Shedding extra pounds – whether it’s for a healthier lifestyle or fitting into old clothes – can be contagious, benefitting a person’s partner.
Researchers found that people trying to lose weight may be natural influencers, especially to their significant others, Medical News Today reports. Amy Gorin and colleagues from the University of Connecticut in Mansfield conducted a study on over a hundred couples and observed that when one partner commits to and starts a weight loss initiative, the other is more than likely to follow suit.
When one person changes their behavior, the people around them change.
She qualified this as a “ripple effect.” “Whether the patient works with their healthcare provider, joins a community-based, lifestyle approach like Weight Watchers, or tries to lose weight on their own, their new healthy behaviors can benefit others in their lives,” she added.
This is the first randomized controlled trial to look into couples’ mutual influences on weight loss.
The researchers followed 130 couples who were living together for a period of six months. During that time, one person in each relationship started a weight loss program. Their partners were evaluated in detail two times over that period, at three and six months.
The couples were divided into two groups. One group had a partner joining an organized weight loss regimen, with access to counseling and specific online resources. The other group had a partner who was “self-guided,” using only handouts providing information on healthy diets, exercise and strategies for weight management to drop pounds.
As it turned out, the partners who had not participated in the weight loss programs or were given the handouts also lost weight, alongside their significant others.
This was consistent at both the three and six-month checks. The researchers also observed that the partners tended to lose weight at around the same rate, and if one had difficulties, so did the other.
Gorin hopes to find out if this ripple effect extends to other members of a household, such as children, siblings or parents.
The study was published in the journal Obesity.