Friends’ Impact On Weight Loss

Friends may have our backs, but their health and fitness habits can literally shape our backsides. How do friends help—or hurt—your healthy habits? Learn more from Martina M. Cartwright, PhD, RD, adjunct faculty member at the University of Arizona, independent biomedical consultant, author and nutrition counselor in Scottsdale, Arizona.

When Dietary Awareness Is Out to Lunch

The desire to copy people close to us is thought to enhance bonding and act as a social superglue (Lakin 2003). When we mimic each other’s eating behaviors, we form positive, subconscious bonds with our dining companions. What people do, rather than what they think, may be why obesity flourishes among friends.

The average person makes over 200 food decisions every day (Wansink 2006). Deciding what and where to eat are just two pieces of the dining puzzle—the other is with whom. Commiserating with pals or engaging in animated conversation over a tasty meal is often good therapy, but it can lead to distracted dining. Focusing on the conversation rather than the food often results in overeating (Hetherington 2006; Wansink 2006). Also, those who eat together subconsciously model each other’s eating styles. Normally light eaters consume more when munching with a group, while heavier eaters eat less when dining with companions (Bell & Pliner 2003). If you want to lose weight, you may find it easier if you hang out with friends who eat healthfully and exercise.

Hitting the Gym With a Friend

Motivating yourself to exercise can be challenging. Did you know that nonexercisers are more likely to get moving and stick with activity programs if supportive friends are involved? As a whole, social influence is positively associated with exercise behaviors, intentions and attitudes. Gabriele et al. (2005) explored social encouragement, which focused on positive reinforcement and statements such as “people important to me encourage me to exercise.” Positive social encouragement like this improved exercise motivation, but social constraint or negative reinforcement reflected in statements like “people will be disappointed in me if I quit exercising” were not helpful. Surrounding yourself with positive pals may keep you moving in the right direction.

SIDEBAR: Workplace Weight Gain

The workplace can be a minefield for people trying to shed pounds. Desktop candy jars and office celebrations provide a steady stream of sugary indulgence that can sabotage the most strident dieter’s efforts.

While coffee breaks and corporate parties can foster camaraderie, they entice mindless eating. Here are a few tips for taming workplace temptation:

Put a lid on goodies. Covering them with foil or a lid will curb mindless munching (Wansink 2006).

View the veggies: Leave these uncovered to promote healthier grazing.

When dining with a co-worker, split large portions.

Socialize and celebrate without food.

Limit happy-hour drinks/alcohol.

Avoid desktop dining.

Limit the “office feeder” influence.

Set an example: Bring in healthier snacks like fresh fruit, and replace the candy with dried fruit or nuts.

Support co-workers who are trying to lose weight.

Bell, R., & Pliner, P.L. 2003. Time to eat: The relationship between the number of people eating and meal duration in three lunch settings. Appetite, 41 (2), 215–18.

Gabriele, J.M., et al. 2005. Differentiated roles of social encouragement and social constraint on physical activity behavior. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 29 (3), 210–15.

Hetherington, M.M., et al. 2006. Situational effects on meal intake: A comparison of eating alone and eating with others. Physiology & Behavior, 88 (4-5), 498–505.

Lakin, J.L., et al. 2003. The chameleon effect as social glue: Evidence for the evolutionary significance of nonconscious mimicry. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 27 (3), 145–62.

Wansink, B. 2006. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. New York: Bantam.


Lose 10 Pounds In 10 Minutes!


If that sounds too good to be true, how about: Lose 18 Pounds in Four Days! Is this still too hard to believe? Then, you might want to Lose Five Full Inches of Ugly Belly Fat in Just 30 Days! Better yet, simply swallow a Weight Loss Pill Clinically Proven to Melt Belly Fat!

These and many other claims scream at you from all corners. Magazine covers, infomercials, Google searches, and billboards all pitch quick and easy results if you take this pill or follow that diet or buy this new book. The ads are always filled with fit-looking models chosen to sell a product they have, almost certainly, never used or a diet book they have never read. In fact, can you keep a dirty, little secret? They have all added time in the gym and watched their diet extra closely in the weeks prior to the commercial shoot.

That’s their secret.

The secret to permanent weight loss isn’t a secret if you consistently exercise and follow a diet loaded with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains and nuts and seeds. So why do you have less than a 50/50 shot, according to studies, of maintaining your exercise program beyond six months? Frustration over a perceived lack of results is the number one reason. The hard truth is many of the benefits of exercise are not as easy to spot as Buns of Steel.

Increased energy: The right combination of exercise and nutrition creates a hormonal environment conducive to fat loss, increased muscle strength and increased energy. When your body is working at peak efficiency, your energy levels soar. As a result, everyday things become easier to do.

Increased Self-Esteem: Choosing to begin and continue a fitness program – even when you don’t feel like it – is an amazing way to increase self-esteem. You look better and are more confident, which empowers you in everything you do. You’ll find the self-discipline required and learned through regular exercise spills over into other areas of your life.

Increased Mental Focus: Did you know that the latest research shows that exercise helps keep the brain sharp well into old age? Anything which involves mental acuity (focus and concentration) is improved. You also stand a much better chance of avoiding such diseases as Alzheimer’s and senility.

Decreased Risk of a Heart Attack: By exercising regularly and making positive changes in your diet, you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and greatly diminish the chances of having a heart attack. One reason is because the action of your muscles pumping blood back to your heart actually stretches the heart, thereby increasing its efficiency even when you are not working out.

Decreased Risk of Osteoporosis: Regular exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and can even reverse it by building bone tissue. In short, the stress lifting weights puts on your bones causes them to adapt and get stronger, just like your muscles.

Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer: Estradiol and progesterone, two ovarian hormones linked to breast cancer tumor production, are lowered in the body by exercise. A woman’s body is most susceptible to these hormones during the time between ovulation and menstruation. Habitual exercise can actually delay ovulation until later in the menstrual cycle. This reduces the time she must fight these hormones. Fat has long been known to be a catalyst in the production of estrogen (estradiol). Regular exercise burns body fat and decreases the rate of estrogen production.

Increased Strength and Stamina: Your body interprets exercise as stress and adapts to handle that stress with less effort. These adaptations benefit your heart, lungs and central nervous system, while also affecting your muscles. The degree to which adaptations occur is dependent on the type of exercise and the intensity of your workout.

Reduced Depression: The production of Endorphins (feel good hormones) is increased through exercise. Nothing improves mood and suppresses depression better than those endorphins.Decreased Stress Levels: The worries and stresses of everyday living (commuting, work demands, the candy bowl on your secretary’s desk) can stick with you long after the work day is done. Exercise is the perfect natural therapy that can change your mood. You’ll sleep better too.

These are the obvious results we must praise, and find strength in. If we compel ourselves to defeat our demons, change our bad habits, live that lifestyle that we only dream of, and laugh at the face of failure, maybe just maybe, we might get lucky and make a dream come true.

My quest to be my best!

Being in shape, and looking good always has been a priority in my life. So much of a priority I consider it to be the main trait that defies my existence. It was because of this choice I molded myself to have opportunities to play athletics at a high level and continue to play at the age of 32, even now, my aging bang up knees won’t hold me back to remaining as active as I want and need to be.

Being diagnosed with depression the sweat, the burn, the high heart rates, the pump, the adrenalin rush, the endorphin high, and exhaustion has medicated me. My body and mind cries for it everyday, I may have a serious complex evolving here but if wanting to be mentally balanced, fit and healthy and doing it the right way through exercise and nutrition is crazy, then I’m willing to stand in my own bubble all by myself. Who would have think that after watching Hulk Hogan for the first time as a 7-year-old kid, would spark the flame to buying my first set of hulkamania weight lifting set, play basketball with the passion of Michael Jordan, to helping others through my passion in personal training, to wanting to hit the big stage as a physique or bodybuilding competitor.

My quest to be the leanest I’ve ever been has started, I have been experimenting with my body with different approaches to nutrition that forces me to break the rules a bit but over all a healthy approach. I am 4 months in with ways to go but the progress is noticeable. To finish and complete my quest is to grace my presence on stage and compete with other physique competitors. So allow me to run you all up to speed.


This was an awkward stage, where I seemed to let myself go, gained too much fat according to my standards and reputation, was so self conscious of my body I wore 2 sizes bigger to mask the papa belly. If it wasn’t for my son and loving wife the sadness and grief would of been evident to see in this photo.


Worst I ever looked, felt bad, looked awful and sick because I was awful and sick. Stop taking my meds and went on a long vacation from the gym, my depression was at a all time high. Major events were happening all around me and coping with them was more than challenging, it was impossible, but I made the choice I made thousands of times in my life, to get back on my feet, bury my demonds, and march forward with strength and faith.


Back in the gym, putting all my bottled up anger on heavy lifting, got my weight all the way up to 187 lbs heaviest I ever been, managed to gain almost 20 lbs of muscle through heavy training and heavy caloric intakes. Yes I ate carbs and I enjoyed every bit of it, which is why I am smiling so big my ears are getting wet.


Another awkward stage where dieting started, and looking in the mirror was depressing because the final stage wouldn’t come fast enough. Tweaking my diet and mentally preparing myself for the grueling journey ahead, yet hopeful and determined.


By far not even close to where I want to be but amazed by the changes in just 4 weeks of hard work and nutritional dedication. Although I’m smiling in this one, that night I caved in and inhaled a 18 inch cheese pizza, 12 buffalo wings, and 20oz soda all to my self!


Felt the guilt of caving in for the next 3 days, notice the bloat ness of my face. Too much fat, too much sodium, too much carb, threw away a weeks worth of hard work, I again made the same decision, convinced myself I deserved and earned that day, now time to march forward with strength and faith.


My current status! Very proud of myself, still have cave ins, but I am getting mentally stronger everyday, tightening up the diet a bit closer to the neck, with the goal of 6-8 weeks to be at the end.

I can say up to this point this lifestyle is not a favorable one, you must have support from your household when you refuse to have foods that were once shared through love and enjoyment, schedule my workouts so it does not interfere with my job as a father and loving husband. Also had to fight and cry through mental break downs. You want to look like those guys and gals in the magazine??? You have no idea what you are getting you self into, this sucks, but conquering a challenge is always worth celebrating. Stay tuned for updates! Till next time