Friends or Foe?

However much we love our friends they aren’t always the greatest help when we are trying to lose weight. Whether it’s insisting you join them in a slice of birthday cake (playing the guilt card) or telling you that they are worried as you are looking a bit tired and haggard with the weight loss (a smidge of jealousy perhaps?) they sometimes seem to undermine our efforts instead of boosting them as good friends should.

And scientific studies provide some evidence to demonstrate that friends can be vital in helping us achieve our goals. In fact, a recent study of almost 10,000 people keen to lose weight showed that they were more likely to be successful if they mixed with slimmer than larger friends.

Of course, a simple survey doesn’t give the full picture but it makes sense as we tend to mirror the lifestyle habits of those closest to us or mix with people who share the same interests. And it’s all too easy to kid ourselves that we aren’t really that overweight if we surround ourselves with others who are in the same boat and provide mutual reassurance that all is fine.

What’s more, a study from my favourite behavioural scientist, Brian Wansink, showed that people who served themselves from a buffet after someone who is apparently overweight served themselves more food. Beware!


friends activity

So, if you are trying to increase your activity, reduce your portion size and adopt generally healthier habits, surround yourselves with others who do the same. You don’t have to shun your larger friends for good but try to hang out with the ‘let’s go for a walk and a chat’ types rather than the ‘shall we catch up, for coffee and cake’ ones whilst you are getting into healthier habits yourself.

Then, once you have achieved your goals and made those healthy habits stick you can be the slimmer one yourself, helping your larger friends to follow your success!



Andersson MA, Christakis NA. Desire for weight loss, weight-related social

contact, and body mass outcomes. Obesity 2016

M Shimizua, K Johnson, B Wansink In good company. The effect of an eating companion’s appearance on food intake. Appetite 2014

Trogdon JG, Nonnemaker J, Pais J. Peer effects in adolescent overweight. J

Health Econ. 2008