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Is Obesity Contagious?

Is Obesity Contagious?

Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

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  1. Leah @ L4L

    I absolutely think that it is contagious, just like healthy living is, but only too a point. When I started to get healthy, I surrounded myself with good role models, even if it was only virtually. I stopped reading butter-laden food blogs and migrated to healthy living blogs and now I’m on some middle ground between the two.

    Seeing overweight children is one of the most saddening things ever. And I’d say 90% of the time, their parents are overweight too. Growing up, my mom always struggled with her weight and was a chronic dieter and that definitely had an impact on me. I thought I had to starve myself to lose weight. I thought I had to eat low fat, no fat, sugar free SHIT. Now that’s I’m on the “real food” train, I try and express that to everyone around me as well.

    1. Lisa Eirene

      Isn’t it interesting how our focus changes? I stopped looking at recipes that were fattening too, in fact I won’t even consider trying recipes that are over a certain calorie count.

      I agree, seeing overweight children is hard. I wonder what their struggles will be when they get older. Will they even try to get healthy and lose the weight?

      My mom was never on a diet that I was aware of but she ate the low fat, no fat, no sugar crap too. I hated that stuff!

  2. Emmie

    I’ve thought about this a lot and think that much of it just has to do with your environment. If I hang out with my social butterfly friends who hang out all hours of the night and drink cosmos like they’re going out of style, I’m probably going to engage in the same behavior. Alternatively, if my friends or family is going for a walk or whatever, I’m more likely to do that. We typically do whatever those around us do, and the consequences could be good or bad. Think of it as Ouijia Board – everyone’s fingers are on the eye and together, the collective energy gets transferred into a direction. Weird comparison, I know, but it’s the first thing that came to mind!
    Great post.

    1. Lisa Eirene

      I like that comparison.

      And I think you are spot on. I have various friends I do certain things with. My friend Robyn will always be up for a run or a workout at the gym. She’s my yoga buddy too. A few other friends are my foodie friends–the ones that will ALWAYS be up for going to happy hour or trying new restaurants. Luckily Michael is a mixture of both–he likes doing things like hiking and bike riding but he also loves trying new restaurants.

  3. Lily Fluffbottom

    Its a learned contagion. Whether you taught yourself or your parents or other major influences in life, we are taught to behave in a manner that then gets mutated into something much more damaging.

    1. Lisa Eirene

      Exactly! I remember when I was a kid I babysat a lot and there was one family that was obese. All of them. Even the 9 month old baby! I was shocked at the food they had in their house. The dad drove a Hostess truck so their pantry was packed with Hostess products. They ate real mayo (not allowed in my house so it was shocking) and real butter. I couldn’t get over the fact that the baby was even overweight.

  4. Eleah

    “Contagious” seems like a steep word to use, but I agree that it is accurate. I’ve seen friends get into relationships w/ less healthy people and they, too, begin to lose their health.
    My three brothers and I were raised by a 350+ pound mother and a 250+ pound father. Only my oldest brother was overweight, but all 4 of us had bad habits. Thankfully, the three of us who were never overweight quickly learned how to eat right when we left home and all do fine. My mom lost around 150 pounds, gained some back, and still struggles. My dad recently told me he wants to try running to celebrate his 50th next year.
    I feel like I do influence my family with my healthier lifestyle. We have healthier dishes at family dinners, and I got one of my brothers to run a half marathon the same day I ran a marathon when he was in Iraq.

    1. Lisa Eirene

      That is so great that you are influencing your family. Bringing healthier meals to potlucks, inspiring them to go for walks/runs is all wonderful. I bet you inspire them without even trying!

  5. ragemichelle

    Absolutely it is.

    My husband has been obese for most of his life. Others in his family are very large as well and his two daughters are big.

    We’re all different..I think getting in shape may be more difficult for some than others..but that reason really doesn’t get you far, does it?

    1. Lisa Eirene

      And not everyone has that motivation to lose the weight and be healthy too.

  6. Diane Fit to the Finish

    It is definitely contagious, at least partially. Misery loves company and so do most of us who have a tendency to overeat. My friends and I would goad each other on. Not good.

    1. Lisa Eirene

      Misery DOES love company. That is so true.

  7. Sara

    I totally agree that it’s socially contagious. I used to go out and party HARD every weekend. It was why my friends invited me out – they could count on me to be the party even if it was a party of 1. I was the entertainment. When I stopped drinking as much and wanted to be healthier (and actually remember the times with my friends) I noticed I didn’t get invited out much. And when I did I felt almost chastised for not getting wasted and being crazy. I also started to notice how NOT FUN those friends really were. They never did anything but go out and drink. It took me a while to realize I needed to change who I surrounded myself with because they were not going to change. Once I started making more friends who liked to do more than just go out and drink I noticed it was easier for me to drink in moderation. I may have lost a few of my drinking pals, but when I think about it, they weren’t really the right friends for me anyway. The same goes for eating/food. The more people I surround myself with who value nutrition/exercise/healthy living the easier it is to implement those values into my own life. And the happier I am with my results. It’s still hard – that part never goes away – but surrounding myself with the habits I WANT to have vs the habits I’m trying to get rid of is so much better and makes it easier to achieve those habits I want. In this case it’s totally Nurture over Nature!

    1. Lisa Eirene

      Sara–this is an excellent analogy that I can relate to. In my 20’s I went through something similar. Lots of eating badly and drinking at clubs. And when I started to get healthy and stop doing stuff like that I’d get the guilt trips too–the “why don’t you party anymore” and “You’re no fun” comments. Plus the peer pressure “come on and just do it!” It’s hard!

  8. Tina @ Faith Fitness Fun

    I’m with you – its definitely easier to end up with weight problems when in a family with those habits and I think weight can have a slight genetic predisposition BUT its still not something that people can’t work towards overcoming through effort to get to a healthier physical place.

    1. Lisa Eirene

      It’s also easy to use an excuse–which isn’t the way to go about it. I used it as an excuse for a long time.

  9. Karen@WaistingTime

    So I know we are each responsible for our own choices, but sometimes our environment is a very strong influence. No doubt my healthy lifestyle would be easier if there was never any tempting food in the house and I never engaged in social eating. So, to me, yep, there is something about that contagious thing.

    1. Lisa Eirene

      Yes, we are responsible for our own food choices but sometimes it is hard. For example: if I decide I’m not eating pizza for awhile but Michael wants to get pizza it’s really hard for me to say no. I could totally get a salad and soup bit sitting there watching him eat cheesy pizza would be torture.

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