Listen carefully to me, readers, because I have some important information to reveal to you right now about your weight-loss goals. If you have friends who are heavier than you, you need to kill them, and quickly. Or if you’d like to avoid felony charges, you need to at least run them out of town. Throw stones and heavy rocks at them; whatever it takes to get them far away from you and your weight loss goals. Or at least that’s what researchers at Arizona State University imply in their new study, which states that obese friends normalize larger figures, encouraging the “spread” of obesity. (Because obviously fat is contagious, and if you want to remain oh-so-svelte and trim, you need to “cut the fat” out of your life completely.)
Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the team of researchers concluded in their study that women are highly influenced by their friends’ BMIs, and craft their diet and exercise regime largely on the advice of friends. “When you see that something like obesity spreads among close friends and family members, this raises important questions about how it’s spreading. Is it because we learn ideas about acceptable body size from our friends and family members, or that we hike together, watch TV together or go out to eat together?” said Daniel Hruschka, lead author in the study. His team says there is high probability that women simply emulate the body size of close friends or family members. They also observed that most case subjects idealize the bodies of close friends and family.
To put a fine point on their conclusion: The heavier your social circle, the heavier you are.
Is anyone else feeling angry?
Perhaps there’s a nugget of truth to the study: We’ve all heard that people who want to be successful should surround themselves with successful people, and it’s true that we’re influenced by the people closest to us – our family’s food choices certainly have an impact on our choices as we become our own adults. In essence, this is the same old nature vs. nurture argument. But blaming your fuller figured friends for your expanding waistline is analogous to blaming urban music for violent crimes. I mean, Julie Andrews sang Climb Every Mountain, you don’t see me hiking every weekend – it’s just a freakin’ song. Likewise, some of my friends are heftier than I am, and eat larger portions than me. Does their presence make me want to run to Dairy Queen for a double dip? Hardly.
Studies like this are dangerous, in that they encourage people to take drastic measures while hiding behind the banner of “health.” Here, in order to maintain your “health,” and lose that spare tire, the not-so-subtle implication is that obese friends should be shunned as scourges of society. Where do you draw the line? To some, the idea of obesity being outlawed, and its sufferers removed from society, might sound outlandish, but to others, its a reasonable response to a growing epidemic. Some countries have banned the exposure of hair, of skin, and of religious head gear, all because they believe they have negative impacts on society. You may or may not agree, but that doesn’t stop extreme measures being taken in the name of social betterment.
Unless you’re all for living in a post-apocalyptic Orwellian world where the slightest imperfections and markers of individuality are cast out, I would say you’re allowed to have fat friends and family members. Obesity is NOT contagious. But idiocy sure as hell is.