Being sensitive to others’ needs and worrying about hurting those around you may lead to social snacking and over-eating, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. The researchers from Case Western Reserve University explain that people who are bothered when others feel uncomfortable tend to snack when others snack, as a mean to easing tension. While many factors influence eating behavior—such as hunger levels and portion size—social factors can have a large impact.

In the study, 101 college students (41 men and 60 women) were first assessed for people-pleasing characteristics through a questionnaire.  After being surveyed, the students were left alone, each paired up with an actress pretending to be another participant. The actresses were directed to take a handful of candy from a bowl and then offer it to the participants. The study found that the participants who ranked the highest for people-pleasing traits took more candy than the others.  The study authors explain that this behavior is caused by the intense pressure that people-pleasers feel to accept food offerings.  Even if they don’t want to, these types will often eat more in an attempt to match what others around them are eating. They don’t want to upset the sense of social harmony. The cost of this behavior, according to the study, is that they tend to regret their choices later.  It doesn’t feel good to give in to social pressure at the cost of one’s waistline.   The authors concluded that almost everyone has been in a situation where they feel pressured to eat, however people-pleasers appear to be especially sensitive to it.

Research has demonstrated that there are many contributors to weight gain and obesity–including certain personality traits. Weight loss surgery can be an effective treatment for obesity and has been shown to resolve many weight-related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and sleep apnea.