Fitting in is Proving More Costly on Health

Immigrants feel the need to fit in by eating more American dishes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Everyone has felt the need to fit in at least once. Whether it be in school, at work, or even just in life. Fitting in to something is just a part of life.

Researchers suggest that because of the need to fit in, immigrants are seeking unhealthier food choices, specifically typical American dishes. Could this be true?

Asian-Americans that were told, "You have to be an American to be in the study," chose American dishes. Threatened participants ended up consuming extra 182 calories, 12 grams of fat, and seven grams of saturated fat.

"Don't worry about fitting in, eat what's good for you."

Sapna Cheryan from the University of Washington surveyed Asian-American and white college students to determine their thoughts on fitting in and how exactly the thoughts affected eating habits.

More than half of participants remembered some traumatic childhood memory that was related to food insecurities around white peers, while a little more than a quarter of white respondents remembered an embarrassing childhood memory.

With this in mind, researchers threatened the American identity in some students to see if it would affect food choices. The majority of Asian-Americans that participated wrote a typical American dish as a favorite while only 25 percent that were not threatened wrote an American dish as a favorite.

To take it to another level, the participants were asked to choose a dish. Some students were told "you must be an American to participate in this study". More students that were threatened ended up choosing American dishes such as hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

The Study

  • Surveys administered to Asian-American and white college students to assess what they thought about food
  • Follow up administered to 55 Asian-Americans and whites assessed eating habits
  • 75 percent Asian-Americans mentioned typical American food as favorite when asked if they speak English; 25 percent Asian-Americans mentioned typical American food as favorite without being asked if they speak English
  • Immigrants feel the need to fit in by food choices, that can be worse for their health
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Review Date: 
May 5, 2011
Last Updated:
May 6, 2011