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Weight loss with friends: Through thick and thin?

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You’ve probably heard the saying “birds of a feather flock together.” And it’s true. Just think about the people you spend the most time with. Don’t you share at least some interests, values, hobbies or ideals?

But, if you’re like most people, you probably don’t just like to hang out with like-minded people, you like to hang out with like-bodied people too. And, surprisingly, the latter can have a real impact on your weight loss efforts.

Researchers from Baylor University found that people feel more comfortable spending time with other people who have a similar body mass as them. Which is all well and good… except that you’ll lose more weight if you hang out with people who are thinner than you.

After examining self-reported data from 9,335 American adults, researchers discovered that people who wanted to lose weight interacted more frequently with heavier people and were more likely to have social ties with heavier people than thinner people. But those who increased their interactions and social ties with thinner people were the most likely to lose weight.

So it seems your friendships can either help or hinder you on your path to a trimmer, healthier you.

Researchers don’t know exactly why thinner pals promote your own weight loss. But here are a few good guesses:

  • You’re more likely to eat healthy with thinner pals.
  • They may encourage you to do more physically active things.
  • They may bring out your competitive side (seeing them stay fit may make you want to be as fit or more fit than them).
  • Changes in body shape can warp friendships according this research.

Of course, if you’re looking to lose weight, there’s no need to get coldhearted and leave your heavier pals behind. True friends usually stick together through thick and thin…

Just consider adding a few more fitness-focused friends to your social circle. It could do your weight and your health a lot of good. An easy way to meet more fitness-focused friends is to go places where health-conscious people like to hang out like the gym, exercise classes or healthy cooking classes.

Source: A. Andersson, N.A. Christakis “Desire for weight loss, weight-related social contact, and body mass outcomes.” Obesity, July 2016; 24 (7): 1434–1437.
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