Is your waiter making you fat?

Before I launch into this next topic, let me say up front that I hate for any group of people to be discriminated against. And I don’t mean to offend anyone, especially underpaid and overworked waiters. But my ultimate goal is to help you look out for No. 1 — meaning you. And if that means ruffling a few feathers from time to time…well, so be it.

You see, a recent study published in the journal Environment & Behaviour has found that the size of your waiter or waitress can derail even the most committed healthy eaters when dining out.

Specifically, when wait staff have BMIs over 25, diners order dessert four times more often, and order 17 percent more alcoholic drinks. Of course, this isn’t the first behavioral study that has shown external influences cause us to make poor choices when it comes to food.

In fact, the size of your waiter is just the most recent factor researchers have discovered contributes to the choices you make when you eat out. The noise level, lighting, music, and even where you are seated in the restaurant have all been shown to bias what you order. Even if you are thin and follow a healthy diet. In fact, according to these studies, the skinnier you are, the more likely you are to cave.

Granted, you can’t control certain things, like the size of your waiter. But you can follow these rules-of-thumb when dining out:

  • When you make dinner plans with friends, ask if you can pick the restaurant — and choose somewhere you know has healthy options.
  • If available, look at the menu on-line and choose what you’re going to order beforehand. Single out dishes that have fish, lean meats, and tons of veggies. This way you’ll reduce the temptation to splurge when you arrive.
  • Don’t go to a restaurant on an empty stomach. You much more likely to make unhealthy choices if you are famished. So drink a glass of water and eat a handful of nuts before you go.

And when your waiter (no matter what their size) asks if you would like to see the dessert menu, very politely say “No thank you — just the check, please.”