Can a friend make you fat?

While we all have to assume personal responsibility for our health and well-being, I think it’s true that other people can affect our health. Think about the times you spend with negative thinking, complaining people. You might feel drained or negative yourself. Compare that to a great evening with positive, uplifting friends and you can really see how the people you surround yourself with impact your health.

Friends can also affect our health with their healthy habits (or not so healthy ones).

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a  study found that “obesity appears to spread through social ties,” suggesting that the condition, which afflicts over 30 percent of the U.S. population, moves in a manner not unlike an infectious disease.

But just how does this work? The authors speculate that having obese social contacts could increase a person’s “tolerance” for obesity (if everyone around you is big, it doesn’t seem abnormal), or might influence their adoption of certain behaviors (getting super nachos instead of a salad). Having an obese friend was found to increase a person’s risk of becoming obese by 50 percent; having an obese sibling increased the risk by 40 percent, and an obese spouse by 37 percent.

We have to make our own decisions about what we eat, how much we sleep or exercise and what medications we take. But we also need to seriously consider how our friends decisions affect our behavior or how we affect theirs, both physically and emotionally.

Cut the negative talk (and the super nachos) and enjoy great friends!

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