Friends may hold key to losing weight
According to the American Heart Association, 154.7 million Americans are overweight and of those Americans, 78.4 are obese. So it’s no wonder the billion dollar weight loss industry spends lots of money to have celebrities like Jessica Simpson and Kirstie Alley endorse their programs. But could friends who’ve had success in the program be more of an influence than celebs?
A new study, “Modeling the Spread of an Obesity Intervention through a Social Network,” finds that people are more likely to start a weight loss program if a friend was successful, than seeing a less successful charismatic person persuade them to sign up.
“People want to see that positive influence,” said Lora Cavuoto, occupational health researcher at the University at Buffalo-New York, in a statement. “Understanding how social influence affects people’s participation in health programs can lead to better-designed wellness interventions.”
Study leaders created “fictional people” with certain personality traits and physical attributes such as the ability to lose weight and a high or low body mass index.
“People who were linked to someone who successfully lost weight or had a high body mass index produced the largest total weight loss among peers. The networks surrounding a person with a high number of friends — those who were more charismatic or popular — produced lower weight-loss totals,” the report noted.
Study experts are confident the findings can help change the way diet programs attract new participants by better understanding what influences them to join a program in the first place.
“Your ties and social contacts may have a bigger effect because you see them every day and you have that close connection,” said Cavuoto. “If they can be successful, then that’s your best way of getting information out that a program is good.”
Laura Tarry, fitness manager at Advocate Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center in Downers Grove, Ill., has seen great results when it comes to participants trying to lose weight in a group setting.
“It’s about guiding each person to help reach goals by building safe and effective work out programs. Some of the biggest accomplishments have been obtained through friends working out together, working with a personal trainer and attending group exercise classes,” Tarry says.
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