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Are Your Co-Workers Making You Fat?

Most of us have succumbed to the pressure to eat something we didn't need or necessarily want when at a work related function. And we would agree that our work environment and co-workers good, or not so good, intentions can be a hindrance to achieving a healthy weight.

Influence of Social Networks on Obesity

Recent studies are implicating the influence of social networks, including the work environment, in the spread of obesity.

In a survey published by Medi-Fast in January 2012, 30 percent of the women dieters surveyed reported pressure at work to break their diets. A 2011 study published by the University of Arizona confirmed that having overweight co-workers is likely to make you heavier.

Co-Workers Influence

Unless we are consciously making an effort to make good food choices at work, it is likely that our co-workers are influencing us to become overweight by their eating habits, the foods they bring to work and their opinions about our eating habits and weight. The stronger the bond between co-workers, the stronger the influence on body weight. Group activities such as hitting the pizza buffet, ordering drinks or desserts and finishing off the pan of goodies in the break room is a social norm that was identified as one of the strongest pathways in how co-workers influence our weight.

We probably don't need a study to tell us that our work environment can influence our weight, but are our co-workers really making us fat? Can any one else really make us fat? Aren't we still responsible for our own food choice and the quantity of food we put in out own mouths? While it is intriguing to shift the blame to others, it isn't a position that has a solution because we cannot control what other people do. With ever increasing rates of obesity across society and the implications of how social networks influence our weight, we could say it's hopeless and give up. Alternatively, we could decide it is going to be more important than ever to set boundaries and take responsibility for what we eat.

Can Co-Workers Help You Lose Weight?

If overweight co-workers tend to make us fat, is the opposite also true? A study published in Obesity in February 2012, summarizing the social influence of a team based weight loss completion, reported that teams that had the most positive social influence at work to eat healthy and lose weight, lost the most weight. So yes, it turns out that in your own diligence to eat healthy and lose weight, you could potentially be affecting others in your work and other social related networks to be healthy and lose weight as well.

Set Boundaries

Go ahead and set those boundaries to order a grilled chicken breast and vegetables while everyone else orders deep fried appetizers. Decide to decline those desserts in the break room over your own healthy snack of fruits and nuts. Say "thanks, but no thanks" to your co-worker who puts that mocha or caramel roll on your desk at work. Talk about ways to make your work environment healthier at your next staff meeting.

Someone has to take the first step, why shouldn't it be you?