If somebody said to you that obesity was contagious, what would your reaction be? You’d probably be totally incredulous. How on earth can obesity be contagious? Well, a group of researchers at Harvard Medical school have carried out a study which involved 12,000 people and their conclusion is that obesity is contagious. This piece of research has put the cat among the pigeons in a very big way.
The reason obesity’s contagious doesn’t lie in the fact that obese deliberately people find other obese people to hang out with, it’s more because there is a direct causal relationship. In other words, a person’s idea of what is an acceptable weight changes as a result of being in the company of obese people. If all those around you are obese, then you start to believe - perhaps sub-consciously - that it’s okay to be like them.
For the first time obesity has been put into a social context. If everybody is carrying too much weight then it’s easy to see why people are not concerned by their body weight. In fact many probably take comfort from the fact that they are no different to anybody else. If not in a ‘club’, they are certainly not made to feel that they need to make change - probably completely the opposite.
What part did the environment of lifestyle have on people in this study? This was obviously taken into acccount, but interestingly it was discovered that the impact of obese or overweight friends, particularly of the same sex, existed even when they didn’t live in the same area.
Now that obesity has more of a social context it might be right to consider that the rise in the level of obesity could be as much due to social factors as anything else.
If we take this situation to its logical conclusion, obesity will soon be the norm. Society will accept that excessive weight is not something to worry about…or will it? The consequences of an overweight population is already a cause for concern for many developed countries around the world. Health care costs are going to increase dramatically and many people will face a very miserable old age unless something changes - soon.
It’s not all gloom and doom though. If obesity is contagious, there is no reason why being slim can’t be contagious too! A ’slimness’ epidemic is perfectly possible, but would it be difficult to sell? If feeling a million dollars, being physically able to do whatever you want to do, being happy, being on top of your job and in good health is hard to sell we should all pack our bags now! It’s time to get the slim habit!
About the Author: Henry John Is a well known author and commentator on diet and weight loss and has a particular interest in behavior change and its role in achieving permanent weight loss. Learn more about how to lose weight permanently. Click here.