According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we might “catch” obesity from our neighbors. Researchers focused on 1,300 Army parents and their 1,100 children who were stationed near 38 military bases across the U.S. The Army families relocated based on military requirements rather than personal preference.
Researchers found those families placed near military bases with higher obesity rates were more likely to be overweight or obese themselves. The opposite was also true; families placed near military bases with lower obesity rates reduced the likelihood of their family gaining weight.
Social norms have a large impact on behavior and attitude towards food and exercise habits. Without realizing it, we are often influenced by others around us. Other studies have shown a strong support system of friends and family who encourage healthy eating and exercise habits are powerful motivators for people working on lifestyle change.
Unfortunately the opposite can be true too. Living in an environment where friends, family members, or coworkers have poor eating and exercise habits can easily rub off on the most well-intentioned person.
Food is a connector. It expresses care, warmth, love, and tradition. Finding the right balance between healthy food for nourishment and small treats for enjoyment is important for overall health. In any environment staying mindful is helpful. I recommend planning out your week so you can anticipate where challenges might arise. If you go out to eat read the menu ahead of time and stick to the healthy choice you already planned on.
Be firm with food pushers that pressure “treats/cheats” you did not plan for. If they still insist, take a small portion and throw it away after they leave.
If certain friends always influence bad eating behavior find other ways to connect that do not involve food such as going to a concert, hiking, shopping, etc.
Lastly, be the catalyst for change. If everyone always brings junk to the party try something new and healthy. You might be surprised by the positive feedback it brings.