The “fat friendship” story was all over the media this morning. Yikes.
The implications of this are so upsetting I’m already eating my seventh Hershey’s kiss.
(Good news: check out the “nutritional information” on the package. Serving size is nine!)
Really, though, could it be true that just having a fat friend or spouse can somehow make you fat?
So says this new research based on the famous Framingham Heart Study, which is tracking more than 12,000 people over 32 years. “Social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual’s chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends,” reported the Washington Post.
My heart hurts just hearing this. Aren’t fat people already shunned and mocked enough? Now they have to take responsibility for everyone’s fat as well? Yikes. (And she pops Hershey’s kiss Number Eight.)
“Watch out,” the new study seemed to imply. “Stay away! Get too close to a dreaded Fat Person, and their fat will magically and irreversibly rub off on YOU!”
As an afterthought, at the end of the Washington Post article and also at the CNN report I saw this morning, reporters note that the opposite also seems to be true: when one person loses weight, so do their friends.
This is the concept behind Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous, running clubs, and many other health-oriented groups. We inspire each other to achieve our goals.
Why wasn’t this the headline?
Why aren’t researchers putting half as much energy into promoting healthy behaviors as they are into exploring obesity?
We already know what prevents obesity: daily physical activity and relatively healthy food choices. You don’t have to be a nut about it. You can have some Hershey’s kisses now and then (she says, finishing off Number Nine.)
The key is to move: moderate to vigorous activity on most days.
But by all means, please please please don’t abandon your fat friends out of your own fat-o-phobia or misinterpretation of this research.
Fat friends do not cause obesity; overeating and under-exercising do.
The moral of this story is not to avoid fat people.
It’s to be a leader yourself, inspiring all of your friends and colleagues, fat, thin, and middle-sized, to follow in your footsteps, literally, and choose a path of daily physical activity.