Weight Loss and Dieting
For years now, a popular dieting book titled, "Eat Right For Your Type," has continued to be a dominant trend for those curious to try a new method of losing weight that focuses on consuming foods that accommodate your blood type. The official book outlining the effective methods of the diet was written by Dr. Peter D'Adamo, and has continued to be a bestseller for years. While many attest to the method as an effective means of dieting, new research has indicated that the theory behind the eating plan is not as successful as it claims to be. Here is a general overview regarding the blood type diet, what it entails and what experts are saying about it.
How it works
Dr. D'Adamo persists that the secret to healthy eating and losing weight is through knowing what type of foods cater to your specific blood type. The four major blood groups of A, B, O and AB each have their own distinctive nutritional plan that will work with lectins, or carbohydrate-binding proteins, in the body to maintain not only a healthy nourishment balance, but also prevent various diseases and ailments from affecting ourselves as well. D'Adamo breaks each blood type down into these categories:
- Type A is "the agrarian or cultivator" group, where an emphasis on vegetables and avoiding red meat are encouraged.
- Type B is "the nomad" group, where dairy products are the main source of nutrition to help boost your immune system.
- Type AB is "the enigma" group, and should be focused on an even balance between both the Type A and B diets.
- Type O is "the hunter" group, and consists of a predominantly high protein meal style of diet.
Things to know
The overall theory behind the blood type diet is that you are imitating the type of foods your ancestors ate thousands of years ago. After reviewing various anthropology research studies to determine the types of agriculture prehistoric humans with their respected blood types would have consumed, D'Adamo developed his dietary outline according to his conclusions. The doctor also encourages continuous physical activity along with the eating plan to see any major results, and the specific exercises also pertain to your specific blood type. Some examples include that Type A's should stick to more meditation and stretching activities such as yoga and Tai Chi, while Type O's need to focus on more aerobic based exercises, such as jogging and cycling.
Other key attributes outlined in the diet according to D'Adamo's book include:
- Knowing which spices and condiments on top of foods will help someone of a specific blood type achieve ideal health and weight.
- Which antioxidants, vitamins and minerals should be emphasized as well as avoided.
- The proper medications that function cohesively in your system.
- What types of physical exercise can be alleviate your symptoms of stress, fatigue and soreness.
- Understanding the characteristics of your blood type to avoid experiencing common illnesses and infections.
- Slowing down the aging process by avoiding specific health factors that negatively impact your blood type and cause rapid cell deterioration.
Does it work?
Millions of books sold and countless positive testimonies later, researchers from the University of Toronto have recently put D'Adamo's dieting theory to the test. The doctors assembled a study consisting of 1,455 study participants, equally ranging from the four main blood types and all considered to be healthy, to see how the diet impacted their health and weight. Before beginning the blood type diet, the participants supplied the researchers with detailed information regarding their own personal diets, as well as providing DNA samples that helped distinguish their levels of cardiometabolic risk factors, such as insulin, cholesterol and triglycerides.
After reviewing the results, as well as the proposed diet scores implemented from D'Adamo's book, the researchers confidently stated that no evidence supports this blood type diet theory, and that any indications of positive health attributes had nothing to do with adhering to an individual's blood type. Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy, a professor from the University of Toronto and lead contributor to the study, was very stern of his team's findings.
"Based on the data of 1,455 study participants, we found no evidence to support the 'blood-type' diet theory," El-Sohemy said in a statement. "The way an individual responds to any one of these diets has absolutely nothing to do with their blood type and has everything to do with their ability to stick to a sensible vegetarian or low-carbohydrate diet. We can now be confident in saying that the blood type diet hypothesis is false."
Whether or not the diet is a complete farce or not, the obvious proponent to anyone trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle is simply through eating nutritiously and receiving significant physical activity every week. If the blood type diet is working for you, there is surely nothing wrong with sticking to it, however, in the end, nothing beats old fashioned nutrition and exercise.
Whether you are looking to lower cholesterol, boost your immune health or drop a little weight this summer, there are many online fitness gurus you can look to for inspiration. Getting your daily dose of healthy eating and exercise is a critical component of your success when you're striving for wellness, and these online experts could be just the thing to steer you on the right path.
There's no doubt that yoga has taken off in popularity in recent years when it comes to body weight training. Tara Stiles, a yoga instructor whose YouTube videos have gained quite a following, focuses specifically on how this ancient practice can give you more energy and cultivate a svelte body. Her training expertise is perfect for beginners, as her approach is laid-back and fun, and she also narrows down which poses will work for your specific fitness needs and muscle groups.
Russell's cardio and toning plans work wonderfully for people who can't seem to find the hours in the day for exercise. Many of her videos on YouTube can be performed in 15 minutes or less. She also offers exercises based on themes, such as fitness moves for brides or finding ways to get arm muscles like celebrities.
Dr. Mehmet Oz
Made famous by Oprah, Dr. Oz has become a household name thanks to his popular daytime TV show. However, there is a wealth of wellness information on his website for you to explore as well, even if you don't have time for the tube. Many of the themes he focuses on are centered around healthy eating, all-natural anti-aging ideas and how diet and exercise can help prevent diseases.
Tone It Up
Karena Dawn and Katrina Hodgson are noted nutrition coaches and personal trainers who offer an all-around approach to staying fit with their website Toneitup.com. From recipes and nutrition programs to weekly schedules and fitness playlists, this site has it all. The two fitness gurus offer advice on fitness-related yoga moves, stretching, triathlon training and proper kettlebell use as well as toning routines for specific muscle groups like legs, abs and arms.
Tim Ferriss' "4 Hour Body" tactics are controversial in some circles, but many people have found weight loss success with his advice and podcasts. Most of his ideas are geared toward "lifestyle design" and revolve around slow-carb dieting interspersed with occasional "cheat days."
Staying fit and healthy with a weight loss supplement or testosterone booster could be an excellent pairing with any of these online wellness programs.
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and that can only mean that it's time to spring back into shape for the summer. You will never get that perfect beach body by sitting on the couch and watching television all day, so now is the time to get outdoors and look your seasonal best. Here are a few easy activities and exercises that are simple to do while also providing the best results for a toned figure.
There is nothing like waking up a little early in the morning to get on the bike and cruise through the backroads to catch a sunrise. Cycling is amazing for your body in a number of ways. Because riding a bike is a non-impact exercise, you are taking a lot of pressure off of your bones and joints that you wouldn't do with running, all while receiving essentially the same workout. And it's also great for gradual weight loss as well. According to Harvard University, just a 30 minute bike ride can cut more than 300 calories from your body, so you can wear off the aftermath of a hearty morning breakfast.
If you live near a large body of water, spending a couple hours every week canoeing can provide your body with a number of wide variety of health benefits. Thoroughly pushing and pulling a paddle back and forth through the water will drastically improve your upper body strength, and help sculpt those biceps and pecs. Just 30 minutes of canoeing can help you lose more than 200 calories, plus it is a great way to catch a sunset on the water!
Indoor rock climbing
While this isn't necessarily limited to the spring, indoor rock climbing is a fantastic way to boost not only your flexibility and strength, but it also provides your brain with a test of strategy. When you are hooked up and gripping your fingers on each stone, you are actively engaging your cardiovascular system, increasing muscle strength and eliminating more than 300 calories from your body, all in just a 30-minute workout. Indoor rock climbing is also one of the few exercises that actually challenges your motivation and desire to get to the top, so your pride and reputation are on the line for this activity as well!
Weekly sessions of kickboxing will be sure to put a little spring in your step for the summer! Kickboxing is a complete workout package, especially for those trying to trim a few pounds. An hour of participating in kickboxing or other versions of martial arts can help you burn anywhere between 750 to 900 calories, especially if you include agility exercises like jump rope, which are common warm up activities for martial arts. Not only is it a heavy workout, but kickboxing is a self defense skill you can keep with you for life!
Tossing around the Frisbee with friends is less of an exercise and more of an active form of leisure, but following the rules of ultimate Frisbee will not only increase the excitement, but up the ante in exercise as well. Ultimate Frisbee is played out in similar fashion to football, where teams throw the spinning device to each other in hopes of moving down the field and crossing the goal line for a touchdown. A full-on game of ultimate Frisbee can make you burn upward of 13 calories in a minute, which means playing a 90 minute game with your friends can help you lose more than 1,000 calories! Ultimate Frisbee the is the ultimate combination of exercise and socializing.
It is one thing to tell yourself you are going to change your dietary habits and start eating healthier everyday, but it's another to act on it. In fact, according to some estimates, 95 percent of people who start diets eventually fail, and will regain any weight they lost in 1 to 5 years.
The dynamics of changing your eating routine is an extremely challenging barrier to conquer, but it's not what you are eating that's the hard part. Instead, it's discovering and maintaining the proper mentality that is the tricky part. If you have been looking to start dieting or have tried and failed in the past, here are some tips to help get you in the right disposition to become a healthy eater and stay that way:
Ease your way into it
One of the biggest reasons why people end up ditching their diets is because it is too much change too fast. If you go from eating hamburgers and doughnuts one day to salads and apples the next, the odds are that in a week, you will be back in the drive-thru lane. Take baby steps by substituting a salad instead of a starch for your next meal, or skip the dessert if that is a main staple with your dinner. Even little alterations such as low-fat salad dressing and skim or soy milk can make a big difference and help you lose weight or lower cholesterol. Every week, keep making more changes, until a few months go by and you won't even notice the major adjustments you have made to your plate.
Understand your eating psychology
There are so many mental and environmental factors that go into the eating habits you have developed over time. They can range from before you were born to the emotional state of mind you are currently in. Here are five components to dietary psychology that can help you understand your eating routine:
Cultural, evolutionary and familial all stem from a wide area of variables including the genetic makeup of your parents, the foods your family has grown accustomed to and the size or quantity of each meal you consumed growing up. Social can stem from how often you go out to dine with friends, and if their eating habits have any influence on you. Individual factors mainly come from whether your own emotions control your food intake.
It's important to recognize when outside forces are starting to affect the way you eat. If stress has you reaching for some candy or potato chips, switch it up with a granola bar or healthy yogurt. If your friends always go out to eat, get a light meal in before you meet up with them and stick to a side salad or appetizer while still being a part of the gang. Identifying and attempting to correct certain habits is a big step toward becoming a full-time healthy eater.
Hold yourself accountable
In the end, you are the only one who has the control over what you put into your body. This also means that no one else can distract or discipline you with poor eating decisions. When going to the grocery store, make a list of fruits, vegetables and other healthy choices, and stick to it. If you keep buying ice cream or cookies, you are only making it harder on yourself when you know they are waiting for you in the pantry.
Keeping a food diary is an extremely effective way to monitor your dietary intake, and sometimes you'll look back and be amazed at all the unnecessary products you were packing into your stomach. Don't be afraid to seek a little help as well, such as by seeing a nutritionist. A Naturade Total Soy Meal Replacement shake to get all the essential vitamins and minerals you need without overeating. Remember, being a healthy eater in the end depends on how bad you want to be, so stay determined and focused and you will eventually get the results you have been looking for.
With spring already here, it is time to start getting in shape, cut calories and find new ways to help obtain that summer beach body we all strive for. A well balanced diet is the first step toward being healthy and staying trim, so avoiding foods that are loaded with fat is essential for losing weight and helping lower cholesterol. Here is a list of 10 foods and beverages that actually burn fat and boost your metabolism so you can have the energy and motivation to look lean and stay fit this year.
Researchers have found that regularly drinking green tea every day is an effective way to decrease body fat and help lose a few pounds in the process. Scientists from the Biological Sciences Laboratories of Kao Corp., in Tochigi, Japan tested athletes ingesting green tea extract, or GTE, and discovered that the drink can help improve overall endurance while increasing the rates of fat oxidation. "GTE is beneficial for improving endurance capacity and supporting the hypothesis that the stimulation of fatty acid utilization is a promising strategy for improving endurance capacity," the researchers said.
While eggs normally get a bad reputation for raising cholesterol levels, moderate intake can actually help you lose weight and get rid of unwanted fats in the body. Eggs are packed with vitamin B-12, which breaks down fat, and one egg usually contains only 90 calories. Try eating eggs without the yolk to avoid increased cholesterol while still consuming the essential vitamins.
Add some kick and cut some fat to your meal by adding hot peppers such as jalapenos and chilis. Peppers are loaded with capsaicin, which is a compound that provides the spiciness that also stimulates your metabolism while reducing "bad" fat levels. The spice might burn your tongue, but it is guaranteed to burn some fat.
Another option that has generally received health scrutiny, coconut oil is bursting with medium-chained-triglycerides, or MCTs, that are proven to generate a higher rate of weight loss and fat burned than using olive oil. The body uses MCTs for energy, which means it doesn't store the fat found in the component. Try cooking with a little coconut oil to help get rid of excess fat.
A common health misconception is that all fat is bad for you and will increase your weight. Avocados help debunk this myth with their abundance of monounsaturated fats, which enhance metabolism and are used by the body as a slow burning energy source. Avocados also contain healthy antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, which also help boost your immune system.
This fish is renowned for its health benefits, including being an excellent source of protein and vitamin B, but salmon is also a productive food to break down fat. Rich with omega-3s, salmon helps build extra muscle, which in turn burns fat in the body. It's also low in saturated fat and activates the thyroid hormone which increases speeds of metabolism. Eating salmon twice a week can ward off unnecessary fat storage.
As if you needed another reason to eat your vegetables, broccoli is high in fiber which helps our digestive system move fat out of the body faster so it can't be fully absorbed. Broccoli is also extremely low in calories and contains zero fat, and It helps trigger enzymes that inform fat cells to burn fat. There is no excuse not to add a little green to your diet, and broccoli is a top of the line vegetable.
Almonds and other nuts such as pecans, walnuts and peanuts, are full of protein, fiber and healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Eating a few handfuls of almonds can also help suppress your appetite, eliminating excess snacking and overeating. Make sure to eat almonds sparingly, as a full serving does contain approximately 160 calories.
While many things can taste like it, few other meats can provide healthier amounts of protein than a grilled piece of chicken. When you are eating grilled chicken, your body has a thermogenic reaction, which helps you burn off more calories than other foods. Grilled chicken is ideal for those looking to build some muscle while cutting down on fat storage.
Topping off a dish with a little fresh ginger can help stimulate metabolism and also make you feel more full so you can eat less. Ginger also provides relief to sore or strained muscles, which can allow you to feel more active and motivated to exercise. Try applying ginger to your coffee or tea, or drizzle a little with your salad dressing.
Including any combination of these 10 amazing food options to your daily diet is proven to help you boost metabolism, build muscle and most importantly, burn fat.
Going with your gut can either be a positive example of successful intuition or an impulsive, and ultimately regrettable, fast-food decision. But what if the inside of your gut was the secret to increasing metabolism and losing weight, regardless of an intake of greasy burgers and salty French fries? Recent studies are showing that it is not necessarily what you put in your stomach that can pack on the pounds, but what you are not ingesting that could be the key to staying trim.
It's obvious that consuming a hearty meal of drive-thru junk food isn't necessarily the greatest thing for our bodies. However, the Florida Department of Citrus has produced a study that determined that all you need to offset the odds of an extended gut after fast food is a little orange juice. Volunteers were brought on board to consume a 910 calorie breakfast of two sandwiches and hash browns, and two-thirds washed their meal down with either sugared or regular water and the rest with orange juice. Those who didn't drink the orange juice were found to have increased stomach inflammation and high blood pressure, while those who did showed no signs of either symptom, all while eating the exact same meal.
While orange juice is rich in antioxidants that could have countered signs of inflammation, it was the increased blood levels of the molecule endotoxin, which is produced by outer walls of various types of bacteria, found in the non-orange juice drinkers that had the researchers the most intrigued. When the body experiences elevated levels of endotoxin, the immune system responds with inflammation to help flush out the excess molecules. Since the fast food didn't contain any bacteria, the meal must have conjured it out of pre-existing endotoxin stored in the stomach's microbes, single-cell organisms that work as together an ecosystem in bodies. The orange juice appeared to have the opposite effect by not provoking the bacteria.
Bargaining with bacteria
The subtle difference of adding orange juice to a high calorie and carbohydrate meal can make or break those few pounds tacked on to your gut. It's important to understand that what you put into your body depends more on how it reacts to bacteria in your stomach, rather than the meal's nutritional value, that curves weight gain. By adding a little vitamin C or flavonoids to whatever it is you are about to eat could be all you need to avoid indigestion problems and steer clear of a beer belly formation. Other benefits of consuming daily regimens of antioxidants include:
- Decreased inflammation
- Strengthened immune system
- Clearer memory
- Improved vision
Along with weekly exercise, managing how your gut bacteria breaks down foods can ensure a healthier lifestyle, even if you are giving in to the occasional junk food temptation. Daily trips to the drive-thru or the ice cream parlor are not going to do you any favors, but snacking in moderation with the right dietary habits is not a big deal. So respect the gut, or it might choose to turn on you.
If you think fad diets have been popping up left and right in the past two decades, you're right. The irony, of course, is that per their nature, fad diets come and go, it seems that the "fad" of having these diets has been hanging around for far too long.
In fact, one of the first known fad diets was the "vinegar and water" diet made popular in 1820 by Lord Byron. And in fact, the low-carbohydrate diet we associate with Atkins actually originated in 1825 in a piece called "The Physiology of Taste" by Jean Brillat-Savarin, and in 1863 was again popularized with Banting's Low Carbohydrate diet.
Here are some other interesting and – frankly – weird fad diets starting in the early 20th century:
- 1903: Horace Fletcher introduces "fletcherizing," or chewing food 32 times
- 1917: Counting calories is born in Lulu Hunt Peters' book on dieting and health
- 1925: One cigarette brand promoted smoking when one had the urge to eat sweets in order to lose weight
- 1930: Dr. Stoll's Diet Aid is the first liquid diet drink
- 1934: The bananas and skim milk diet, which is unsurprisingly promoted by the United Fruit Company
- 1950: The grapefruit (Hollywood) diet and cabbage soup diet are born
- 1976: Sleeping Beauty Diet, whereby individuals remained heavily sedated for many days
- 1981: Beverly Hills Diet involves eating only fruit – in unlimited quantities – for the first 10 days of the diet
- 1985: Caveman diet emerges as the first incarnation of the Paleo diet
- 1986: Rotation diet means eating a different number of calories each week
- 1994: Dr. Atkins' ever-present high protein, low carbohydrate diet is introduced
- 1996: The blood type diet first emerges, which involves eating particular foods based on your blood type
- 1999: Juicing, fasting and detoxification are promoted
- 2006: Maple syrup diet, with a syrup and lemon drink
- 2008: Banana diet, with room temperature water and a banana for breakfast
- 2010: Baby food diet – 14 jars of baby food per day, with an optional normal adult dinner
Why fad diets never work
Though many use compelling language and ideas, most nutritionists and experts agree that fad diets just don't work. In fact, many can be downright dangerous. Here's why:
- They often restrict consumption of a particular type of food that is essential to nutrition, and over-promote others, meaning your diet is lacking in essential nutrients. This can have negative effects on immune health.
- Most fad diets operate by severely restricting calories. This causes your body to shut down and the metabolism to slow in order to conserve energy and resources.
- Fad diets are a temporary food plan. They are usually completely unsustainable for the long term. Additionally, they can complicate one's relationship with food, taking all of the pleasure out of eating.
- If you do not get enough protein from your diet, you can have muscle loss, low energy and hair loss.
- Fad diets can interfere with one's metabolism because of their strict schedules.
How to spot a fad diet
There are many characteristics in common between fad diets, including:
- Not recommending or including physical activity in the diet plan.
- Encouraging unlimited consumption of particular foods.
- Severely limiting carbohydrates or fat to unhealthy levels.
- Promising rapid weight loss – more than 2 pounds per week, which is both unhealthy and unrealistic.
- Promising a quick fix, like taking a pill, which requires little effort.
- Requiring the purchase of a particular product.
- Avoiding the mention of portion control.
- The combination of particular foods in each meal.
- It sounds too good to be true.
A balanced and healthy eating plan, complemented by daily cardio exercise, is always the best way to manage your weight and be healthy. If you have questions, contact your doctor, who can help you plan or refer you to a registered dietician.
Have you tried just about every weight loss method in the book and still aren't seeing the results you desire? Still struggling to find that secret formula to lower cholesterol and stay fit? Sure, everyone knows that exercising and healthy eating habits are the backbone of any good diet plan. But perhaps simply writing down everything you eat in a day can help you monitor your calorie intake.
Studies conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research have found healthy dietary routines and maintaining a food diary to be a successful combination for losing weight. In one study, nearly 1,700 participants were instructed to turn in weekly food journals, get a moderate amount of exercise and eat more fruits and vegetables. After six months of this routine, the participants lost an average of 13 pounds, with two-thirds reporting they lost at least 9 pounds in the process.
Lead author Jack Hollis asserted that food journals can motivate people to lose weight:
"The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost," Hollis said. "Those who kept daily food records lost twice as much weight as those who kept no records. It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories."
By simply monitoring what we eat on a daily basis, we can recognize flaws in our dietary habits. Here are five tips to help you keep a successful food journal and get on the right track for weight loss.
It's easy to scrawl out a bunch of meals you had in a notebook, but making sure everything is in order will help ensure an easy way to catalog your dietary intake. Create proper columns that indicate the date, time, place, food consumed and overall quantity of food during the meal. When referring to quantity, try to be as specific as you can, like using proper measurements such as teaspoons or grams. It's important to include every single item of food you eat and beverage you drink to help detect destructive eating patterns.
Record your feelings
This also includes mentioning how hungry you felt prior to eating. Writing down simple feelings you experience during your meals, such as happy, tired or angry can help distinguish why you eat certain foods. If you're consuming foods because of feelings other than hunger, this might be what's setting you back on your weight loss goal.
Write down the place you're eating
Monitoring the location you eat at is another important step in understanding your dietary habits. If you notice you've been eating in bed or in your car frequently, you might be able to find more active environments to dine and help stimulate metabolism.
Record your weekly physical activity
This can serve as a blatant reminder of how active you're staying throughout the week. If you start noticing vacant spaces where your daily exercises should be scribbled down, it's time to pencil in an appointment to the gym.
Analyze your journal
At the end of the week, sit down and look over everything you've recorded. Calculate your portions of meat and dairy compared to those of fruit and vegetables. Observe any frequent or occasional drive-thru stops at fast food restaurants. The more you can understand your dietary flaws, the quicker you can correct them and maintain a healthy living.
The philosophy behind the Paleo Diet sounds too good to be true. Often referred to as the "Stone Age" diet, the Paleo Diet is a high-protein meal plan that gets its name after the hunter-gatherer eating methods our extended Neanderthal family survived on during the Paleolithic Era over 10,000 years ago.
Essentially, the diet stresses the substitution of processed foods, wheat and dairy, in favor of fresh meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Those touting the Paleo Diet want you to eat the same way your ancestors ate: chowing down on a juicy home cooked steak or indulging in freshly prepared salmon. Cooking from scratch is emphasized, and the diet's main enemies include salt, refined sugar and boxed or canned goods.
Free range meats such as beef, pork and poultry are the suggested main entrees for the Paleo Diet. Avocados and macadamia nuts are good choices to pair with high protein meals and can be drizzled with healthy olive or coconut oils for added taste.
Though there is contention about whether the Paleo Diet is healthy, in a recent U.S. News article, Dr. David Perlmutter, the author of "Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar," advocated for the diet and insisted that this method is not only a great way to lose some pounds, but will also increase mental activity. Perlmutter alluded to a recent study by the Mayo Clinic that concluded people consuming the high-fat, low-carb diet reduced risks of dementia by up to 65 percent. He railed against gluten, referring to the substance as, "the main culprit of obesity and why people suffer from brain diseases." Perlmutter also suggested that even cutting out the usual morning orange juice can help sustain proper blood sugar needed throughout the day.
What makes the Paleo Diet a realistic weight loss opportunity is the overall low level of effort involved. There's no need to monitor your calories as long as you're eating the recommended foods provided. The Paleo plan also allows for a slight bending of the rules, suggesting that new users can consume "open meals" that may include grains or processed foods up to three times per week. Exercise is not required for participating in the diet, but is encouraged.
Our caveman predecessors stayed fit by physically hunting down their food, so keep that in mind if you choose to pursue this ancient diet! Also, it's best to consult your physician before starting a diet plan to ensure it's the right one for you.
If you like to exercise but aren't exactly a fanatic about it, you might need a little extra motivation to get to the gym or get outside, especially when the weather is not ideal. For many people, a workout buddy does the trick to inspire mutual motivation. Sometimes, it's best to choose an acquaintance rather than very close friend – someone you wouldn't want to be a slacker in front of, especially since friends are more likely to let things slide.
But, just as a fitness friend can be a boon to your workout routine, some friends can also bring you down when it comes to exercise and weight loss. In fact, several studies have revealed a type of waterfall effect that comes with surrounding yourself with people who don't practice healthy habits.
For example, according to an October 2013 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which was an analysis of previous studies, researchers from the University of Liverpool found that both the amount of food others eat and the type of food they eat influence people's food decisions, provided they are in our social circle. This relates to perceived social norms of the group. Surprisingly, the researchers found that this was true even when people ate alone. What this indicates is that the influence of others' food choices on us – which leads to weight loss, gain or maintenance – is very subtle, so much that we might not even recognize it is happening.
Previously, a May 2011 study in the American Journal of Public Health by researchers at Arizona State University looked into three different pathways for friends influencing weight gain. Researchers found that if one has heavier family members, friends and colleagues, it's more likely that he or she will be heavier too. And, interestingly, the closer the relationships are, the bigger the influence on weight there is.
What lead researcher Alexandra Brewis Slade found was that – rather than feeling peer pressure or slowly taking on friends' viewpoints over time – the mechanism for this social influence is more subtle. It's often not discussed or even really thought about, but can be as simple as ordering dessert at a restaurant, even when you're full, because everyone else in your group is doing it.
"The key message is that behavior and what people do together is important," Brewis Slade said. "So parents might want to go bicycling with their kids, go to a salad bar with kids, focus on what they do together."
The bottom line?
While this research might be interesting and convincing, it shouldn't be taken as a reason to ditch friends because they are on the heavier side or enjoy junk food more than most. In fact, awareness is important, and knowledge can help you resist what you probably never thought about before. Plus, influences can be positive as well. Perhaps you can be the catalyst for change to healthier habits in your friend group.