Can your friends and family make you fat? You might think so after reading about a study that created news headlines recently. The study about The Spread of Obesity in Large Social Networks was released in the New England Journal of Medicine in late July. Its lead author is a physician at Harvard Medical School, and he partnered with another doctor to evaluate the extent to which people are impacted by others who are overweight in their social network. They turned to data from the Framingham Heart Study to see if their hypothesis had any merit and found the correlation they were looking for.

They found that the weight gain in one person was linked to weight increases in their close friends, family and neighbors, and that obesity is found in groups of people who are socially and closely connected. This was most obvious between husband and wives, who followed one another in weight increases, as well as friends or siblings of the same sex. They legitimized what many of us have witnessed for ourselves but may not have fully understood.

Their study provides insight into our behaviors, and how easy it is to take on the behaviors of those around us. We’ve probably all done it. We do it unconsciously to fit in, feel better, have an excuse, ensure we aren’t alone, or free ourselves of any responsibility. Consider the following scenarios to see if you are or have been impacted by those around you.

How often do you overeat or chose unhealthy options when you are out with friends, colleagues or family? Have you ever turned to food for emotional support because you don’t like what you see in yourself or how others are treating you? Do you plan most of your social events around food? Do you encourage others to eat things they don’t want or need to ensure you aren’t alone, sabotaging their efforts to eat better? Or have you become desensitized to being heavier, because those around you are overweight?

This study is an opportunity to look at your own situation and to get in touch with what is contributing to your weight. While you may be influenced by others, you are ultimately responsible for your choices and your body. No one else can make you fat unless you allow it – consciously or unconsciously.
And here’s the crux of the problem. Most people are unconscious about their choices when around food.

If you aren’t conscious about the choices you are making, you can’t make different choices. Furthermore if you are conscious of your choice and harshly judge it, you will likely continue with the choice out of a need to punish yourself or prove yourself right. That doesn’t sound right does it, but ask yourself this: How often have you kept on eating when you knew it wasn’t in your best interest? The guiltier you felt, the more you probably ate, which is a classic case of emotional eating.

The solution is to become conscious of your hunger levels and to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied - before you get full, regardless of what others are doing. Whenever you overeat or eat when you aren’t even hungry, pay attention to why you are doing this without any judgment. If you judge it, you can’t look at it objectively. Are you eating just because others are eating? Are you eating too much because your spouse is still eating? Do you feel you have to eat as much as your spouse or others you eat with? Are you eating because someone offered you food, even though you aren’t hungry? Are you eating to please someone else? If so, why do you feel you have to do these things? Take a look at where your beliefs come from and if you need to hold onto them any longer. If they aren’t serving you, create new beliefs and a new understanding with the people you care about.

If we can negatively impact the choices in those around us, then we can also positively affect them by making healthier changes in ourselves. What step will you take this week to break the cycle?

Author's Bio: 

Alice Greene is America’s Healthy Lifestyle Coach and founder of Feel Your Personal Best. Alice is also co-host of Living Your Personal Best radio show featuring weekly lifestyle success stories. Alice understands why it is hard to make lifestyle changes and has a positive and unique approach that helps people change their relationship with food, exercise, their bodies and themselves and create a lifestyle that feels good. She combines lifestyle coaching with an expertise in fitness, nutrition, self care and dream fulfillment. Receive her free report, "9 Life-Changing Secrets Every Woman (and Man) Must Know" and learn how to make lifestyle changes on your own terms at .