Does seeing fat people cause overeating?

Eating disorders are more common in women, but men suffer too. Studies suggest that about 2 percent of American men have binge eating disorder, as compared to 3 percent to 5 percent of women. Roughly one in five eating disorders of any kind are diagnosed in men. istockphoto

Junk Food Slob
Seeing overweight people eat might lead to this
istockphoto

(CBS) Why is it so hard to lose weight? People offer up all sorts of explanations, from  being unable to resist the temptation of fatty food to being too busy to work out. But a new study seems to suggest a rather surprising cause:

Simply looking at fat people.

For the study - published in the Journal of Consumer Research - University of Colorado researchers offered candy to people who had been shown one of three pictures - a fat person, a normal-weight person, or a lamp. The researchers found that those who had seen the picture of the fat person took more candy than those who had seen either of the other photos.

In a similar study involving cookies, the same researchers found that people ate twice as many cookies after seeing a picture of an overweight person. And a 2007 Harvard study found that having obese friends tends to make people fat, NPR reported.

Not that it's so easy to find normal-weight friends these days - with recent research showing that roughly one-third of Americans are obese.

Why would seeing someone who's eaten a lot make people want to eat more?

"Seeing someone overweight leads to a temporary decrease in a person's own felt commitment to his or her health goal," the researchers said in a written statement released by the journal.

Does this mean people looking to lose weight should avert their eyes whenever a fat person passes by?

"That's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard," Peggy Howell, of the National Association for the Acceptance of Fat People, told CBS News. "If we look at anorexic people, do we eat less?"

Maybe time for another study?

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