It can be difficult to resist the urge to pig out, especially when there is a lot of delicious food on the table. It’s no surprise that all thoughts of dieting immediately fly out the window. But why are we really so weak-kneed when faced with a feast? Researchers behind the study published in the journal Eating Behaviors think they might have found the reason why.

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In the study, 20 college students were served buffet-style meals three times a week for two weeks. They were then randomly served three different types of meals. The first meal was composed of an entrée and two side dishes (chicken, a vegetable, and rice or potatoes), the second was a low-carbohydrate meal (chicken and a vegetable only), and the third was completely vegetarian (a vegetable and a carbohydrate). Results? Those who had more options consumed more in terms of quantity and calories than those who were only given the the low-carbohydrate meal and the vegetarian meal.

In another experiment, researchers served the participants the same meals individually or through stir-fry options. Based on the results, it appeared that they were more likely to increase consumption when the foods were served separately than as a composite meal.

Aside from giving us additional insight into eating behavior, the study also gives an interesting reason for the success of low-carb diets. When options are limited, people are less inclined to eat more. The same goes for vegetarian diets. Now, while it seems natural to want to eat more at the sight of more food, it's still ultimately a matter of discipline. If you're absolutely determined stick to your diet and practice sufficient self-control, then the amount of food on the table won't matter.

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(Photo by eugene via Flickr Creative Commons)

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