Contagious Obesity?

What are your thoughts about this article?

Is this mind blowing, or obvious? Useful or not?

I think there’s something to it, but it’s not an easy excuse that explains everything.

In my opinion, your environment is a huge part of your diet and lifestyle. If you’re constantly surrounded by people who eat healthy and who are regularly active, it seems to be easier to be that way yourself. You aren’t bucking any trends, you’re merely doing what everyone else is doing.

I am very much swayed by the power of suggestion. Here’s an example. I’m out to dinner with 5 other people. The server asks if we’re interested in dessert. If one person says “yes” I’m more likely to go along with it. However, if one person says “no” I’m also likely to go along with that. It’s like that first person gives me permission to either indulge or not.

I’ve also seen it in relationships. I’ve lived with a man who ate like crap, and a man who ate healthy. It was FAR easier for me to maintain my healthy eating habits when he was on board with it too.

But again, IT DOES NOT EXCUSE EVERYTHING. At least in my circle of friends, we don’t actually shove food down each other’s throats. YMMV. :smiley:

Uh…no. This man has never hung out with fat people. Or at least, he’s never hung out with fat women. With the exception of those deeply into the “fat acceptance” movement, I have yet to meet an overweight woman who was completely accepting of her body size and thought of it as acceptable. No, we just get neurotic and obsessive about it, is all.

I agree with Scout1222. The people in one’s life have a huge effect on how that person deals with their weight and whether it stays at a healthy level or balloons out of control. Their eating habits can set the tone for your own eating habits, and changing that is met with unconscious and sometimes conscious and overt resistance.

Yay for the scientists that figured it out. I’ve known it for fifteen years.

Interesting…how would you define the “fat acceptance movement?” If it’s a vocal advocacy/social movement group, then I know a fair few women not in it who are larger, and extremely comfortable with their size. Until the point where it truly interferes with their health, that is. At that point, they adjust their size to a healthier (but still larger than “socially accepted”) one. In fact, there are a few ladies I know who frequently hot-tub together, and have painted on the side of the tub “Fat Lady Stew.”

As far as the article mentioned in the OP, I always thought it a fairly obvious conclusion that anyone who cared to observe casually would make.

I’ll just pack up for the train to the Fat Camps now. Luckily, I can take at least one of my cats along.

I think the study in that article is on to something. If you surround yourself with overweight / obese people, you are logically going to have a greater chance of becoming overweight / obese. Overweight / obese people are not going to be as active as normal weight individuals and will be eating more than the average person. If you hung out with these people, you would be more likely drawn into their activities that promote weight gain. If you are friends with fit athletes (no doping, please), you would far more likely stay slim because you would become engaged with their athletic endeavors.

I agree with the following statement in the article:

If your friends are largely overweight, then you would be more likely to gain weight because your perception of what an average person is like is shaped to a large degree by your friends.

You are surrounded by these people for large amounts of time and if you start gaining weight, there would be little external support for you to help you revert back to your previous lifestyle. You would more likely be complacent because you would just start looking like the people around you.

Now, get outside and give me 20 km! :smiley:

Social networks? Do they mean… I don’t know, friends?

Yes, your friends have an influence on you. That’s pretty damn obvious. The more you hang out at Applebee’s with them, the fatter you’re going to get.

What gets me are the comments about three degrees of separation and the influence of friends living hundreds of miles away. I’m guessing that a lot of other researchers are going to be poking at this study.

I’m unclear which is more important, your friends’ weight or the change in their weight once they are your friend. On the up side, they mention that having a friend lose weight makes it more likely that you will lose weight as well.

There’s some pretty good advice for losing weight right there.

I’ve seen and experienced it in action. One friend of mine was trying to lose weight and his wife was actively and intentionally sabotaging his efforts. she would start making all his favorite foods and giving him noticeably larger portions at every meal. We won’t go into why she was doing it, but it was definitely an intentional effort.

I gained a good bit of weight when I came to Florida. A big part was because I began working at a computer all day instead of being on my feet and could afford to eat out a lot more. BUT another reason was because of my fat friends. Just about all of their social life revolves around eating. If want to hang out with them it means being at a restaurant or in their apartment which is overflowing with unhealthy food. Sure, it’s up to me to resist temptation. But that’s a lot easier if they aren’t bombarding me with temptation. My weight reached a peak when I was living with one of them. Immediately after moving out, I began losing weight.

Does this explain obesity in police? Too many trips to the doughnut shop-meals eaten “on the fly”-odd hours. I see a tremendous number of cops who are very much overweight.

I think quite a few people upthread are missing a point of the article: The researchers have made it clear that their findings show that “contagious” obesity between friends is NOT due to factors such as eating together socially, or exercising together; rather, the connection is much more subtle.

It exists only between same-sex friends, including friends who live far away, and is stronger when there is a feeling of mutual friendship between the pair. In addition, the activities of proximate people seems to have negligible impact; for instance, non-friend neighbors do not affect one’s weight.

The article, as far as I can tell, does not seem to give any explanation for the unique influence of friendship upon weight, they just seem to argue that there is one.

I think these findings are really interesting.