Research shows that weight gain in one person can influence weight gain in others. That's the conclusion of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study involved a detailed analysis of a social network of 12,067 people who had been closely followed for 32 years in the Framingham study.
The study demonstrated that the closeness of your friendships is related to how much weight you may gain. Friends and siblings of the same sex appear to have more influence on the weight gain of each other than those of the opposite sex.
Your best friends may increase your chances of gaining weight by 57 percent. The researchers found that if a person gained 17 pounds, the network effect caused their friends to gain 5 pounds.
But understanding the effects of social influence is nothing new. It's why weight loss interventions that provide peer support are more successful than those that don't. And the good news is that the researchers reported the same influential effect seemed to occur for weight loss as well.
Knowing that your weight loss efforts are influenced by the appearance and behaviors of those around you makes clear the importance of having a social network of support. Spending time with others who have weight loss goals will help to influence behaviors such as eating smaller portions and taking time to exercise.
You'll find plenty of support and friendship from others with weight loss goals in our free Diet and Weight Loss Forums.
The study shows that family members don't influence our weight as much as our friends, but they still have influence.
Now, after reading this newsletter, you might think that you would be wise to choose new, slim friends. Indeed it might help with weight loss. But before you go dropping your old friends, consider recruiting them to help you reach your goals.
If picking the right friends were the only solution, what would we do with our relatives?
Megan Porter, RD