Can Obesity Infect You?
Associating with people who are obese and who tend to make unhealthy food choices can influence your own behavior. Think about it. You go to a restaurant with a group of friends, and you’re prepared to avoid the bread basket, order water, and choose a salad and a small fish entrée. Your friends begin to order mixed drinks and wine, then they ask for a second bread basket and order fried calamari and garlic toast, and then they start to discuss some rather unhealthy main course choices. You succumb to temptation, and end up leaving the restaurant having consumed many more calories and in particular, many more forkfuls of unhealthy food and drink than you planned. If these are your close friends, this probably happens more often than not.
A review of several studies suggests that your healthy and unhealthy food behaviors are affected by the company you keep. If your friends are all watching their waistlines, then their healthy food behaviors in a restaurant will more than likely affect your choices. If however, they are overweight and typically order lots of unhealthy foods and caloric beverages, it’s more than likely that your food choices will be similar.
The review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at 11 past studies and also found a strong association between your eating and your social identity. Conforming to your friends food behaviors may help you to feel included and “part of the gang.” Choose your friends wisely…..if you care about your waistline.