How Your Friends Can Help You Lose Weight

Article posted in: Lifestyle

You pick these people to be in your life for a reason: they make you laugh, they listen (like, really listen), they’re compassionate, kind, reliable and supportive, tons of fun and maybe even a little crazy—in a good way. (Or maybe that’s just our bunch of buddies). Though we all get a little something different out of our friendships, and each relationship is unique, this much is true for all of us: good friends are good for your health.

Research has shown friendships can boost happiness and give you a greater sense of belonging, as well as reduce stress and alleviate depression. Strong social support systems may also promote brain health and significantly cut the risk for dementia, according to other studies. You’re also less likely to catch cold, and more likely to live longer: a 10-year study in Australia found that older people who had a large network of friends were about 20 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. And in a test of the psychological effects of friends, scientists recruited a group of students from the University of Virginia, had them stand at the base of a steep hill carrying heavy backpacks, and asked them to estimate the steepness of the slope. The students who stood next to friends gave lower estimates than participants who stood alone; and the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared. Cool, right?

When it comes to your weight, however, the influence of your friends is sometimes good, and sometimes not. Your companions might undermine your efforts to shed a few pounds by encouraging unhealthy food choices (oh, let’s just get the fries, for example), or by convincing you to hit happy hour instead of the gym after work. In fact, research has shown a nearly 60 percent increased risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. That said, healthy behaviors (like opting for the side salad and choosing to exercise) are also contagious. Ask your friends to support your healthy journey, or invite them along for the ride: try a new workout class together, invite them over for a healthy meal, or take a quick walk at lunch.