Is Weight Loss Contagious?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When you hear the word contagious does this conjure up thoughts of illnesses such as the flu or strep throat? You know the diseases that are spread by bodily contact with those around you. BUT have you ever thought your weight may also be associated with those we relate to on a daily basis whether in person or via a social network site such as SparkPeople.

In a study published in the July 2007 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers noted that the friends we associate with, whether far away or those who live close by, have a huge influence on our weight. The study reported that there was a 57 percent chance of one becoming obese if one of the friends became obese. This rate rose to a whopping 71 percent if the friend was of the same gender, regardless of where that friend lived-- whether she/he lived across the country or right next door.

Obesity is a health crisis affecting every country across the globe. Heart disease, type II diabetes, as well as some cancers are just a few of the diseases linked to our weight. According to the Center of Disease Control, in 2011 over 30% of all Americans were considered obese, while 17% of children ranging in age from 2-19 were classified as obese. This trend, if the course we remain on does not change, will inevitably lead to rising healthcare cost for all of us across the board.

And while the solution may be as simple as eating less and moving more, without the support of friends and family, it is very tempting to ascribe to their unhealthy ways. I see this as one of the most common complaints from members, not only on the message boards, but our SparkTeams as well-- they do not have the support of family and friends who understand their need to become healthy. This lack of support is what can be the difference between success and failure. And take it from someone who has been there, it can be quite difficult to go it alone.

However, what if I told you that just like our friends can influence our weight gain, same can be said about our weight loss?

In a study published last month in the online journal Obesity, researchers from The Miriam Hospital's Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University found that those members who participated in a weight loss competition were able to "achieve similar weight loss outcomes" and the more support the team members had, the better the weight loss outcome.

So what does this mean for you? How do you connect with a team to help you reach your goal?

Being a member of SparkPeople you have access to support, encouragement and motivation, not only on the message boards, but in many of the SparkTeams available to you. If you need that extra push, you may want to check out SparkPeople's Challenge Central. But don't underestimate your power of helping others who are just beginning their journey or may have found themselves stuck.

One of the amazing outcomes in this study showed that team leaders lost more weight than their team members. While researchers speculate that this may be in part due to "increased motivation and engagement in the campaign" the power of helping others can be a huge motivator in helping us achieve our own success. Something we here at SparkPeople already knew. It's not the experts and coaches that allow our members to achieve success, but the motivation that is driven by ordinary people doing extraordinary deeds.

What do you think about this study? Do you think support is a huge motivator for helping you meet your goals and helping others meet their goals? Do actively participate in challenges here on SparkPeople, and if so which ones?