There is something to that old saying, “birds of a feather flock together.” Need proof? Consider this – a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that people are more likely to become obese if they have a close friend that becomes obese. Researchers used data from more than 12,000 participants to conclude that weight gain spreads among friends much like a virus. In fact, the researchers concluded that the likelihood of a person becoming obese if a friend became obese was 57%. Thankfully, weight gain among friends is only part of the story. Researchers also discovered that people are more likely to lose weight when close friends lose weight. Does that mean you need a new set of friends? No, but it might mean that you can use your relationships as one more weapon in your weight loss arsenal. Here’s how…
Share your goals
Talking about your fitness goals just might get your friends thinking about their own goals. Particularly when you tie those goals to your motivation – things like wanting to have more energy or be around to get to know your grandchildren – you can encourage your friends, who likely are motivated by similar things, to think about making their own fitness plans. As they begin working on their fitness goals, you will each reinforce the other’s motivation and share the excitement of making progress.
Share your progress
Finishing a race, making healthier food choices or losing weight can feel impossible with jam packed schedules and deeply entrenched habits. When we see our friends do seemingly impossible things, we begin to believe they are possible for us, too. So, share your progress. You don’t have to brag, but you can celebrate every step you take toward meeting your fitness goals. Don’t keep your successes, even the small ones, a secret. In this way you will become a coach of sorts. Coaching will add a new dimension to your plan and give you one more reason to be proud of your fitness plan.
Model new behaviors
Maybe a night out used to mean beer and hot wings or margaritas and high calorie tapas. As a fitness role model you might start a new tradition of a run or Zumba class before cocktails. You might even sign up and train together for a local or destination 5-k. I trained for a marathon with a good friend and, yes, it was hard! But it felt so much easier because we did it together. The bottom line is doing something new feels risky. But when you do it with a friend it feels more like an adventure. Being healthy doesn’t have to be boring. Get your friends together and show them that it can be fun to be fit.
Share fitness tips and motivation mantras when the going gets tough. Offer to trade off childcare or other responsibilities so that these don’t stand in the way of exercise. Notice when your friends are meeting their fitness goals and nudge them – gently- when they aren’t.
Adults weigh more and sit more than we ever have. Do you remember that childhood game, follow the leader? When it comes to being a fitness role model someone has to take the lead. Decide that it will be you. Where fitness is concerned, modeling good habits is a gift of love that comes back to you with healthy friends that are in your life longer. How great is that?