One of the biggest problems we encounter when we begin our weight loss and fitness programs are figuring out how to get started and then how to keep it alive and keep going. In this post, Dr. John Beradi, author of Precision Nutrition, gave us a better understanding of the contention and the reason why some people never get through that initial phase. We need to find our biggest supporters!
John Beradi shares with us research that supports why it’s so important to surround yourself with the right people whose values and habits support your healthy lifestyle and can be your biggest supporters.
Craig Ballantyne: So you’ve mentioned a little about partnering people up. What other ways of social support, whether online or in-person, have really made dramatic improvements or have made a significant impact on peoples’ success?
John Beradi: Well it’s actually funny that you mention this because I ran a newsletter that went out to all of our newsletter subscribers and a guy by the name of Dr. Nicholas Christakis, a pioneer in the field of health and social network, – but basically, here’s a guy, who’s a M.D. and a Ph.D., and he was a practicing physician, and he started to study epidemiology.
He said he was studying this phenomenon where we sometimes refer to it as “people dying of a broken heart.” So basically your partner of 40, 50, 60 years ends up passing away due to an illness or just old age. The likelihood their surviving partner dies within the next year is something like 100% higher than age match peers. So your chance of dying after someone whom you love very much, after your partner dies is double under this circumstance when you lose your biggest supporter.
And he said, “So we were studying that. However, then I would get communications from let’s say the daughter of one of those dying parents or someone that’s involved as a caregiver. And that person would actually start to see a decline in health as well. And then you would see the spouse of the caregiver becoming depressed and having a decline in their health. And then the best friend of that spouse would have a decline in their health. So he said, “It’s this amazing thing where someone is dying of an illness or old age.”
And that increases their marital partner’s risk of dying. It also increases the quality of life and health of the person taking care of both of those people. It also decreases the health and the increases the risk of disease for the people who are in the same social network as the people who are caring for those people. So it’s like this Kevin Bacon game where it’s the six degrees of separation where you see the sick person is now influencing people who they don’t even know. Losing our biggest supporters impacts our entire social circle, even people we’ve never met.
And he said he just became fascinated by this so he started studying this idea of our social networks. Basically, your social network is made up of the people whom you immediately hang out with. This is the first degree of separation. So it’s your friends, your family, and the people whom you spend time with, co-workers. We need our biggest supporters.
So that first level of separation is our direct social network. If they are obese we have a 45% higher chance of being obese because the people we hang with are obese. However, it gets even more interesting when we take it out one level. So now it’s not our friends, but it’s the people who are friends with our friends. So we might not even know these people. If those people are obese we have a 25% chance of being obese. And if you go out one more level, to the third degree of separation, so our friends’ friends’ friends, if those people are obese, again people we may never meet in our lives, we have a 10% higher chance of becoming obese.
So Dr. Christakis has this cool idea that basically a social network – it’s the people we know and the people they know and the people they know – is this awesome woven tapestry that is almost like a living, breathing organism in the world. Now I know this starts to sound like a new-agey philosophy that our connections between people are real things.
For people who haven’t seen his work, you should check it out. It really, really changes the way that you view your interactions with the world, because you start to realize that the people who you hang out with and then the people whom they hang out with etc.,their actions and behaviors will actually impact yours in some way – whether it’s being happy or not, being overweight or lean. You start to do an audit of the people whom you spend your time with.
Now the good news – because he studies things like how diseases spread, how obesity spreads and how unhappiness spreads – the good news is that the reverse is true as well. So leanness, happiness, and fulfillment also spread through social networks. That’s the most positive thing that can come out of this. So if you want to be leaner, eat better, exercise more, be happier in life, there are some steps you need to take. You have to actually do the exercises, eat better foods, take certain steps to be happier.
However, one of the parts of that equation is embracing some of those types of people – people who are happy, people who are lean, people who exercise more and eat better – and bringing them into your social network. By bringing them into your social network your chance for achieving all of those outcomes is substantially higher.