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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Do Your Friends Make You Fat?


Talk about a reason to be careful how you pick your friends! A news story today reported that obesity could be ‘socially contagious,’ meaning that if you have friends or family who are fat, your own chances of becoming fat are increased--and by a lot! The study appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers found that your chances of becoming obese are increased by the following percentage if you have the following relationship with another obese person:

Spouse: 37%

Sibling: 40%

Friend: 57%

They said that it was not as simple as obese people finding other obese people to hang out with, but rather there was a ‘direct, causal relationship.’ In other words, people think it is okay to get heavier because those around them are getting heavier. It has become more socially acceptable than ever to become heavier. This thought pattern is spreading among friends and pretty soon we have an overweight nation!

Let’s see if we can turn this around! If obesity is contagious among friends, then so must be health consciousness and thinness! Let’s change our thinking and our actions and start to move more and eat less when we are with our friends. The researchers in this study say the social network effects extend three degrees of separation, so if you can have a positive impact on your friend, it may also help your friend’s friend and your friends’ friends’ friends! WHEW!

Get out there and instead of meeting for dinner and drinks, meet for a walk in the park, racquetball, or a swim! Have contests with your friends of who can come up with the tastiest low calorie recipes or the best ideas for yummy but healthy brown bag lunches.


This is a picture of me and my runner friends when we ran the 199 mile Saturn Relay Race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz through the Napa Valley in California. I am in the middle in the shorts because I was the first runner. This is the kind of stuff I do with my friends! :-)

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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