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The Weird Benefit of an Expensive Dinner

Is eating your money's worth actually worth it?

You know that feeling you get after gorging yourself on an all-you-can-eat buffet packed with everything from cheese fondue to a chocolate fountain? Uncomfortably full and probably a little (if not a lot) guilty. You don't need scientists to tell you that. But what you may not be able to infer on your own is how the cost of that buffet impacts just how much guilt you have and over-stuffed you feel post-meal.

New research in the journal BMC Nutrition found that people who paid a lower price for their buffet suffered more physical discomfort and guilt than those who paid a higher price—although both consumed the same amount of food.

The study, led by Brian Wansink, PhD, of Cornell University and Ozge Sigirci of Marmara University in Istanbul, Turkey, was conducted over a period of two weeks at an Italian restaurant in New York City. 139 passersby were handed fliers offering an $8 all-you-can-eat buffet between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., or a flier with the same deal for only $4.

After the subjects finished their meals, they were surveyed on how much they consumed and if they had feelings of guilt or physical discomfort from overindulging. The diners who spent less reported more negative feelings overall.

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"If you don't want to experience guilt or feel stuffed after a meal, eat from a higher-priced all-you-can-eat buffet and focus on eating more healthy options instead of trying to 'eat your money's worth,'" Wansink said in a press release

So go ahead and book that $50-a-seat brunch complete with raw oyster bar and champagne rather than heading to your local Golden Corral. Your wallet may not thank you but your stomach (and emotions) certainly will—at least according to this study. But regardless of where you dine and how much you shell out for the meal, be mindful of what—and how much—goes on your plate. No amount of money can undo the guilt and discomfort of eight helpings of decadent food.

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