Published on April 6, 2019
Although obesity can’t actually spread like an infectious disease, contact with other obese people does influence the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese yourself. This is because not only do friends spend a lot of time together, and more often than not eat similar foods and engage in the same physical (or lack thereof) activities, but also because what you consider to be a normal and appropriate body size for yourself is oftentimes based on the weight of people around you. In other words, as those in one’s circle gain weight or become more overweight or obese, they come to think that it is OK to be bigger since those around them are bigger. This rising tide of what I like to call ‘fat blindness’ changes your perception of what is a normal weight in general, but specifically in a circle of friends and family (and this is also why so many parents refuse to see their kids are fat).
If you want to lose weight, too often overweight friends are not only not going to want to make changes themselves, but they also won’t support your attempts to change yourself. They are enablers, saboteurs, food pushers. Therefore, whether inside your circle or out, you need to find even just one person who wants to do what you’re doing so your own journey won’t be so isolating.
I am by no means suggesting that anyone should sever relationships with friends who have either gained weight or have always been overweight or obese, nor am I suggesting that anyone ever stigmatize obese people: All close friendships have many positive effects on our lives.
I am suggesting, however, that you also form relationships with people who have healthful habits and lifestyles—those who can inspire, encourage and motivate you, who you can look to as a mentor when it comes to getting and staying healthy. After all, it’s not only obesity that is socially “contagious.” Slimness is as well!