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Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate whether the eating behaviors of people at all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets differs depending upon their body mass. The resulting findings could confirm or disconfirm previous laboratory research that has been criticized for being artificial.

Methods and Procedures: Trained observers recorded the height, weight, sex, age, and behavior of 213 patrons at Chinese all-you-can-eat restaurants. Various seating, serving, and eating behaviors were then compared across BMI levels.

Results: Patrons with higher levels of BMI were more likely to be associated with using larger plates vs. smaller plates (OR 1.16, P < 0.01) and facing the buffet vs. side or back (OR 1.10, P < 0.001). Patrons with higher levels of BMI were less likely to be associated with using chopsticks vs. forks (OR 0.90,P < 0.05), browsing the buffet before eating vs. serving themselves immediately (OR 0.92, P < 0.001), and having a napkin on their lap vs. not having a napkin on their lap (OR 0.92, P < 0.01). Patrons with lower BMIs left more food on their plates (10.6% vs. 6.0%, P < 0.05) and chewed more per bite of food (14.8 vs. 11.9, P < 0.001).

Discussion: These observational findings of real-world behavior provide support for laboratory studies that have otherwise been dismissed as artificial.