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A Little Help from Your Friends

Filed Under: Sexual Health at 4:32 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Friends EatingThere are a lot of things we can blame on our friends: the new sweater in the closet, the three dollars that disappeared at Starbucks, the thirty at the bar, the extra charges on our phone bills, the ability to text, talk, drive, eat and counsel at the same time, and more than one embarrassing moment. Our friends have a continual influence on us. We connect them to many of the ups and downs in our lives, including the ups and downs of our weight.

In July, researchers informed us that our friends were making us fat. After analyzing the pound-fluctuations of 12,067 people over 32 years, they concluded that when a friend became obese, you were far more likely to do so as well. In fact, if it was a very close relationship, your risk increased by 171 percent. And it didn’t matter if the friend lived across the street or across the country. You were going to pack on the pounds, which was great. Our friends, our support systems, were the reasons our diets were failing.  That was exactly what we didn’t want to hear. How were we supposed to hit a healthy weight if we couldn’t turn to our friends for coffee and cake when our diets depressed us? By turning to them for fruits and veggies, instead.

In a recent study, 3,088 women were followed for four years, with researchers monitoring their fruit and vegetable, fiber and fat intake. Half of the women received printed materials with helpful suggestions. The others, along with a nutritional newsletter, received telephone counseling. They spoke, at first a couple of times a week then more sporadically, with a nutritional coach. At the end of the four years, the second group had increased their vegetable intake by 65 percent, their fruit intake by 25 and their fiber intake by 30. The amount of energy they got from daily fat was down to 27 percent as opposed to 31 in the first group.  They had successfully altered their diets to meet their fruit, vegetable, fiber and fat goals, long-term. This supported the idea that in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you needed healthy influences. But not all of us can afford a nutritional coach, so who should we turn to instead?

Our friends – just as they can make us fat, they can make us healthy. If you form a nutritional group or set up a phone-buddy system, you’re more likely to stick with your changes. You’ll make long-term decisions rather than one-day. You’ll want to be as healthy as those around you. A little bit of help from them can equal a big help to your health. So, call up your best friend and talk about fruit, fiber, fat and anything else you can think of. Your phone bill may not thank you, but your waist will.

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