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Want To Lose Weight? Exercise, Eat Right And Have Thin Friends

Alan Cleaver

If you’re starting a new diet, you might want to choose your friends carefully. A new Yale study says when most people try to lose weight, they end up making more overweight friends and fewer thin friends, causing those diets to backfire.

Imagine you start a new diet. You’re exercising and watching what you eat, but you might not watch who you spend time with. Sociologist Matthew Andersson co-authored the study, which is based on two years worth of data from people on diets.

“If you’re spending a bit more time with those who are heavier, you would feel relatively thinner. That would potentially make you more comfortable as you pursued new exercising routines, as you’re evaluating your weight on a daily basis.”

You may feel thinner that way, but you probably won’t get thinner. Andersson says dieters who hang out with thin people were way more successful than dieters who hang out with overweight people.

“It could be that these thinner individuals serve as role models or serve as people who we’d like to emulate, and so maybe it’s something deeper like that.”

No judgment here—Andersson says we’re all susceptible to social pressures. We want to fit in with our friends and family. He says that doesn't mean we have to stop being friends with anyone. What’s important is that dieters keep an eye on their own behavior when they’re around friends.

“We like to support those around us, and that can often involve imitation, if you will. Engaging in behaviors people are already engaging in just to fit in or maintain the relationships we cherish.”

Next, Andersson says he wants to look at where the desire to lose weight comes from in the first place. He says he suspects that desire might be rooted in social networks as well. 

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.