Straight Men May 'Show Off' In Front Of Women By Eating A Lot

New research dives into a not-so-charming mating tactic.
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Academic studies can be fascinating... and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background

Men have been found to engage in some arguably misguided behaviors, like showing off their wealth or eating incredibly spicy foods, to prove their masculinity and/or woo women. (Pro tip for dudes: Try not being such a showy schmuck.) Of course, straight women have also been found to alter the way they act when a guy is present. One thing researchers have found is that some women tend to "eat lightly" in front of men to appear more feminine. But do heterosexual men alter the amount of food they eat in front of the opposite sex?

The short answer is probably. A new study out of Cornell University delves into the how and the why.

The Setup

The study was conducted during lunch hours at an Italian restaurant where customers purchased meals at the "all you can eat" pizza and salad buffet. Researchers looked at 105 customers whose ages ranged from 18 to 81. Sixty of them were men. To calculate food intake, the researchers marked down how much pizza and salad customers took at the buffet, and then subtracted anything that was left on their plates when they left. They also marked down if customers were seated with at least one member of the opposite sex.

The Findings

Men who ate with women consumed significantly more food -- 93 percent more pizza and 86 percent more salad -- than men who only ate with men. Women's food intake, on the other hand, wasn't significantly affected by the sex of their eating companions.

The Takeaway

The researchers offer up an evolutionary explanation for their findings: "Eating heavily" is a man's way of "showing off" in front of potential mates. Keep in mind that the study's sample was pretty small, and the researchers didn't know the context of these lunches -- they could've been anything from dates to work meetings to meals among family members. Plus, it's unclear whether or not all of the men studied were even heterosexual.

What these findings seem to suggest is that men are simply more likely to overeat when they eat with women, for whatever reason.

If the researchers' interpretation is right, though, we're not really sure how dudes got it in their heads that women are turned on by men gorging themselves on pizza. As the perennially unimpressed Cher Horowitz would say: "And, like, we're expected to swoon?"

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