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Social Contact and Weight Loss Success

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 [7], 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.

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