People can lose weight without trying when their partners are trying to lose weight, a recent study finds.
Non-dieting spouses lost 4 lbs despite making no effort to diet, if their partner was on a diet and losing weight.
The psychologists running the study call it ‘the ripple effect’.
One half of a couple automatically influences the other.
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.”
The study included 130 couples, one of whom was dieting.
People trying to diet were either given pamphlets and attempted to lose the weight themselves or they were in a structured program, like Weight Watchers.
Six months later, the spouses of those dieting had lost an average of 4 lbs, if their spouse lost weight.
In other words, couples tended to lose weight together.
Similarly, if one member of a couple struggled to lose weight, so did the other.
Almost one-third of people in the study lost 3 percent of their body weight in six months, despite making no conscious effort.
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.”
The ripple effect may also include other members of the household, but this has not yet been tested by research.
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).