly and neatly put the food in your mouth. Not the whole bowl at once, obviously. I was taught this and some other basic etiquette by a couple of friends of Chinese ancestry so as not to embarrass myself when eating out. :) So if one of those researchers had been observing me, they might have concluded “fatty holds bowl right next to mouth to shovel in the food”, when it’s simply different and appropriate table manners, and level of skill with the chopsticks. I think it’s also considered impolite to hover your chopsticks over a dish or poke around in the food, you should decide what you’re going to get from the serving dish and do it. Which might also be interpreted as wanting to get more food quickly. I don’t know how much this applies to suburban United States Chinese buffets, but unless you ask instead of secretly observing, you’ll never know.

  10. 10 On December 5th, 2008, twilightriver said:

    1) Were the people who were leaving fewer leftovers serving themselves as much food as people who left more leftovers? Perhaps they have more body awareness and serve themselves what they will actually eat. Perhaps they are not in denial about their hunger while thinner people may be leaving more food to show off their willpower.

    2) Is this an average? Does it take into accout what was being chewed? Were hunger levels and time constraints accounted for?

    3) Did they take the time to find out which people were regular customers already familiar with the lineup? Did they take into account how embarrassed/self concious people might be to be eating in public?

    These three points are no less biased or assumptive than any of the other points listed. I could easily skew the point in the opposite direction and assert that thinner people are more likely to be exhibiting dieting behavior and showing off their self control while in public regardless of their usual eating habiits. But that would biased and insane while everybody knows that fat people are fat because they don’t act like skinny people.

  11. 11 On December 5th, 2008, tara said:

    Isn’t it kindof silly that just saying “fat people tend to eat more than thin people” is considered fat hatred. I have no real problem with fat people but to say fat people, especially “supersize” ones, on average consume the same number of calories as thin people is laughable. Why does all od fat acceptance make such a big issue out of it?

  12. 12 On December 5th, 2008, Meowser said:

    Why make a big deal out of it? Because studies like this when presented in the media — with the invariable accompanying picture of a fat person shoveling in mouthfuls of food to gross everyone out — cost us jobs, cost us places in school, cost us friends, cost us lovers, cost us the ability to move about in public without getting harassed.

    No, in an ideal world there wouldn’t be any value judgments about having a lusty appetite. And my person opinion is that there should not be. But unfortunately, people do think “good” means “eating less” (particularly if the subject is female) and “bad” means “eating more,” and that fat people especially should always always ALWAYS be striving to eat less. Even at a goddamn buffet. (Do these assclowns ever stop to think that someone might try to get more bang for their buck at an AYCE meal if they don’t have a lot of money, and that fat people generally have less money than thin people?)

    And as you can see from this thread, and from Rachel’s own experiences that she’s detailed multiple times here, calorie counts among fat people, as with people of all sizes, vary drastically. There have been other social scientists who have said that often the very fattest people (again, women in particular) skip meals more frequently. It’s pretty much a “no duh” that you’re going to be ravenous at lunch if you skipped breakfast, or at breakfast if you skipped lunch.

  13. 13 On December 5th, 2008, Meowser said:

    Oops, last sentence should be:

    It’s pretty much a “no duh” that you’re going to be ravenous at lunch if you skipped breakfast, or at dinner if you skipped lunch.

  14. 14 On December 5th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Thanks, Meowser. You summed it up very nicely.

    The article isn’t just making a judgment call saying that fat people eat more than thin people; it’s also making sweeping associations about the ways in which they eat, thereby reinforcing the “fat slob” imagery that forms the underpinnings of much of the harassment fat people face.

  15. 15 On December 5th, 2008, Twistie said:

    Also the article is making these assumptions based on data that is – at absolute minimum – seriously flawed. Bad science should be exposed and exploded, whatever the question being studied or the results of said study.

  16. 16 On December 5th, 2008, Bronwyn said:

    Ugh.

    While I’ve no doubt they spent time “training” observers to avoid prejudice, I can’t help but wonder how much of that came into the findings; I need to see the mechanics of this study before I’m even going to come close to thinking this study has any weight (Pun NOT intended).

    I really admire the work Wansink is trying to do but, well, I’ve seen some of the stuff he says in interviews for the Cornell Daily Sun and it’s pretty obvious that he believes we need to be constantly vigilant with ourselves to prevent overeating; And maybe he’s right (since it’s a survival mechanism when food’s unavailable), but I much prefer the school of thought that learning to just eat enough is a better idea.

    Also, I think it is absurd to even point out the table vs. booth thing. For real. I still sit in booths though it’s harder on me, but at the chinese buffets that I go to, unless you specify, the hostess seats you at a table, period.

  17. 17 On December 5th, 2008, meerkat said:

    I use chopsticks all the time! Why am I still fat then?

  18. 18 On December 5th, 2008, Keechypeachy said:

    Hee hee, I’m short and fat and therefore when I sit on most chairs my thighs slope downward (and often my feet swing too!) and a napkin placed on my lap immediately begins a downward journey to the floor. I wonder if that is why I wouldn’t bother putting it on my lap, rather than it “keeping me away from the food”?

  19. 19 On December 5th, 2008, Miz H said:

    Listen, I swear I’m not saying this to be glib, but EVERY FREAKING TIME I read the researchers name as “Wankstain.” Shame on you, H.

  20. 20 On December 6th, 2008, Branwyn said:

    3) Begin serving themselves immediately instead of surveying the buffet.

    With anonymous observers, they have no clue how many people have visited that restaurant a few times, were ‘regulars’, and so knew where the food they like is usually kept.

    When I lived in North Carolina, there was an oriental buffet my husband and I would go to about once a month. It had all you can eat sushi (a plus for me) as well as other good stuff. I didn’t have to know where the salad, leeche fruit, sushi, green beans, beef and brocolli, or white rice was, because it was always in the same place. Occasionally, I would look at whatever else they had to see if I wanted something different, but usually I would just go to where I knew the things I wanted to eat were.

    Without asking any of the people they studied, how would they know?

  21. 21 On December 6th, 2008, Eucritta said:

    That the results of the study have been made public before the study itself is published is, in itself, suspect — since it means we cannot evaluate the actual data and metholodogy used, nor can we run our own statistical tests to double-check the conclusion.

    That it’s also common practice doesn’t make it acceptable. Like, spitting on the sidewalk is pretty common too.

  22. 22 On December 6th, 2008, B13 said:

    This study creeps out and cracks me up at the same. I am FAT woman who eats with chopsticks, puts her napkin on her lap, likes small plates and utensils, and always surveys the buffet before choosing what to eat first. I also tend to leave food on my plate at buffets because my eyes tend to be big than my tummy. Shouldn’t I be skinny then???

  23. 23 On December 6th, 2008, Rachel2 said:

    I should be skinny, too, B13. I’ve often been made fun of by my husband and friends for “eating like a bird.” Yet, I’m still fat! LOL. That cracks me up.

  24. 24 On December 6th, 2008, Sarah said:

    The poster known as “Tara” is a rabid troll. Ignore her.

  25. 25 On December 7th, 2008, Christine said:

    I think it’s probably a little unfair to call Wansink’s latest research borderline absurd. The journalist is totally putting a spin on Wansink’s research, in my opinion – her intro. paragraph brings to mind, as Meowser described, very obese people gorging themselves brutishly and mindlessly on orange chicken!

    It seems like Wansink was merely conducting an epidemiological study on food behaviors to try to find a new behavior to examine and research more. As he notes, things that reduce the convenience of eating are huge biases, and his trained observers were only noting food behaviors. This probably answers why he wasn’t looking at food choices, or amount of food eaten – he is focused on behavior.

    And even if his research did find that, of the heavier patrons observed, the heavier ones did engage in this “fat slob” behavior, it seems like he’s enough of a critical thinker to examine why it is that people engage in these behaviors (e.g., as Rachel points out, sitting in a table vs. at the booth because it will accommodate their bodies better).

    I guess, to sum things up, I just don’t really see anything wrong with the design of the study; I see it as an epidemiological study to see if the “fat slob” behavior that we associate with fat people is actually supported, statistically. And, if so, I’m sure Wansink would want to look into this more – as he questions, is there a causal relationship between these behaviors and weight?

    A study like this would probably never make it into one of Wansink’s books. It is premature, and every one of those “factors” he noted probably deserves more research. Personally, I think that these stories really give research and science. Wansink did a study, but this journalist wrote about it in a way that reinforced “fat slob” imagery – she seemed to see what she wanted from the study, and write just that.

    Reading a lot of these comments, I feel as though there’s generally a very negative view of these studies here. Speaking from personal experience as someone that has worked in a research lab (@ UC Berkeley, nonetheless) and studies statistics, I just think there’s too much blame attributed to the scientists, not enough to the journalists. Chances are, Wansink’s under a lot of pressure to be prolific and publish a million studies. Chances are, LIVESCIENCE needed some new. So some hardly-worth-writing-about study makes it to their pages and suddenly something like observing heavier patrons to see if their eating behaviors differed from thinner patrons becomes “do u use a large plate? do u put ur napkin around ur neck? do u like to face ur buffet? LOL UR PROLLY A FATTY”

  26. 26 On December 7th, 2008, Christine said:

    “I think that these stories really give research and science a bad name.”

    Oh man, sorry that was so long!!! I didn’t mean to rant :(

  27. 27 On December 7th, 2008, Christine said:

    I’m going to echo what many others have said – tables are easier for large people, napkin in lap useless because of large boobs, go to places I already know so no need to survey before eating, etc. I’d also like to add a new point of view to the “face the buffet” issue: I sit facing a buffet because, although my daughter is old enough to serve herself without me, I want to be able to keep an eye on her (especially if the place is large and/or crowded). How many of the people spied upon had children with them, I wonder? Lastly, even though it in the “study” I’d like to address number of trips to the buffet. I don’t like my foods touching. I want everything to stay separate and distinct on my plate. That limits the amount of food I can put on my plate at one time – usually 1 – 2 tablespoon-sized servings of 5 – 6 different dishes, tops. Now when someone watches me at a buffet (and we all know that fatties are scrutinized at buffets – there doesn’t need to be a “study” going on), I wonder if they notice that my plate isn’t piled high with food, or they only count the number of trips I make.

  28. 28 On December 7th, 2008, withoutscene said:

    I feel like using non-participant* observation as your primary and only method is rare because there is little reliability…and the only way to increase reliability would be to have multiple observers of the same people. And at buffets, especially when busy, I can’t imagine it would be easy to make accurate or reliable observations on total about people’s behaviors. In addition, Chinese buffets are a VERY specific eating environment. And IF you were going to base your study on completely on these sorts of removed observations, especially given the population, you might want to SERIOUSLY account for bias…given the data on anti-fat bias.

    This seems like a deeply-flawed, shock-value study.

  29. 29 On December 7th, 2008, withoutscene said:

    *Perhaps they were “participating” in eating at the buffet, but it was certainly still a removed observation. It’s not like they were interacting with all of the people or perhaps anyone.

  30. 30 On December 8th, 2008, mary said:

    Unlike Christine, I have no sympathy for the “scientist” in this situation. First of all, Wansink is not a scientist. His PhD is in marketing (http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/about.htm). Second, he *chose* to give LiveScience an interview about his research before it was published, and you can tell from his quotes that he’s biased against fat people. And third, so what if he’s under pressure to publish — all academics are. That doesn’t give him license to come out with crap like this. I don’t think the funding agencies will be more impressed with Wansink’s “publications” because of this fluff piece in LiveScience anyway.

    It hardly matters if the actual paper turns out to be more nuanced than what’s represented in this article; the damage is already done. I don’t need to see any more about the methodology to know that you have to be a LOT more careful in designing and implementing your study if you’re going to get any meaningful answers to the (ignorant, inflammatory) questions that this study is asking.

  31. 31 On December 8th, 2008, Anita said:

    It’s interesting – I’m actually pretty good with chopsticks, but I use a fork at a buffet, because there’s often weird items there. I go to cheap buffets, and there’s often flan-type dessert, pork chops, salad, and other things difficult to manuever with chopsticks alone. Also, most places have the chopsticks sort of hidden, so you have to look for/ask for them. And I eat more because I usually skip the meal before or after (because it’s a buffet, damnit!)

    And yes, I am feeling suddenly fat and defensive.

  32. 32 On December 8th, 2008, Rachel said:

    FYI: Barry over at Amptoons got a copy of the study from its co-author (not Wansink). I’ll upload it and make it available as soon as he sends it to me.

  33. 33 On December 8th, 2008, spacedcowgirl said:

    Becky, JM, Halle, and Branwyn–you guys are all so smart. There are so many issues here contributing to bias and possible inaccuracy (and results just not meaning what the researchers would think they mean, or really anything at all) that I couldn’t possibly come up with them all. Thanks for raising these questions, Rachel.

  34. 34 On December 9th, 2008, Meowser’s Chinese Buffet Experience « fat fu said:

    [...] know what the very ouchiest, bleckiest thing is about that doucheparade “study” we all heard about last week regarding fat slobs, er, patrons at Chinese buffets? You want to know [...]

  35. 35 On December 9th, 2008, Godless Heathen said:

    According to Wansink, chopsticks mean less food per bite and more effort to pick up food.

    There’s a guy who has never seen me hoover up a plate of yakisoba. Once you get good with chopsticks, they’re really no different than any other utensil, and if you’re a fast eater, you can do some serious damage with them in a short time. Most buffets in my area don’t offer them anyway, it’s easier to keep costs down if you only offer re-usable utensils.

  36. 36 On December 9th, 2008, Christine said:

    I read Mary’s comments and thought, “Hey, where did I express sympathy for this guy?” Then I saw I wasn’t the only Christine to comment. So let me make it clear – I’m an entirely different Christine and I think the guy’s a douche.

  37. 37 On December 9th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Okay, I’ve uploaded the full study if anyone is interested. Click here to download the 163k PDF file.

  38. 38 On December 9th, 2008, Rachel2 said:

    Tara: ” Isn’t it kind of silly that just saying “fat people tend to eat more than thin people” is considered fat hatred. I have no real problem with fat people but to say fat people, especially “supersize” ones, on average consume the same number of calories as thin people is laughable. Why does all od fat acceptance make such a big issue out of it?”

    BECAUSE IT’S NOT FUCKING TRUE IN A LOT OF CASES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I eat WAAAAY less than my thinner counterparts. I’m still fat. All od fat acceptance people make a big issue out of it BECAUSE THERE ARE MANY INSTANCES TO WHERE IT’S NOT TRUE.

    Anyways. I will keep “tara” on my “ignore post” list and move on from here.

    Back to the original issue:

    It’s creepy to watch people without their permission. It’s also inherently easy and dirt simple to fudge the results in lieu of personal bias. I’m already self-conscious enough, I don’t need to worry about some self-indulgent wanker watching me while I eat in public. A lot of us are indeed in my same situation: on the fence, or utterly up in arms about their own body acceptance.

    Thanks for the full study, Rachel.

  39. 39 On December 9th, 2008, Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » It’s SCIENCE, Dammit! (Peering At Fat People’s Plates In Chinese Buffets) said:

    [...] Rachel and Meowser, I learned of a study, “Eating Behavior and Obesity at Chinese Buffets,” [...]

  40. 40 On December 9th, 2008, Lume said:

    213 total? Isn’t that an awfully small sample size for something like this? I’m seriously dubious about the methodology of this thing, to the extent where I’m trying to come up with a better-designed experiment in my head.

  41. 41 On December 25th, 2008, Dezi said:

    I think the biggest flaw in this study is that it was conducted at an “all you can eat” establishment.

    Wouldn’t it be really easy to find people who are overeating here? Fat or thin?

    How about finding the fat or obese people who are not piling their plates elsewhere?

    This study is skewed toward stereotype from the get go.

    Bad. Bad research.

  42. 42 On February 18th, 2009, The (Kill)Joy of Cooking » The-F-Word.org said:

    [...] are some very obvious problems with Wansink’s study, just as there were with his last study.  I plan to go more in depth on these issues in another post when I have the time to be more [...]

  43. 43 On February 20th, 2009, City Mouse said:

    Interesting…now, I haven’t been to a Chinese buffet (or any buffet…I find them a bit gross) in about 3 years, but let’s see here.

    I use chopsticks. I use whatever temperature-appropriate plate is offered. I always scope out the buffet before deciding on whether to order off the menu instead. I often leave food on the plate. I -always- sit in booths, I prefer a window seat, and my napkin is always in my lap.

    I must be thin!!!

    Hmm.. well, nope. Went and checked and I’m still 200 lbs at 5’3″. Ah well.

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