I thought this was a bit overstated, but a few of the points really made me think:
- The amount that I eat is definitely influenced (not controlled, but influenced) by how much the other people I'm with are eating. If no one else is ordering dessert, I won't either, and conversely if everyone is ordering dessert, I'm much more likely to indulge. On Tuesdays when I go to C's house, I generally eat less than I would at home, simply because she and her husband do (my hips thank you, C!). I'm not any less full, but if I were cooking at home I'd probably serve myself more without thinking about it. So in that sense, my friends' fat (or lack thereof) is contagious.
- The vast majority of my friends and co-workers are quite fit and relatively conscious of eating healthy food. In fact, over the past couple of years, many of them have lost quite a bit of weight. This trend seemed to start as some people started taking advantage of a weight management program offered by work, but I noticed at the time that it also affected others (like me) who weren't on the program. I wonder how much of that was inspirational, how much was people not bringing unhealthy snacks to share, and how much was happenstance.
- I definitely feel social pressure that it is somewhat uncool to diet or exercise to lose weight. Acceptable reasons would include the nebulous "be healthier" and the more specific "train for a race" or "control blood sugar". I've even found myself using this logic with J, saying things like, "you should go running today because you want to be healthier" rather than, "you should go running today because I'd love it if you had washboard abs". Depending on the specific folks I'm with, this stricture can be more or less severe, but I do remember a friend telling me disdainfully that a mutual friend had taken up exercising "only to get thin!". I wonder what effect this pressure has on fat contagion.
And because this report was on as I drove to work, NPR has not only informed me, but I'm probably less likely to sneak into our group admin's office and steal a cookie today.
*Technically it's according to New England Journal of Medicine, but Ms. Aubrey is the one who brought it to my attention.