Cornell researchers have an important piece of advice for buffet patrons: “Calm down when eating with the opposite sex.” After spending two weeks watching 105 adults have lunch at an all-you-can-eat Italian buffet, the authors of a new study found that men who dined with at least one woman ate nearly twice as much pizza as men who ate with other men.
The researchers conclude that the men were trying to impress their female company by proving their ability to slay calories by the slice and pack pounds of pepperoni into their big manly guts. These male diners were so frazzled by the women at their tables that they defied their gender’s fear of vegetables and ate 86 percent more salad than their peers at men-only tables, too.
In this study, women’s eating habits didn’t change based on the gender of their company. But in post-lunch surveys, women who ate with men were more likely to report that they’d overeaten and felt rushed. That finding aligns with a paper published by South Korea’s Semyung University earlier this year, which reported that men in the study took bigger bites and employed more “chewing power” than women, while women chewed each mouthful more times than men.
The Cornell study points to the prevalence of men in competitive eating events as evidence that men see overconsumption as an indicator of their masculine competence. But there could be less obvious factors. Maybe the men at the Italian buffet were so exhausted by eating with women who “talk too much” that they had to shovel in more calories to keep up. Or maybe they were following the lead of a recent investigation from researchers in Scotland and the Czech Republic. Women in that study attested that sweaty armpit pads worn by men who’d eaten garlic smelled more attractive than pads from sweaty guys who’d eschewed the fragrant bulb. You know what they say: The bigger the Italian buffet, the smellier the garlicky armpits.