Study: How Your Colleagues, Family and Friends May Impact Weight Loss

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With all the weight loss support groups out there, it’s no surprise that having support can make a difference when it comes to eating healthier and exercising. A new study now suggests that coworkers, friends and family can undermine weight loss or increase it over two years, depending upon their support.Lowsection of two businesspeople walking up stairs with bags in

The study is important for cancer prevention – along with overall health – because overweight and obesity increases risk of eight cancers, including colorectal and postmenopausal breast.

Published in Obesity, the study included 633 high-school employees who were participating in a weight gain prevention study. About a third of the participants were overweight and another quarter were obese.

At the start, participants were weighed and then answered questions about how supportive or unsupportive their friends, family and colleagues were about their diet and exercise behaviors.

Having someone complain or criticize eating or exercise habits earned a high score on the unsupportive scale. Tempting someone to eat unhealthy foods also earned high on the underminining scale. Joining in exercising, complements on new eating habits and helping plan activities all earned high marks for supportive.

Participants completed the survey again after one year and two years, when they were also weighed.

After two years, there was only a slight weight reduction among the group. The participants who lost weight were more likely to have family join them in exercising or show support for their physical activity in other ways. Having coworkers and friends support healthy eating habits also linked to greater weight loss.

Those who reported their family undermined their healthy eating habits linked to weight gain.

Researchers took into account gender, age, education, and clustering of individuals within schools. Yet only about a fifth of the participants completed the two years, and it’s possible that those who had greater social support to start with better managed their weight, the study notes.

Ideas on how to help your colleagues, friends and family eat better and exercise more? Please share.

This research was funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute and the CDC Prevention Research Center program.


    Author: Mya Nelson

    Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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