An author from The New England Journal of Medicine once said “people are connected, and so is their health.” For the first time a journal published a study of how social networks affect health and, more importantly, how social networks control a person's chances of gaining weight. (Social networks meaning, face-to-face friends, not facebook friends!) In some ways obesity is like a communicable disease, more specifically with relatives and friends. Effectiveness is varied depending on the relationship:
- An obese spouse makes the person’s risk to also become obese rise 37%, as well as an obese sibling increases the risk by 40%.
- Friends, better yet, best friends have the biggest influence of all. Having an obese friend can put a risk to a person also becoming obese by 57%. As for a best friend, your risk rises as high as 171%.
The obesity epidemic only gets worse as time goes on. Which would mean the percentage above has most likely gone up a tremendous amount, and you don’t have to be from Harvard to know that.
University of Buffalo did a study a couple of years after harvard say, kids who are already heavy are known to eat much more calories when with friends who are also overweight rather than when eating with leaner friends.
We all know that our circle of friends has a strong influence on our own habits, behaviors, and even health. Being an adult and/or parent, we know when our teenager is hanging out with other teens who has bad behavior, they will also act with bad behavior. Another another example, if you have a gym buddy, chances are you’re more willing to stick to workouts. Or even having friends who choose to go to the bar after work rather than work out in their spare time, you will most likely choose what they do instead of taking it upon yourself to go to the gym.
This is kind of like the theory of the 1000th monkey, Where something that is common among a species is innately known or followed by others of the same species. So if your group eats badly and does not exercise most of the time you will just follow along, because like does what like does.
To take this even further your closest companion can become the biggest detriment to your good health,
This is not an 'out' to rationalize your overweight or obesity. It is, however, a matter of recognizing the role and influence friends play in your health and habits.
We need to realize the impact and influence our spouses and friends role play in our lives. We need to realize that some of those people could actually be our worst enemy +. That isn’t justifying you being overweight or obese, it’s just knowing that though we live, laugh and love with them, we also eat and exercise (or not) with them too.
- Being in the company of overweight or obese friends can cause you to forget about healthy eating habits.
- With overweight friends you’re more likely to eat bigger portions of unhealthy food and choose unhealthy choices.
It’s important to recognize the role and influence your obesity plays in your kids lives.
Though obesity cannot literally spread like disease, contact with obese people increases the chance to become obese yourself. Spending time with friends often cause you to eat the same types of food and engage in the same activities. Besides the obvious, friends are a huge influence, when you see your friend gaining weight it’ll cause you to think it’s ok to do the same. We like to call this “fat blindness”, which changes your views of what is considered normal weight, specifically happens with friends and family (reason so many parents refuse to see their kids as overweight).
So easy for a person to get caught up in eating foods everyone else is eating or even worse, when they’re shoving it in your face. I get it’s hard to be that one person in the group to turn away the tasty treats and unhealthy lifestyle. To paraphrase an awesome saying; You must first become the changes that you want to see in the world. Be strong and confident enough to say “no” or “stop putting unwanted delicious food in my face”. Who knows, you could even turn out to be a role model and help your friends choose healthier choices.
Wanting to lose weight while having overweight friends can be hard. They won't be as supportive as you would like, nor make the attempt to change their lifestyle. They will be enablers, saboteurs, and food pushers. It is very important to find someone, in or out of your circle, who is also interested in making a positive, healthy change. Make your journey not feel so worthless.
This article is in no way suggesting you end friendships with your overweight friends. Due to the fact every friendship has a positive effect on our lives whether obese or not. I’m just suggesting that it would be a smart move to form a friendship with someone who has healthy habits, who inspires, motivates and encourages you to get and stay healthy. Obesity may be socially “contagious” but “slimness” is also.
Helping my clients become thin and maintain a healthy lifestyle is what i am passionate about. A weekly blog and podcast will be posted to motivate and educate on everything you need to know about weight loss, obesity, health, wellness, diet and lifestyle change.
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