Friends may undermine weight-loss efforts, study says


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Efforts to lose weight may fail because of an important mismatch between the social contacts created by people who want to lose weight and the factors that actually achieve weight, according to a Yale study.

According to the researchers, people hoping to lose weight interacted more frequently and were more likely to have social ties with heavier people while lessening their interactions and decreasing their ties with thinner people.

Published online in the journal Obesity, the study evaluated how an individual’s desire to lose weight is associated with changes in social contact with others perceived to be either thinner or heavier.

“We want to gain a closer understanding of how social networks shape the desire to lose weight in the first place,” said Matthew A. Andersson, postdoctoral associate at the Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course in Yale’s Department of Sociology. “We were surprised to find that individuals who desire to lose weight may make social network changes that undercut their weight loss goals.”

The researchers suggest that a person who needs to lose weight may have heavier friends because they are more likely to experience weight discrimination and stigma. They may manage this stigma by selecting similarly heavy peers.

But these network changes also tend to diminish weight loss. These findings may help explain unsuccessful weight loss attempts in the population.

“By publishing this study, we are contributing to knowledge about how social networks relate to body mass. Future research should track actual peer body mass to gain more insight into what we found in this study. With a fuller understanding of how social networks relate to weight loss, interventions may better address any interpersonal dynamics occurring outside clinical settings,” said Andersson.

Source: Yale University: news.yale.edu



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