THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Seeing overweight people can
cause you to choose unhealthy foods and to eat more of them unless
you consciously focus on your health goals, according to new
In one experiment, people walking through a lobby were asked to
take part in a quick survey that included photos of an overweight
person, a normal-weight person, or a lamp. As thanks for completing
the survey, the participants were told to help themselves to a bowl
Those who saw the photo of an overweight person took more
candies than those who saw the other two photos, the investigators
The study was recently published online in the
Journal of Consumer Research.
In another experiment, people invited to participate in a cookie
taste test ate twice as many cookies or candies after seeing
someone who was overweight. This occurred even in people who wanted
to maintain a healthy weight and knew that cookies and candy can
lead to weight problems.
"Seeing someone overweight leads to a temporary decrease in a person's own felt commitment to his or her health goal," study authors Margaret C. Campbell, of Leeds School of Business, and Gina S. Mohr, of the University of Colorado in Boulder, explained in a journal news release.
However, the researchers found that two main factors helped
people resist overeating when they saw overweight people: thinking
about their health goals and being reminded of the link between
unhealthy eating and gaining weight.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how
prevent weight gain.