The Pleasure of (Over)Eating: Probing the Anatomy of an Eat-All-You-Can Enthusiast

An eat-all-you-can buffet. (Photo taken from

The restaurant’s “eat-all-you-can”[1] trend gained much prominence now as it has been before.  The “eat-all-you-can” restaurants provided an avenue for persons who seek comfort and pleasure in food consumption. Excessive indulgence in eating created unique behavioral and attitudinal patterns which sprang from the need to consume food as much as one can, freeing one’s self from limitations. The inherent desire of a person to be freed from any types of restriction could be shown by the popularity of the “eat-all-you-can” trend all over the globe. Overconsumption was regarded as a mode of lifestyle which begets affirmative and reverse consequences alike. As market strategy, the “eat-all-you-can” concept, no doubt, won a heartfelt support from food lovers and loyal patrons who make such industry a boon for many restaurants.



Several restaurants and fast foods nowadays offer the eat-all-you-can promo at a fixed and reasonable price. Many people are encouraged to eat in this eat-all-you-can buffet because of the variety of food one can eat.

In an all-you-can-eat buffet, there is a variety of food, the quantity is great but the quality is low. Most often, the food served are those that make people thirsty because in these restaurants and fast foods, only the food is unlimited but the drinks are not. With this, they make more profits through the drinks. Also, in an all-you-can eat-buffet, the principle of diminishing marginal utility applies. As you consume more of the food, your desire over the food lessen until you do not want it anymore. But all-you-can-eat enthusiasts tend to consume more as compared to their capacity because of their desire to maximize the price of the buffet and to make their money worth.

The food serving in all-you-can-eat buffet is unlimited but the capacity of a person’s stomach is the one which sets the limitation. People are deceived by the thought that with this all-you-can-eat buffet you can have anything you want, you can eat anything you want but the fact is there is really a limitation and that is the capacity of a person’s appetite to take in all the food. If you are already full, you cannot share what you have purchased with others unless they also pay the same kind of promo.

The saddest reality regarding this all-you-can-eat phenomenon is not everyone can afford to enjoy or purchase this. Only the well-off and the wealthy are capable of having this. Those who have less in life can’t afford this one-person meal especially that it can’t be shared to others.



The emergence of the “eat-all-you-can” concept became controversial in the realm of religion. Several religious denominations viewed this popular trend as negative. Dean Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary emphasized the validity of one’s self-control in a person’s appetite which serves as a reminder that our stomachs are means to an end, to our service to Christ. In the perspective of religion, this warrants the fact that we, as creatures, are dependent on provision and the food reminds us of such condition. This reminds us of Adam and Eve’s downfall, when the serpent utilized words to turn Eve toward her autonomous digestive tract, thus eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of the Good and Evil.

All the more, the “eat-all-you-can” restaurants have boggled church ministers and religious denominational heads because of the association being entailed to the aforesaid industry. Gluttony has been exemplified by eating as much as a person can. In his De Civitate Dei (The City of God), St. Augustine has mentioned about the peace of the soul which can be achieved through “a harmonious response of the appetites.” Excessive food consumption does not exhibit such harmony since this, more often than not, results to obesity and other health disorders.

In this world where fasting is still deemed sacred and an essential part in the lives of some religious people, eating-all-you-can creates a speck of irony which would, eventually, lead to some other dissonances pertaining to this all-new trend.



 Brian Wansink, a behavioral scientist at Cornell University, tackled the popularity of the “eat-all-you-can” industry. He posits that eating-all-you-can stems from one’s psychological make-up. Alongside the need to consume food beyond limitation, Wansink argued that a person’s psychological upbringing has something to do regarding this. The “eat-all-you-can” buffet is an instantiation of the Darwinian mechanism of food hoarding/gorging that is found across numerous species (including humans), thus explaining its popularity. The prevalence of affordable, accessible food produced in large portions made such behavior more inevitable for human beings.

Overeating became a routine of some because of the pleasure being elicited by the mere act of eating minus restrictions. It is for this reason that eating-all-you-can entails a lot of preparation and planning. The impulsion to eat tons of food stuff must be balanced by one’s plan of action to fully maximize the consumption. In a buffet, three categories of behavior must be taken into salient consideration.

(1)  Serving Behavior. This includes browsing versus serving one’s self immediately and whether a large or small plate must be utilized.

(2)  Seating Behavior. This includes whether one sat at a booth or a table, and whether one faced the food or had the other side back to it; and

(3)  Eating Behavior. This includes the use of utensils (chopsticks vs. spoon/fork), whether a napkin was placed on one’s lap or not, the average number of chews per bite of food, and the percentage of leftovers that were uneaten on the served plate.

In maximizing food consumption in all-you-can-eat restaurants, it is advised that one should eat a lighter meal prior to “eating-all-you-can,” or intake an appetizer or any delicacy that will rouse one’s digestive tract to eat more. Some persons, on the other note, do not at all eat before going to such restaurants in the attempt to suffice the hunger and enliven the desire to eat sumptuously. Moreover, it is said that one must begin serving themselves immediately instead of surveying the buffet. This will aid the likeliness of excitement to consume food stuff which is unseen by the eye. Large plates must be utilized since smaller plates would tend to indicate less food. Spoon and fork rather than chopsticks must be used in order to shovel food in a relatively larger amount. One must face the buffet table rather than eating at a booth where the food accessibility is much more far-fetched than sitting at a buffet table. The mere sight of multifarious treats, Wansink asserted, stirs one’s motivation to eat more. When the food is easy to get and eat, diners tend to eat a lot of them. Also, the chewing of food must be considered since this influences satiety or gratification. Chewing less per bite in a moderately-fast pace is the ideal mode of eating since eating slowly increases the chances of getting full more easily. The person’s convenience in eating is equally significant. Some patrons do not use napkins anymore because this is being perceived as an obstruction to eating. Leftovers too must be gravely avoided.

Other than those, the determination to eat and consume must be the primary mindset of an all-you-can-eater. “It is so hard at buffet to know when you’re full,” Wansink asserted.



Studies show that eating-all-you-can behavior is also inked with one’s physiological construction. Those persons with higher body mass index (BMI, a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women) tend to eat more and are the usual patrons of “eat-all-you-can” restaurants compared to those persons who have a lower body mass index. This also explains the behavioral and attitudinal patterns in “eat-all-you-can” restaurants. Taking a quick tour around the buffet table first says that a person is planning ahead in what he/she is going to eat which is something that normal weight diners tend to do. This was validated by the study conducted by Wansink and his colleague, Collin Payne. The study found out that patrons with higher BMIs were more likely to use larger plates and to face the buffet. They were less likely to browse the buffet prior to eating and to have a napkin on their lap. Indeed, any behavior that can augment the rate of food gorging was more likely to be engaged by higher BMI customers. On the other hand, lower BMI patrons left a greater percentage of food on their plates as well as chewed their food more than their high BMI counterparts.


[1] The terns “eat-all-you-can” and “all-you-can-eat” will be used interchangeably.


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