Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This statistic may hold true for people seeking to lose weight, suggests a study published in Obesity (2016; 24 , 1434–37).
Researchers wanted to determine whether individuals interested in losing weight alter their social contacts—more specifically, whether heavier people adjust the people they spend time with based on whether they perceive those people to be heavy or thin. Information was gathered from 9,335 individuals participating in a Gallup National Panel from 2013 to 2014.
“Over time, [many] individuals desiring to lose weight interacted more frequently and were more likely to possess social ties with heavier individuals while lessening their interactions and decreasing their likelihood of ties with thinner individuals,” the researchers said.
However, overweight individuals who successfully shed pounds during the study had fewer interactions with heavy people and spent more time with thinner people.
“What we don’t know is what respondents are doing with their social contacts, whether through texting, in person or on social media,” observed lead researcher Matthew Andersson, PhD, assistant professor of sociology at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “They might be going out to eat; they might be going to the gym; they might be doing something totally unrelated. We just don’t know.”
Regardless of how those polled spent their time, Andersson suggests this research offers helpful insight into why some people are more successful than others at weight loss attempts.