People whose partners are trying to lose weight also lose weight themselves — without trying, new research demonstrates
The non-dieting member of a couple lost an average of 4 lbs of their body weight, even though they made no effort to diet or increase their exercise.
Dubbed ‘the ripple effect’, weight loss spreads out from the person who is dieting to close others.
Professor Amy Gorin, the study’s first author, said:
“When one person changes their behavior, the people around them change.
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.”
For the study, one half of 130 couples either joined a diet programme or were put in a self-guided control group.
After six months, the untreated spouses of people in both groups had lost an average of over 4 lbs.
In other words, whether their spouse was following a specific diet programme or in the control group, their partner often lost weight.
In fact, around one-third of ‘untreated’ partners lost at least 3% of their body weight in six months.
Professor Gorin said:
“How we change our eating and exercise habits can affect others in both positive and negative ways.
On the positive side, spouses might emulate their partner’s behaviors and join them in counting calories, weighing themselves more often, and eating lower-fat foods.”
It is not yet known if the weight loss ripple effect includes other members of a household and not just couples.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Obesity (Gorin et al., 2018).