When you think of what the biggest predictors of weight loss are, what comes to mind? Motivation? Absolutely! An understanding of healthy nutrition? For sure. Regular exercise? Without a doubt. But, what if I told you that the people you surround yourself with, such as friends and family, had just as much influence on you as the factors I just mentioned?
It’s true. A new study in the journal PLoS ONE found that individuals are more likely to gain weight if their inner circle was comprised of friends that were heavier. On the flip side, participants were more likely to be thinner if their friends were thin as well. It makes sense, doesn’t it? If your friends are eating healthy, managing their stress well, and would rather take walks than go out for ice cream, it bodes well for you to hang out with them. It also should make you question which friends are truly worth hanging out with as you strive toward a healthy weight.
This was not the first study to identify this friendship phenomenon. In 2009, a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found similar results – people with heavier friends were more likely to be heavier themselves. While both studies used adolescent participants, the concept can truly be applied to individuals at any age.
So, what do you do if your friends are less than healthy? I suggest three tactics that can help you help yourself!
- Ask your unhealthy friends to join you on your challenge for optimal wellness. Set up goal dates, activities and prizes for reaching goals. Trying to lose weight as a group (or even with just one buddy) will help you shed the pounds.
- Add to your circle of friends by joining in new activities that help you meet other people. Consider joining a gym, taking a regular yoga class, or even just attending free lectures at your local grocery store, hospital or community center.
- Finally, tell everyone around you that you are on a healthy-weight mission and that you need their support to help you in your efforts. This means that no one should try to get you to taste their dessert at dinner, convince you to see a movie instead of taking a bike ride, or say things like, “One triple chocolate brownie won’t kill you!”
Believe me, you’ll figure out not only who you want to keep in your inner circle but also who your true friends are. Losing weight is hard enough on its own – don’t let the unhealthy habits of your friends make it even harder!