Are your friends making you fat?

While pouring over the latest issue of The Uniter, our food feature, I couldn’t help but think about the root cause of poor eating habits.

Particularly reviewing, “Tipping the healthy scale” by Lauren Parsons, which outlines that just over 30 per cent of Manitobans are obese, I started to wonder why eating poorly is so common, particularly among those in their 20s.

From observation and personal experience, for students and young professionals, I am of the belief that your friends tend to make you fat.

Think about it. Dinner dates with wine, late-night beers and nachos and grabbing a quick bite at that nearly sinful but oh-so good burger with your co-worker midday.

Now, of course you have a choice in where you go and what you eat but temptation and peer pressure often are too much too bear when it comes to the social environment.

For the majority of people out there, being social is innately connected to food and drink. When you’re busy with jobs and classes, it’s easiest to grab a meal with a friend to stay in touch. You have to eat anyway, right?

When eating out, I personally tend to make unhealthy choices. Fries over salad, deep fried anything over grilled. When you’re munching on appetizers with pals, laughing, catching up, somehow food that’s bad for you seems to just feel good.

The idea that your friends make you fat isn’t new; in fact, it’s been scientifically proven. 

The causal link has been highlighted in numerous studies over the years such as the New England Journal of Medicine’s take which was the focus of the 2007 article in Time magazine  that crowns friends, food and drink as the “unholy trinity.”

It also makes the claim that, “… food and drink are the ampersands that unite so many of us: it’s how Ben found Jerry, how Mike met Ike, why Baskin embraced Robbins.”

Following that logic, researchers have found that our risk of obesity is around 57 per cent if a friend is obese. That’s higher than with spouses, at 37 per cent and 40 per cent for siblings.

There are even some studies that peg simply knowing someone who knows someone who is obese with being enough to affect your own level of health.

At the end of the day, you are always the person accountable for what you put in your mouth.

But the next time you’re about to dig into the order of hot, greasy fries, take a look around the table and see who you’re with – and what they’re having. Maybe there’s something to it.