Social networks, social media, and social changes are so interconnected in this age that it would be foolish to overlook their potential in stemming the crushing tide of obesity that threatens to drown our country. For better or worse, food habits are contagious. Perhaps flooding our communities with health-focused, supportive social connections can help us stay afloat and head to healthier, higher ground.

In recent years, studies have shown how influential social connections are to our health. A 2007 Harvard study conducted from 1971 to 2003 revealed that healthy habits declined within friendship groups. Obesity became acceptable and supported, if one or more members of a social group was obese. Even more dramatic, the trend seemed to continue outside the group, as satellite friendships or “friends of friends” experienced similar weight gain.

It stands to reason that our most powerful weapon in the obesity health crisis lies in our need to be attached, connected, influencing, and influenced by people that matter to us. All of this attention focused on individual weight loss goals, personal responsibility, and will power may not be the most effective way to handle chronic obesity and disease. Connected people influence and affect other people.

The push toward happy, whole bodies and minds may be possible and lasting, if we build a social network devoted to healthful influence. In theory, each one of us could positively impact the fitness and nutrition of a thousand other people! As churches, community centers, exercise companies, outreach organizations, and online communities come to understand the impact of community in health and nutrition, interest in partnering with community members will bring faster and more comprehensive health recovery. The obesity disease has reached epidemic proportions and is essentially a social construct. A communal approach is the best way to make a dent in the damage, and create the social change required to save our own lives.

Read the full article here: Is Obesity Contagious? – Dr. Mark Hyman