This may not be a topic that is discussed very much, due to some people finding it offensive or even hurtful, but I do believe it greatly affects us whether we are aware of it or not. After having my own experience with this, I feel the need to address it. Not from an emotional or judgmental place, but as a potential problem that we should all be aware of for our own health.
I was always a naturally thin child and adolescent. I could eat whatever I wanted without any concern about gaining weight. Then when I was 18/19, I got put on a medication that added some extra weight. Then at 21, I met my husband, who was obese. My weight quickly skyrocketed, and one day I woke up ashamed, disgusted, and wondering how I had gotten there.
It didn't take long to realize that my lifestyle had significantly changed, because of my new relationship. We were having the time of our lives! We quickly fell in love, and our entire lives as we knew it, stopped. We were young, carefree, happy, in love, and had little responsibility, other than for ourselves. As with all new relationships, you engulf yourself with that person, and quickly start to take on some of their qualities, mannerisms, sayings, habits, and hobbies. Because we both worked 2nd shift, we ate every night around 11 or 12 o'clock. He loved to take me to my favorite restaurants, so I was eating large portions of fattening foods. He ate a lot of fast food, so I started eating it right along with him. He smoked and I had given up the habit for more than a year, but I quickly picked it back up in full force. It was definitely a time in my life where I lived the mantra "if it feels good, do it," at least my version of it anyways.
It wasn't long before I woke up disgusted with myself, and wondering what the heck happened to me?!! I no longer recognized the girl in the mirror. I was recently thinking about this time in my life, and wondering if other people had experienced anything like this. If spending time with others who make unhealthy choices has altered their behavior in any way, and this is what I found....studies show that obesity is contagious. A large study done by The University Of Arizona shows that people who have a higher number of overweight friends, are usually overweight themselves. They pick up more unhealthy eating habits, and participate in more sedentary activities. They also start to view being overweight as a normal size, since their friends and family are overweight.
So, am I saying that you should dump your overweight friends and family?? NO, not at all!! Studies done by Brigham Young University show that people with strong social ties with their friends, family, and/or co-workers, have a 50 percent lower risk of dying and have less depression, than those without strong social ties. Research also found that those with little to no social ties, had many of the same health risks as smokers and alcoholics. They also found that they have higher associated risks than those who don't exercise, and twice as many risks as being obese.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I talk a lot about balance. The work/life balance, diet/exercise balance, balance in relationships, and pretty much everything else. You don't have to have an all or nothing mentality. For me, I was completely unaware of the harmful changes I had made, and what I was putting my body through, because I was completely distracted by being in love, having fun, and doing whatever I felt like. I had never had a time in my life like that before, and haven't since. It was a great time in so many ways, but sooner or later reality sets in, and you gotta get it together! It wasn't my husband's fault that I gained weight, it was my own carelessness. If you do have a lot of overweight friends and family members, just be conscious of your choices. Do you make different ones when you are with them? Do you justify their behaviors, because you love them? And remember, if your friends and family can affect your behaviors, then you can also affect theirs. Show them the healthier choices you are making, and suggest some healthy activities. Don't preach it, but rather live by example. That always does the most good in changing behaviors for the better. I can honestly say that since getting healthy, I have positively affected the behaviors of those around me. It was a very slow change, and I thought it would never happen, but it has. Loving, respecting, and taking care of yourself will only bring positive changes to your life, and hopefully to those you love most.