Want to slim down? Get some skinny friends! How dieters lose more weight with slender chums

  • Study found dieters feel more comfortable with fatter friends
  • But those that hang out with thinner people lose weight faster
  • Highlights how strongly social group affects eating and exercise
Article by Mia de Graaf

Dieters prefer to hang out with bigger people to give them a confidence boost, according to a new study.

But the same research warns that they would do better to find some slim friends.

A study at Baylor University in Texas found weight-watchers feel far more comfortable with those whose body mass is similar or larger.

But spending time with them may hamper their attempts to slim down, according to the findings published in the journal Obesity.

On the other hand, people whose friends were slimmer than them experienced much greater gains in their weight-loss regimes.

While the team does not propose you ditch your friends for new ones, they say the study highlights how strongly social interactions impact on everyday decision about food and exercise.

In the study of more than 9,000 people in the US aged 18 to 65 frequency of contact played a major role.

With fewer than 100 interactions with an individual during a year changes in weight were linked to a fraction of a pound.

But as these reached hundreds and even thousands weight differences became more substantial.

Professor Matthew Andersson insists that he is not recommending someone seeking to slim should dump their fatter friends.

He said: ‘What we don’t know is what respondents are doing with their social contacts – whether through texting, in person or on social media.

‘They might be going out to eat; they might be going to the gym – they might be doing something totally unrelated. We just don’t know,’

His researchers analysed a survey of American households – supplementing data with questions and tracking for one year the participants’ self-reported social networking changes and body mass outcomes.

Respondents identified the four adults with whom they spent free time most frequently – whether household members, relatives or friends.

They also rated each contact’s body mass relative to their own.

Professor Andersson said: ‘We relied on how people perceived those in their network rather than actual weight measurements.’

Individuals were asked whether they wanted to lose, maintain or increase weight.

The study also assessed how often participants interacted with those they identified as frequent contacts, whether in person or by phone, email, texting or social media.

Professor Andersson said further research should investigate the nature of the associations – for example if increased contact reflects an activity such as joining a weight-loss group.

He said: ‘Also the desire to lose weight in itself may be linked to other health traits – such as whether they smoke.

‘It would be useful to have a more complete view of the individuals.

‘Maybe someone has a certain personality type and wants to lose weight all the time while another person might be trying to lose weight for a special occasion like a wedding.’

Read more at: dailymail.co.uk

comments powered by Disqus