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Gaining Weight Is Socially Contagious -- So Is Losing It

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If your best friend gains weight, your odds of piling on the pounds triples, even if her kitchen is hundreds of miles away. Researchers have discovered that far-flung friends have just as much impact on our weight as our next door neighbor.

The Framington Heart Study, a mega-study, which followed almost 13,000 people over half a century is a definitive research project. Even the researchers were stunned to discover that a person's chance of getting fat went up 57 percent if a friend got fat, forty percent if a sibling gained weight and 37 percent if a spouse gained weight. And with best friends, the risk almost tripled.

Our idea of what is an acceptable weight fluctuates by watching what is happening to our friends, from up close or at a distance.

What does this mean? That by watching those around us and observing their fluctuations, our own ideas about weight gain or loss change too.

What can we do?

- You are responsible for taking care of yourself -- and this may mean supporting your buddies in ways other than with your body shape. Because you shouldn't neglect your body in favor of friendship.

- Monkey See, Monkey Do -- If you go to a restaurant with friends and the dessert menu is passed around, if you are trying to lose weight, be the first person to say No Thanks.. Friends will probably follow suit.

- What we dwell upon in our heads has a direct correlation with what manifests in our body. It might not show up tomorrow, but it will show up.

- Ask yourself "What am I really hungry for?" and "Is this food going to satisfy my inner and outer hunger?"

- Support Your Friends by being proactive. Invite them to join you for exercise.

- Nip Weight-Gain in the bud by weighing yourself every day. If your weight goes up, even by a pound, get right back on track with your eating. One pound can become two, then ten, which is ten times as hard to lose.

- Be happy! If weight gain as a social behavior is contagious, then happiness is too. Be the first to smile at a stranger and reach across the aisle with a helping hand. Happiness might not lighten your weight on the scales, but it certainly will lighten your mood and maybe even your friend's mood too.