You know already that watching your calorie intake and using smaller plates can help you slim down. But new research from the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University found that’s it not just what you’re eating that matters—where you’re eating, how long you spend eating, and what you talk about during your meal can help you lose weight, too.
Researchers analyzed the family dinner rituals and BMIs of 190 parents, average age 41, and children. And they found tons of interesting info! First, parents who dined with their kids around a kitchen or dining room table weighed significantly less than those who chowed down in front of the TV. Next, parents who remained at the table until everyone finished eating weighed less than those who got up sooner. And finally, adults who reported “talking meaningfully about their day” at dinner weighed less than those who didn’t connect with others over conversation.
So what’s the mealtime moral? Although this study was just correlational—it didn’t prove cause and effect—it does suggest that dinner routines matter. Eating around a table, talking about interesting stuff while you’re at said table, and not rushing through the meal may all help you maintain a healthy weight. Why? “Such behaviors may be related to less distracted eating,” the researchers write in the study. “They also may be associated with stronger or more positive feelings toward others that may supplant a tendency to overeat.” Translation: Spending quality time at dinner with the people you love (family, friends, your S.O., whomever) may help you eat less because you feel the love—and are therefore less likely to seek out comfort from other sources, like that humongo bowl of mac and cheese.
*This story was originally published on WomensHealth.com.