Top 5 reasons you over eat at restaurants

Wonder why we tend to overeat in restaurants? It is just not the good food or the amiable company alone, but perhaps the ambience as well. Even when we are on an office lunch out, some how more food than needed is eaten unknowingly. Why does this happen?

Fine dining places to fast food joints do up their decor to encourage eating. When we walk into a new restaurant the first thing we notice and comment on, is its ambience – the interiors, the colour, lighting and music.

The following are the 5 top reasons why you over eat at restaurants and how to counter them.

Music: This is a powerful medium. Just as it has therapeutic effects on health, it is proven that the tempo of music influences eating. In places like fast food joints where the music is loud and fast, people tend to eat more bites per minute and chew hurriedly and therefore consume more amount of food. In smaller joints where they have the TV on, you are totally taken in by the distractions that you have no count of what you ordered or ate up. Avoid such places or if you are in one, then take a deep breath, mentally block out the surroundings and be aware of your eating.

Dealing with stress induced overeating

Slow music on the other hand makes you slow down on your eating and thus gives you the fullness feeling. It could perhaps be that slow and mellow music tones relax you and make you want to enjoy the ambience. Researches show you stay longer in such restaurants but eat less. When you are in such a restaurant, relax and take your time to check the menu for the healthiest options. Self awareness is easier here.

Some studies done at the John Hopkins School of Medicine shows that lively fast music made people eat faster (5 forkfuls a minute), finish their food in about 30 minutes and ask for seconds.

Bright colours: Warm colours especially red, yellow and orange motivate people to eat more. Probably this is why most fast food joints have these colours in some sort in their décor. Even eating from red plates makes you want to eat more.

Dim lights: Make you unaware of how much you eat. We all eat visually. We serve our estimated quantities on our plate by sight. When we cannot gauge the exact amount we will overeat. So avoid such places.

The large variety: When there is a variety to choose from, there is always over ordering and over eating. You may want to order more than one main dish and side dishes and finish it with dessert which you may not otherwise have eaten where you at home. This is why we eat 3 or 4 times more than our capacity at buffets. How can you do justice to the buffet spread if you did not try all the displayed food? We tell ourselves this and pile up on our plates and end up a glutton. Buffets are not for those who are weight conscious or want to lose weight. If you are invited for a buffet, stick to the salads. Or take one item each from the appetizer, main dish, side dish and lots of salads.

Attitude: The final and most important reason is your attitude towards the eating out factor.

Amidst all the fun talk and enjoyment of the company, be aware of what you order and how much you eat. Stick to it.

The menu was not created by the restaurant for you to eat everything at one visit. The variety is meant to suit the tastes of the other thousands who also visit the eatery. Eat slowly to relish the taste. Talk. Don’t just keep eating. Wait a while or order a coffee before you ask for the dessert. Most likely you may not want one.

Parvathy R Krishnan

The author is a trained Nutrition & Dietetics expert with over 20 years’ of experience in hospitals like Vijaya Hospital in Chennai and the Armed Forces Hospital and New Mowasat Hospitals in Kuwait. She is presently a member of the Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Parvathy blogs at

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