if you loved your friends, you’d be thin for them

May 10, 2010

I’m so upset by this post on Elle magazine’s website that I StumbledUpon that it has taken me almost a week to get up the energy to respond. The article is about The Importance of Friendship. This is one huge section of it:

2. Lose Weight
Since Christakis and Fowler published their study showing that obesity was socially transmissible among members of the famous Framingham Heart Study (it wasn’t just that birds of a feather flock together: People were actually making one another gain—and, sometimes, lose—weight), the finding has been confirmed in multiple other populations. So how do people infect each other with fat? One way is imitation. Brain scans show that when you watch someone else eat or run, your brain activity is the same as if you were eating or running yourself, priming you to do the same things. And people in experiments seated next to robust eaters will eat more than those seated next to light eaters. Social norms also play a role: If your friend gains weight, you might become less motivated to go to the gym because your friend’s example showed you that weight gain isn’t the end of the world. She’s heavier but still the same person you know and love. And now that 66 percent of the American population is overweight or obese, that’s a pretty well-established social norm.

Happily, this effect could be turned on its head if people worked to establish an opposite social norm—weight loss can spread just as easily as weight gain if you seed your network with fat-fighting habits. In Christakis and Fowler’s book, they suggest starting a running club containing friends of friends so that you’re surrounding yourself and your closest contacts with exercisers (and remember, when people see you run, it makes their brains think about running too). You can also make healthier food choices and eat with greater restraint. If you take a pass on the fries and eat more vegetables, your pals are more likely to make the same choices. And then, once you reach a healthier weight, you might shift the norms in your group.

This is a category of what-the-fuckery that I have not dealt with in a while. Apparently, if you befriend fat people, you brain will tell your body that you should be fat, too, and you will gain weight, whereas if you befriend thin people, your body will start losing weight, because your brain doesn’t want to go against the norm.

Does this strike anyone else as one of the most ingorant and illogical things ever?

This article does several things.
-It sets fat up as something you can catch. Apparently body types are contagious.
-It then hails the social norms of our culture as 100% the exact thing you want to achieve and follow.
-It states that if you get thin, you will be setting a good example for your friends, so they will also get thin. To not be thin is to cause harm to others.
It promotes fat hate by supporting the isolation of the fat individual.
-It promotes segregation of the fat population by saying they should just be friends with themselves.

The fat are ruining innocent thin people with their disgusting habit and existance! Don’t befriend the fatties! They’ll eat you and your attractiveness!

For fucking shame, Elle. For fucking shame.



  1. It certainly is an interesting theory. It’s troublesome that the article glosses over the fact that this isn’t empirically true . . . only that some research suggests the phenomenon.

    Furthermore, it troubles me that this article is suggesting you try to insidiously manipulate the people around you into changing their behavior to meet your ideals.

  2. BTW– The word I really wanted was “subversively” not “insidiously.” Though both apply.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: