February 11, 2012

Are Your Friends Making You Fat?

Multiple studies confirm that obesity is socially contagious.  In fact, if even one of your friends becomes obese, your risk of obesity increases by 57%. This is true even if your friend lives across the country.  Researchers are unsure about the exact cause of this phenomenon, but many blame it on “social modeling”.  This is our tendency to imitate the actions of those in our social network.
Short of ditching your friends, what can you do to prevent this sympathetic weight gain?  Well, the reverse is also true; people with friends who have lost weight, have become healthier as well.  Try some positive peer pressure:

  • Invite your friends to the gym with you.
  • Schedule a walk date instead of lunch.
  • Join a tennis league or sports team.
  • Announce your weight loss/health goals and ask your friends for support.
  • Start a healthy recipe dinner club.
  • Join a group weight loss program such as Weight Watchers or Overeaters  Anonymous
  • Use the internet to find a support group.

Obesity 19, 1157-1162 (June 2011) | doi:10.1038/oby.2010.301

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