Being Healthy: Share the Love!

Patients Just as Likely to Take Advice from Friends as from Doctors

Every week there’s a new study that says something we already know. This week’s edition is a study that says that most people believe that friends and family play an important role when it comes to personal health and nutrition.

In essence, it says friends and family influence our lives. I’m pretty sure most people will admit to something like that. 

It’s like those moments where you get in trouble and your mom tells you to stop hanging out with “the wrong crowd.” Everyone’s mom knows what this study proves—you’re highly influenced by your friends.

What would normally be another “duh” study, researchers involved in the Edelman Health Barometer 2011 global survey (which included 15,000 people in 12 countries) found that often times those friends and family members have just as strong of a role in your health as do medical professionals.

Yes, your best friend might not have a medical degree, but you’re just as likely to imitate their health-related behavior as you are take your doctor’s advice.

That’s a good thing if your friends are all into organic groceries, yoga in the park, and meditative exercises. You all can have the same good laughs when you’re 100 as you do now. But, if they’re into late nights with tumblers of whiskey, cigarettes, and 12-ounce curls for exercise, it’s likely that you’ll follow their behavior and put your jeopardy in health.

The most interesting fact to come out of the study is how those who have a healthier lifestyle don’t pass that health knowledge onto others who could use that information. To boil it down, the healthy don’t connect with those that aren’t.

This isn’t to say that the healthy people are hoarding the information (look around our site—we’ve got tons to share), but rather they can’t easily pass on the healthier traits to those around them.


That’s not cool.

Let’s face hard facts: being healthy takes hard work at first. Weaning anyone off of fast food, lazy habits, and numerous vices isn’t something you can do overnight. Taking the healthy way through life takes discipline that’s not everyone’s forte. Plus, trying to get someone else to change their habits when they aren’t ready can be exhausting.

Then again, even small changes such as regular exercise, good diet, enough sleep, and a few glasses of water a day can make you feel better than you probably do now. You can have more energy, less stress and an overall sunnier disposition than a Big Mac, fries, and Coke could ever provide you.

What the facts of the study suggest is that healthy people aren’t trying to get their loved ones to be healthy with them—they’re only gravitating to like-minded people. Basically, if you’re a health nut, you gravitate to other health nuts.

Trust me, I know this. The second I tell someone I write for a health website, all of the health nuts come right out of the woodwork.

But that’s kind of how human beings work. People naturally gravitate to those like themselves. Rarely will you find people with different cultural, academic, religious, or other backgrounds mingling freely together. Healthy lifestyle is yet another thing that can separate us into homogenous groups.

Still, 44 percent of people in the study said they didn’t let health status or behavior affect who they called a friend. That’s nice, too.  

Growing up in Wisconsin, my eating habits were not particularly splendid. The Dairy State lives up to its name; gooey mounds of cheese can turn the most boring leftovers into a casserole.

Then, after moving away, acquiring some serious sports injuries, and reading up on small changes I could make to my health, I began cooking healthier food with lower fat and putting actual green things on my plate. Basically, I learned to take the foods I loved and make them healthier, like a whole-wheat crust pizza with a spinach-pesto sauce.

Let’s just say some of that new cooking drew some weird looks when I’d cook for my family on visits. They all thought I went California hippie on them.

When I was cooking healthier for the party celebrating my mother’s last treatment for breast cancer, people paid more attention because the theme of the whole night was celebrating health, not slamming down fistfuls of cheese. I was proud to give away some of my healthy recipes that night.

I’m still not the healthiest person alive, but small, healthier choices keep making their way into my life.

And if you ask me, I can offer some health tips. I’m no doctor, but that’s what good friends are for. 

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