Surprise? Women eat more when they're around other women

The next time you order a side salad for dinner or are three helpings deep into a basket of cheese fries, take a look around the table and see who is sitting with you. A new study finds that your company could determine how many calories you consume.

What does this mean for women? Researchers say that their study of college-aged people at lunch and dinner meal times revealed that women eat more when they are with other women, less when they are dining with men.

Men, they found, do the opposite, eating more when they are around women than they do while sitting at a single-sex table.

The study's lead author is Indiana University of Pennsylvania grad student Molly Allen-O'Donnell, who suspects that food is a big influencer in how we form opinions of one another. In the instance of this research, she suggests that the white, college-aged women she observed ate less in order to appear more feminine while their male counterparts ate more to boost the perception of their masculinity.

Experts weighed in on the findings, noting that women may also feel more relaxed among other women, particularly when it is meal time, and that females are highly attuned to be judged by how much food they consume.

The study's limited scope -- observation of primarily white students in the Midwest with college education -- is important to note. Social dynamics, limited food choices in a cafeteria, age, race, socioeconomic status and many other factors that we all know play into our eating behaviors certainly could sway the findings here.

But still...isn't it fascinating to think about how this research could apply to what's going down at your own dining room table?

While my girlfriends and I have certainly had many deep dives into chips and guacamole, I've noticed that we almost always quantify eating a lot with some kind of comment like, "I haven't eaten all day!" or "I can't stop myself from eating these chips! I never do that." Even if none of us care how much any of us eats (and I am quite sure we don't), it seems like the socialization to explain the chowing down (rather than just enjoying it) has a tight grip on us all.

Despite the lady-rationale, I recognize that this study applies to me. If there are leftovers on my plate, you can bet my boyfriend's sitting next to me.

So is this all big, no-duh science or is there more to discuss here about the different dynamics of eating around men and women?

Are you more likely to consume a lot of calories around your women-friends or men?

Does it have anything to do with being relaxed or judged? Or is there some other reason you're more comfortable digging in when you're with one gender over another?

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