Are your friends making you fat?

A tough question to ask, and certainly one that is deserving of a little explanation don’t you think?  The external stimuli of having friends around may be causing you to gain weight, according to a study done by The New England Journal of Medicine.  When was the last time you were concerned about diet, drinks, or even dessert when you were in good company of good friends?  My point exactly.  Having a friend who is obese increases your chance of becoming obese by 171%, according to the study, which studied the rise of obesity in a social group over the span of 32 years.  You can’t honestly tell me that you are starting to reconsider your friendships, are you?  The same friends that have been enabling you to spill your guts all these years may also be the reason why you haven’t been able to lose any weight either.  Is this ringing a bell for anyone?  The researcher in the study, Dr. Christakis, explains that the reason may have something to do with perception.  The study’s conclusion says that if you have a friend who gains weight, then gaining weight for you might not be a big deal because gaining weight has become the norm for your social group.

On the flip side, having lunch with a skinny friend actually increases your chance of over-eating by 1.5 times, according to a study done by The Journal of Consumer Research.   You would think skinny friend equals good influence, right?  Nope; the study shows that if your skinny friend chows down, you are more likely to subconsciously chow down too.  Why is this?  The skinny friend stuffing her face influences you to think that you can be exempt from the rules of food too.  Since it seems plausible that she can eat without being punished, so then can you.  So while you would think that it depends on the size of the person you dine with, in actuality, it’s the size of the portions that are being ordered that affects how much you eat.  Eat that!

So the next time you tell the waitstaff that you’ll have what they’re having, consider these tricks to make your friendships healthier:

Take your time: Eating slower will make you eat less.  It’s your friends’ company that you are there to enjoy, so take second rounds of them, not chips or the bread basket.

Share an appetizer: Caring is sharing.  Imagine all those extra calories you could have been saving after all of these years.   Wouldn’t you enjoy spending more of your energy finding out about your friend’s annoying co-worker or finally spilling the beans about that one-night fling you had in college?

Order Light: You can rack up calories fast from daiquiris, lattes, or whatever you indulge on out with friends.  Break this habit by ordering light versions of the things you like such as creamer, rum, or sodas.  It doesn’t hurt to plan out the rest of your meals to accommodate your expected intake you will have while with your friends.  Some restaurants offer healthy menus too, so it’s never too late to start a new tradition today.

Why we may be nothing like our friends, we may subconsciously mimic their eating habits.  It might be time to stand up to temptation and practice self-control while in company of the ones you love.

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