Friends may hold key to losing weight

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.

“No matter what diet program or exercise regimen you decide, it’s important to find what works best for you,” she says.

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  1. Rosemary Mueller
    Rosemary Mueller, MPH, RD, LDN February 17, 2015 at 11:50 am · Reply

    Thank you for this important article. Here at Advocate Weight Management, we see demonstrated over and over again the benefits of “camaraderie” between patients. Whether sharing occurs in our clinic waiting rooms or takes place in our educational group classes, there is a motivating “momentum” that builds. Patients share meal plan compliance or recipe ideas in our Nutrition group, personal tips for exercise challenge in our Exercise classes or share the benefits of positive attitude on permanent weight loss in our Behavioral group classes. For more information, please call 847 990-5770 or visit

  2. Ernst Lamothe Jr. February 17, 2015 at 1:52 pm · Reply

    I can see why people wold want to work out together. You are able to push each other. I have known people though that got motivated by seeing strangers on Instagram transform their bodies and that lit a fire under them.

  3. I worked out a buddy system with a friend last summer — you hold me accountable for my fitness and I’ll do the same for you. Three months later, I successfully ran my first 5k. Ever. On days when I didn’t feel like running and wanted to break my routine, she’d make me go. Encouraging texts (and the residual guilt!) can go a long way toward getting you out the door!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.