Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Obesity Shown to Be Contagious

(Article first published as Shunning Obese Friends Could Help Weight Loss Efforts on Technorati.)
Can you catch a bad case of obesity the same way you can a cold or the flu? Naturally obesity isn’t an airborne disease, but there certainly seems to be a strong link between packing on excess pounds and hanging around with friends or family members that overeat and maintain a lifestyle that promotes overweight and obesity.

Obesity is largely a preventable lifestyle condition that threatens the health of millions of men, women and children and is projected to include nearly half of the US population over the next 40 years. The only way to lower your chance of becoming obese is to control the environment around you, and this may include your friend and family relationships.

Study Shows That Obesity Loves Company
The results of a study published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology indicate that having 4 obese friends was enough to double your chances of becoming obese. The more obese friends and acquaintances you have, the higher your odds of becoming obese yourself. The study authors concluded that “people have gotten better at gaining weight in recent years, but not at losing it”.

From the study, it’s clear that the factors that lead to obesity are learned and are also dependent in large part on peer pressure. Short of limiting contact with your overweight friends, there are important ways you can modify your behavior and have a positive influence on those around you.

Behavioral Patterns Lead to Obesity
Researchers from this study didn’t fully explain the reasons behind their findings, but surmised that if you have a lot of friends with unhealthy eating habits, you are likely to follow along. Clearly, the path to obesity is paved with a high calorie diet, excess stress and insufficient physical activity. Behavioral patterns also play a pivotal role, as one member of a group is unable to develop a healthy dietary pattern that will promote weight loss.

Working to Improve Diet and Lifestyle to Lose Weight
You need to take the leadership role for the group and slowly begin to introduce a new pattern that will lead to a reduced calorie, active lifestyle. The first step is to find new places to eat if you eat out frequently. Make sure there are reduced calorie options that are available and be the one to suggest that the group may want to try some healthier fare. 

When entertaining at home, replace the chips and dip with fresh vegetables. By making small changes you can initiate a weight loss strategy which will lead to lower weight and improved health for all of your friends.

People like to function in groups, and frequently there is a leader who emerges to control the behavior of all members. When that person is obese, there is a strong likelihood that you will adopt similar habits which may not be beneficial to your weight and health. Break the trend by introducing a healthy attitude and everybody will benefit from successful weight loss.

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