Monday, March 19, 2012

Be Careful Who Your Friends Are

This new bench miraculously appeared over the winter along one of my favorite walking trails.
I'll be spending lots of time here!
March 14, 2012

When I was growing up, one of my mother's famous lines was, "be careful who your friends are."  Of course, at that point in time, I would just roll my eyes back in my head and think, "what does she know?," but as I grew older, it turns out she was right!  Last Monday, my friend, Diane, who blogs at Fit To The Finish, wrote an excellent post entitled, Is Weight Loss Contagious?  It reminded me of an article I had stolen borrowed from my doctor's office after one of those many visits last year that I intended to write about, but never did.  Had to dig awhile, but finally found it!  

Borrowing from Diane's thoughts and turning them around, I'm asking,"Is Weight GAIN contagious"?  The article I read was from WebMD Magazine, September, 2011 and was entitled "Big Problem - The Surprising Link Between Women's Thoughts About Obesity and The Size Of America."  (I have tried to find a link to this article, but can't.) I could write about six posts based on the specific MISCEPTIONS women have about the influence our personal weight and diet patterns have on others, but one in particular jumped out at me.  According to this survey of 1,037 women, less than 1/3 of them UNDERSTOOD that they were 57% more likely to become obese if their friend/friends were obese, 40% if their sibling was, and 37% if their spouse was.  So it seems my mom was right.  If I choose to hang around with people who are obese, have a sibling who is or a spouse who is, it's likely to have an impact on me.  

Now PLEASE don't fire off comments berating me for speaking negatively or unkindly about the problem of obesity.  I want to think that the two concepts of weight loss being contagious and weight gain being contagious might work together in the name of love and compassion for each other.  But I do think this opened my eyes to the fact that I'm probably not immune, nor will I ever be, to the poor eating habits of obese friends and family if I make the choice to subject myself to their way of eating all the time.  I have friends who fall into the category of obese and although things are going quite well for me right now, I can attest to the fact that their eating habits have been detrimental to my choices in times past when I wasn't feeling as strong as I am right now.  In fact, early last fall, a few successive days of on-plan eating were derailed after one dinner out with a specific couple whom I have in mind.  And the most important thing about this survey is this.  It's not inevitable that YOUR weight loss pattern is going to be impacted by the patterns of your friends, siblings or spouse.  It's that you must UNDERSTAND how often it happens and how easily it happens!  

Shifting gears, I loved your comments from my last post.   It's such fun to learn obscure things about each of you such as whether you have articles of clothing in more than one size.  And I was thrilled to hear that some of you have also given in to the dreaded stretch waist bands especially those who are at maintenance and still don't have that 36-26-36 figure which I was just certain everyone did!  LOL!   Maybe we should start an exclusive club just for those who may wear size 8 slacks or skirt, but still gotta have some stretch in the waist to fit those hips!!

A couple of you also mentioned how lucky I am to have that "pear" shaped body type even with the difficulties it presents in buying clothes.  And I want you to know that I TOTALLY understand that and NEVER take it for granted.  A pear-shape is much less susceptible to heart disease and other risk factors.  In all my complaining, I never lose sight of the fact that I'm glad I'm a pear!!

And lastly, I'd love to throw away all those larger sizes once I no longer need them.  But here's the thing.  Those specific jeans are quickly becoming a style that are no longer made.  Once very popular, they are now made in only a couple of factories and finding them has become impossible.  I suspect they'll soon no longer be made at all.  So nope, can't discard them!  However, once they are too big, rest assured they are washed, folded and stored in an airtight container DEEP in the bowels of our largest storage closet.  I don't plan on ever wearing them again, but they were good purchases, I've taken care of them and I just don't think it wise to throw them away.  But in my mind, they're gone!

It has gotten quite warm here and wildflowers are in full bloom.  They are at least three weeks early and I've fought a bit of discouragement.  Bears have been spotted in the park and even if I chose to which I probably wouldn't, I've got to respect Mr. B's request that I no longer hike solo once the bears have left their dens.  They are hungry, pregnant or already with cubs and quite moody!  So, much as I love hiking under any circumstances, I do miss the freedom of just taking off with or without a partner.  The heat this early in March has created some wicked storms already and I'm just a wee bit leery of what we might be looking at for the rest of spring.

Eating is very balanced and the weight continues to come off.  I tried two new recipes yesterday, Oatmeal Muffins (Oat Flour) and Spinach and Bacon Frittata, both of which were very good.  I substituted my homemade applesauce for the brown sugar in the muffins.  They are not very sweet at all (which I like), but would be delicious with a thin spread of just about anything.  The frittata I made as written except that I did not sprinkle cheese at the end of baking as it suggests.  We had it for lunch today and it was excellent.  

Looking forward to a busy week full of activity..........hope you are!

What Do You Think??
Is Weight Loss Contagious?   Is Weight Gain Contagious?
Tell Me About Your Real Life Friends, Siblings, Spouse
  Are They A Good or Bad Influence?


  1. I don't know whether others are a good or bad influence. Understanding, accepting, and embracing that *I* am the one holding my fork is what keeps me on (or in sight of) the right path. This can be a downer when I veer off course and realize I am the one with the fork. :)

  2. My hubby always ate well and long before I found my way. It is certainly easier now that we Share in a desire to be healthy. I know we are both doing the right thing for us. It makes it easier too, to be at an event with food and know hat we share this bond. Just makes it easier for me to not partake.

    Glad you will be Be safe with hiking

  3. This post brings tears to my eyes. Perhaps it's PMS. But I find myself once again left sad and confused over the perceptions I tend to think people in general have about really overweight people and the things some other people say about how we ahould surround ourselves with less judgmental people. The fact is that I am a very overweight person who eats more healthy foods and knows more about what is good for my body than most of my normal weight friends. I just think it is sad to think that even weight-comscious people would autatically assume based on appearance, rather than conduct or beliefs, that being around me would cause them to get fat too.

    It seems to me that the article intended to suggest that conduct and behaviors are contagious, just like our mothers warned. Unfortunately, it instead perpetuates negative stereotypes about fat people.

    1. Hey Michele, So good to hear from you. I thought about you when I was writing this post totally in the context of wondering how it might be perceived by someone who is overweight (which is just about ALL of us reading this!!). But what brought you to mind had nothing to do with weight. It was the fact that I KNOW you, have spent time with you and know how healthy you are despite having some pounds to lose. You are beautiful, have skin I'd kill for and are the picture of health. But I think the point here is that you are an exception. And that's why I tried to stress so heavily that it's the UNDERSTANDING of easily we CAN be influenced (positively or negatively) by those around us. I think the survey intended to convey that most women don't realize what sort of influence others have on their behaviors and just blindly go with the flow. I loved the way Cammy put it by saying "I'm the one with the fork in my hand." It really shouldn't matter - the choice is up to us. But the awareness does need to be present.

      Yes Michele, you were such a positive influence on me! Unfortunately, I can't say the same about the other friend I mentioned in my post. She is morbidly obese, is making no efforts to lose weight, eat healthy or change any other habits (she's also a smoker). She sarcastically undermines my healthy eating efforts in front of others when we are dining out with spouses and is the first to order two desserts with four spoons. So yes, the fork (or spoon as it were) may be in MY hand, but no one can deny the power of those circumstances and the influence it can have.

      Hoping for much more input on this subject. So glad you spoke out! I miss seeing you commenting and hope you'll be back to posting soon!

    2. First, I will be back to posting soon... and commenting too. Just so you know -- I've been reading my favorite blogs even though I haven't been commenting; so, I'm still up to date. :)

      Second, you said the same thing the two main voices of reason in my life say to me when I start talking about this kind of thing --- that I am an exception. It reminds me of a recent Dr. Oz show where they had extremely overweight women on there claiming they intentionally became and stay that way. So then the show had several other women on there who were supposed to "represent the other side," women who knew it was unhealthy and wanted to lose weight. The PROBLEM -- the problem that almost drove me to writing to the show was that even the women on "the other side" were portrayed as very uneducated, relatively unemployable, and very emotionally unstable. It was revolting. I want to see the overweight women with PhDs, JDs, MBAs, etc. on a show about how being overweight does NOT have to mean you must resign yourself to an unsuccessful career or keep you from life. Yes, I want to lose more weight (am back on track after my crazy few months -- more on the blog about that soon), but in the meantime, that doesn't mean I can't be successful professionally or personally.

      I do know that it's harder to make good choices when with people who do not... much harder. Cammy is right that the responsibility falls on ourselves, but the hardest part is living in moderation (a little dessert here and there really is okay) and then getting back on track immediately following the departure. There are a couple of people in my life who are quite overweight, and being around them can be difficult... but it also gives me a chance to take the focus off of myself and focus on taking care of me well so that I can set a healthy example for them. Actions do speak louder than words.

      So good to have the time to engage again. I've missed you too.

  4. This post also reminds me of a mention I saw recently of divorce being contagious. IMO, there is much that is "contagious." Or at least - potentially. So we have out choices to make about who we surround ourselves with and if we let that influence us or not.

  5. Sharon,
    I have read similar articles as well. I beleive that it is true for me, or at least it WAS true. I could be so easily dissuaded from my resolve by friends that were indulging. I'm not saying I'm not tempted and it will never happen again, but I feel a little stronger now. That, and my friends don't often ask if I want treats anymore. They know I'll decline.

    I'm loving this early spring, but not the storms! Be careful with those bears!!

  6. Amen to all of the above.... When I was my heaviest, my best friend was also heavy. We were comfortable together. My first husband and I both were obese---and our sons have all suffered from weight gain/loss. Our youngest son especially is still very heavy and I do worry about him... His girlfriend (they are getting married in Oct.) is heavy --so together, they won't help each other much.

    My husband now is not tiny/skinny---but he has never had weight problems like I have had. That helps me so much since he is a good example for me to be around. He also excourages me to exercise--which is what I need.

    Good idea not to hike alone when the bears are out....

  7. Interesting dialogue from Michelle--thanks for adding to the conversation. I'll add that size for me seems to have little to do with it. More, it is the intent of the two people. One of my very good friends is very thin, but works hard at it, and is a frequent member of WW. However, at times, we are more likely to go off the rails together and indulge in overeating and/or poor food choices. LOL, I'll never be as thin as her no matter how much i hang

    I'll also say that eating out is a universal way to commune with friends. I have rebelled against this at times, and searched for substitutes, but always revert to meeting friends for lunch, etc. Like Cammy said, ultimately the responsibility is on me to make better choices. Its a slow process, but I'm a lot better at it than I was in the past.

  8. I enjoyed reading everyones responses. I was thinking about doing a post about this topic as well!

    We have a circle of friends who love to cook and eat and I have to work really hard to stay on my healthy eating food plan when we are with them.All of our activities as a group revolve around food. Even when we have gone out of town on trips together - what do we do but eat! They love to snack for an hour or two before having a big dinner, dessert is always included and the alcohol flows freely as well.I don't care much for alcohol so that is never a problem for me - I am happy to drink water instead.

    I have been very honest about my food plan, cholesterol issues and the fact that I gain weight easily and I can't eat the way they do and be the person I want to be.

    The result has been that everyone tries to make sure there is at least one raw veggie served with the appetizer and the option of fresh fruit instead of dessert. They even refer to my blog now for recipes! Sometimes a couple of them might be trying to lose weight so the food options get healthier for a while but no one sticks with the healthier lifestyle for long. Sigh...

    It does make it more difficult for me to be the lone ranger but I have decided that I am worth it!

    Hubby and I are trying to get them excited about hiking with us and finally one couple expressed interest in going on a shorter hike with us!

    Two of my girlfriends joined me for one of my daily walks before we went out for a healthy lunch!

    I think it's important to be honest and up front about your food plan with the people you often socialize with.If I had food allergies or diabetes I would let people know and the fact that I am eating in a manor to be healthy is no different.

  9. I think both weight gain and weight loss can be contagious, but weight gain seems to be a little more contagious than the loss - at least in my opinion.

  10. Well this made me cringe a little bit, because I know I caused a massive weight gain for my husband. I didn't force feed him or anything, but I do all the cooking and .... with my poor habits, well, it rubbed off. Makes me sad. But I'm making changes now, for the both of us!

  11. My weight loss was contagious. It seemed like after I started having success, all of the sudden those around me were on the band wagon. Then, it seemed like they were exceeding me - running marathons, losing more. I actually got a bit jealous and kind of gave up! How silly! How immature! And, it seems that as my running partner got off track with her eating, so did I. Interesting concept for sure!

  12. My brother and I have always lost and gained weight at the same times. Thankfully he lost 250 pounds and started to change his whole mindset towards food a few years back. That influenced me in a positive way to do the same. So in some ways it can be contagious!

  13. Since I've been the fattest one in my family and at work, I don't think I influenced anyone toward obesity. However, since I've started my health and fitness journey, I've had a lot of influence at work and with my family and friends. They are losing weight...moving their bodies and making healthy choices for their lives. So awesome!!

    I have literally thrown out all of my old clothes. My wardrobe is quite small, but I'm making do. Going to smaller sizes soon!!

    Keep focused!!!

  14. Hey Sharon! First off....that's crazy about the snake!! We saw a little brown one on Ramsey Cascades Trail on Sunday, but no bears yet. I need a report on the flower status at White Oak Sinks when you return :)

    Where is that bench? I'd like to check it out some time :)

    As for the article post... As some stated above, there is a difference in an obese friend who is on a weight loss journey, and one who is not. I like being surrounded by obese folks like me who are actively trying to lose weight (like me!), but do not like having obese friends who are not, because they will constantly try to trip you up (lets go get some ice cream, lets get dessert, Want some of my cheetos?, I don't like going out to eat with you because you make me feel guilty because you always get a salad...etc, etc). And thankfully, I don't have any of those friends in my close circles at the moment. I do intentionally seek out health minded friends. As for spouses, yes they are a huge influence! My husband has lost about 30lbs or so since we started dating...I don't know that it has to do with me always struggling with my weight, but I'd like to think so. He also encourages me to be healthier (in a good way...not a nagging way). It is contagious!

  15. I was just talking about this subject with one of my dearest friends this morning. There's something about women especially that we feel a need to compare ourselves to one another, and how that leads to a whole new set of problems. This was a great post that's given me even more to think about.

    Since solo hikes are out, maybe we can make time for one and venture out to explore everything that's blooming. Let me know if you need a hiking buddy. I've missed you!!!