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'Fatting in': Immigrant groups eat high-calorie American meals to fit in
Date:5/3/2011

t percent of the Asian-American respondents recalled food-related insecurities around white peers while growing up, like awkwardness about using chopsticks and the custom of eating all parts of the animal chicken feet, fish eyes and pork head. Only 27 percent of white respondents remembered embarrassing food practices from childhood.

Then, the researchers measured whether the threat of not being identified as American had an influence on food preferences. To trigger this threat, a white experimenter asked half of the participants, "Do you speak English?" before beginning the experiment. Then the 53 participants all English-speakers and a mix of whites and Asian-Americans wrote down their favorite foods.

Inquiring about English skills prompted 75 percent of Asian-Americans to mention a typical American food as their favorite compared with 25 percent of Asian-Americans who had not been asked if they spoke English. White participants' lists of favorite foods did not differ whether the experimenter asked if they spoke English or not.

Actual eating habits were affected, too. In a follow-up study, 55 Asian-Americans were asked to select a dish to eat from local Asian and American restaurants. Before making this selection, researchers told some participants: "Actually, you have to be an American to be in this study," as a way of threatening the participants' American identity.

The participants whose American identity was threatened chose more American dishes, such as hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches, than Asian-American participants who were not asked if they were American. Because the sampled American dishes tended to be fattier, threatened participants ended up consuming an extra 182 calories, 12 grams of fat and seven grams of saturated fat roughly equivalent to a four-piece order of McDonald's chicken nuggets than participants who were not asked if they were American.

The root of the problem is social pressure
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Contact: Molly McElroy
mollywmc@uw.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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