(CARLSBAD, CA) – It’s a typical Friday night. You meet your friends at a trendy restaurant, catch a flick at the local theater, and lounge in a nearby coffee shop listening to acoustic artists. It seems harmless. The only problem is the cheese fries that you split at the restaurant for an appetizer, the buttered popcorn that you passed back and forth down the aisle at the movies, and the cheesecake that you nursed alongside your cup of decaf at the café.
Your social network of friends brings fun, companionship, insightful conversations, and . . . weight gain? That’s right! The verdict from Harvard University researchers is that obesity is socially contagious. Your friends and family may actually be making you fat.
The 1997 Harvard study results show that having an overweight spouse or sibling increases your odds of becoming overweight by 40 percent. Friends have an even greater impact than family on your weight. An overweight friend increases your odds of weight gain by 57 percent. If that overweight friend is of the same gender, the probability ramps up to 71 percent that your numbers on the scale will rise.
Just how much weight can you potentially gain by hanging around with plus-sized pals? On average, a person gains 17 pounds due to lifestyle habits connected with obese friends, according to the Harvard Medical School researchers. Interestingly enough, this weight gain isn’t even limited to geographic proximity. Friends who live as far as 500 miles apart can have as much of an impact on weight as friends who live next door, a finding that shocked the Harvard researchers.
Short of ditching your best bud, there are life alterations that you can make to minimize the effect that others have on your diet, physical fitness, and overall health. Judi Sheppard Missett, founder and CEO of Jazzercise, Inc. offers these suggestions to friend-proof your diet:
Get a clear picture. When you have overweight friends, it may alter your perception of what constitutes a healthy body size. Instead of gauging the health of your body in comparison to your pals, try talking to your doctor about a healthy weight for you.
Get active together. Find ways that you and your pals can catch up on the office gossip while bypassing the Happy Hour appetizers. Take a stroll along your city’s boardwalk or enroll in a dance class together.
Communicate. If you are looking to make changes in your diet or exercise regimen, then talk openly with your closest pals. Ask them for their support. If your friends know about your weight-loss mission, they’ll be less likely to suggest that you share some tiramisu after dinner.
Stick to your goals. It’s okay to miss your workout occasionally for social gatherings, but don’t let it become a habit. Write down your workout and nutritional goals at the beginning of each week. Find times to exercise that are least likely to be disrupted. Then, stick to your plan!
Jazzercise, created by Judi Sheppard Missett, is the world's leading dance-fitness program with more than 7,500 instructors teaching 32,000 classes weekly in the U.S. and around the globe. Since 1969, millions of people of all ages and fitness levels have reaped the benefits of this comprehensive program, designed to enhance cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. For more information on Jazzercise go to jazzercise.com or call (800)FIT-IS-IT or (760)476-1750.