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Your lifestyle, your quirk
Diet and exercise are major factors in weight loss, but what about your social circle? Recent studies have shown that your friends may have an effect on whether you gain or lose weight based on how much they weigh. Even if you have larger friends, turning weight loss into a social activity can help you to lose weight and maintain your weight, thanks to the encouragement, support, competition, and let’s admit it, nagging, that a friend can provide.
A study followed teenagers at two high schools, one rural and one urban, to find whether overweight students would drop or gain weight depending on their social circle. Those with lean friends had a 40 percent greater chance of losing weight within a year, while those whose friends were heavier than themselves had a 56 percent greater chance of gaining weight. Researchers aren’t yet sure if it is because friends influence our behavior or because we tend to stick with people who are like us. Of course, if you regularly hang out with someone who chooses active pastimes, you will probably participate in some of those activities as well. If your friends love to frequent fast food restaurants, odds are that you will end up eating there, too. This doesn’t mean that you have to break up with your larger friends when you’re on a diet; try to get them on the diet bandwagon, too.
Having a diet and exercise buddy can increase your odds of success. A friend can encourage (or nag) you to stick with your regime. Plus, if you are trying to skip your daily exercise, you will have another person you will have to convince of your inability to work out. When you have to say them out loud, your excuses won’t hold up (your pinky finger hurts? Really?) When someone is expecting you, it makes you think twice before you hit the snooze button and skip your morning jog.
Walking with another person can help to figure out if you are working hard enough. To reap the cardio benefits, you should be walking fast enough that carrying on a conversation becomes difficult. You can’t really tell what that point is unless you’re carrying on a conversation, and you’ll look a lot more sane if you’re having that conversation with another person.
Participating in an office weight loss competition can help you drop the pounds. The people you work with will help to keep you on track because they can see you sneaking to the vending machine for a snack. Coworkers may catch you taking the elevator and invite you to take the stairs instead. Plus the challenge of losing more weight than your coworkers plugs into humans’ competitive nature. Your need to beat the accounting department will give you even more motivation to drop those last few pounds and stick to your diet.
Friends can have a calming effect and relieve stress. Researchers found that women release oxytocin when stressed. This means that females exhibit “tend and befriend” behavior rather than “fight or flight,” as seen in men. Women may look to chat with a friend to relieve stress. The talking may release more oxytocin, which has a calming effect. For those who eat as a reaction to stress, it may be better to call a friend instead. Talking it out is a much more productive solution than eating empty calories. In fact, using a friend as a sounding board may also help you to solve the problems causing the stress.
Social gatherings can be the downfall of diets. To avoid offending your gracious host, you may have to eat what you are served at a dinner party, no matter how much grease it contains. Parties and buffets can be full of unhealthy items too delicious to pass up, crushing your willpower. If you diet among friends, you can hold a healthy potluck dinner where everyone brings their favorite diet-friendly dish. Not only will it cut down on calories at the party, but everyone will be exposed to some new recipes that can help banish the boredom you may be facing with your diet foods.
If you’re looking to lose weight, look to your friends. No matter what their weight, they can help you to reach your weight loss goals if you can get them on board. Their support, their shared participation, and maybe even their body types can inspire you to drop those pounds.