11 June 2019How to Build Strong Friendships around Your Health Goals

You love your friends. They make you laugh and are there to share in the good and bad times. But, are they a good influence on your health goals? Or are they the kinds of friends who try to undermine your efforts? Your friends can have a bigger impact on your health and weight than you might even realize.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed over 12,000 individuals and their friends for 32 years. Researchers found that that those who had one or more close friends that were obese had a 57% greater risk of becoming obese themselves. The influence of friends was a more powerful predictor over someone's weight than the weight of a sibling or spouse, which might come as a surprise.

Does this mean you should only be friends with thin people? Not so fast! This research just suggests that those who are overweight may also have overweight friends. It does not say that the friends made them overweight. It might be that people who live similar lifestyles find connection with each other. For example, if you wake up every weekend to run several miles, you probably would have more in common with people who do the same, right?

This research does suggest that you might want to take a look at how your friends might be influencing you in a positive or negative way. If you do have friends who are in great shape or always seem to eat healthy, use this to your advantage. Ask questions about how they stay motivated or if they are willing to share healthy recipes. A friend who is interested in health can be a great accountability partner, so see if they are willing to help you stay on track.

If you don't currently have any friends with healthy lifestyles, there is always room to make new friends. Look for friends at an exercise class or sign up for a healthy cooking class. Running groups are a great way to get to know new friends as well. Most cities have Meet Up groups for people interested in various types of physical activities, so consider joining one of those.

Also, keep in mind that every relationship is a give and take. Although a friend with less than healthy habits might influence you, you can also influence them to be healthier. If you want to develop different lifestyle habits, you just need to speak up and suggest spending time together in a different way. Consider trying a new salad restaurant in town or going for a walk instead of out to eat. You can have input in the types of activities you do together.

One thing to note, is that lifestyle change does have to come from within. If you are developing a healthier lifestyle, it will not be helpful to your friend to comment on their weight or choices. All you can do is be a role model for them for how to live better. Health is a journey and it is important to respect where your friend is on his or her journey. Instead try being supportive and encouraging towards healthy habits.

Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD is a freelance health writer and dietitian with 12 years of experience in the field of nutrition. You can learn more about her at www.anareisdorf.com

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

Tags:

Weight Loss/Behavior Weight Loss/Family & Friends Weight Maintenance/Behavior

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