Health and Medicine Neuroscience

Overweight Individuals Find it Easier to Socialize With Other Overweight People, But This Can Slow Down Weight Loss


People trying to lose weight that tend to hang around with friends that are heavier set will have more likelihood of losing weight if thinner people are included in their social circles.

A researcher from Baylor University conducted a study showing that people that want to slim down are more comfortable spending time with people of a similar body mass. The study was published in the Obesity Journal and it noted that the individuals that are spending time with heavier friends won’t lose their weight as easily.

Lead author of the report, Matthew Andersson, PhD and Baylor College of Arts & Sciences sociology assistant professor, said that the report doesn’t advocate getting rid of any heavier friends. He goes on to say that the researchers don’t know how the respondents are interacting with their friends either through social media, in person or by texting. While they may be heading out to the gym they could also be going to eat out. The research was conducted by Andersson while at the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course at Yale University.

A survey was conducted by the Gallup Organization with 9,335 Americans surveyed that were in the age range of 18 to 65 and the findings of this study were based on a thorough analysis. Researchers added questions for the data and the participants were tracked for a year. Self-reported changes in social networking and outcomes of body mass were sent to the researchers and the respondents also identified 4 adults that they most frequently spent time with. These adults could include friends, relatives or household members and the body mass of the respondents was rated relative to the body mass of their contact. In this study the perception of the respondents’ network of friends or relatives was relied on more than the actual body weight.

The study asked individuals if they wanted to increase, maintain or lose weight. An assessment was also done to see how often the study participants interacted with their frequent contacts either by texting, e-mail, phone or through social media. It was discovered that the contact frequency was a major influencing factor. When an individual had less than 100 interactions with another person during the year, weight changes of only a fraction of a pound were noted. Weight differences, however, were more substantial as interactions increased into hundreds and at times even thousands.

At this point it’s necessary to look into further research to find out more about the associations between contacts and weight gain. For example, increased contact could be a result of an individual joining a gym or a weight-loss group.

Anderson also stated that the goal of losing weight could be linked to other traits such as smoking so having a better view of the whole individual would be useful. In some cases a person may be trying to lose weight on a regular basis while another may be concentrating on weight loss for a special occasion such as a wedding.