Believe it or not, the people that you spend your time with may have a huge impact on your weight loss whether or not they know it. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, having friends that are obese will increase your chances of becoming obese. Specifically, the study suggests that when one person becomes obese there is a 57 percent increase in the likelihood that their friend will become obese. If the friend is of the same gender, that number goes up to 71 percent. Even siblings and spouses are more likely to become obese, as well.
Weight gain isn’t any more “contagious” than weight loss is, of course. However, weight gain can be spread socially. That is, it moves from one person to another and from one group to another through specific behaviors and social activities. For example, if a group of friends goes out together on a Friday night and someone consistently suggests the all-you-can-eat buffet, eventually others in the group are going to gain weight. Likewise, if a friend gains 20 pounds, you’re not going to feel nearly as bad about the 5 pounds you gained.
So, what do you do? If you’ve got weight loss goals and you have friends that are overweight or obese, should you just trade them all in for skinnier versions? While that’s one way to go, it’s probably not the best way for a whole host of reasons. We’re not going to judge you, but let’s face it: dumping your fat friends because you don’t want to be fat is pretty cold.
Instead, here are some suggestions:
- Join a gym with a fat friend. Lose some weight together. In some cases, you might even be able to get a membership discount or referral bonus if you join together. Turn gym time into social time. It’ll make workouts more fun and weight loss just a little bit less painfull.
- Engage in fitness related social activities. For example, you might organize a lunchtime basketball league. You might get your friends to go out bowling together (just watch out for the beer and pretzels).
- Avoid food related social activities. Let’s face it: when you’re fat, you can be fat with a group of people. When you diet, you diet alone. Instead of tempting yourself with that Friday buffet, consider opting out of activities with your friends that revolve around food.