How peer pressure to lose weight could be a good thing

WASHINGTON, DC – You’re out to dinner with friends. There’s a box of donuts in the lunchroom. Your coworkers bring out cake for a birthday celebration. There’s no doubt, sometimes peers can seriously derail our best diet intentions. But, researchers say the opposite is also true. When it comes to losing weight, peer pressure can whittle your waistline.

For 55-year-old Dan Collins, fencing keeps his muscles tight, his body trim, and his eating habits on point. Dan hasn’t always been fit.

“I was the fat kid, last kid picked for dodge ball when I was in elementary school,“ he said.

By the time he graduated college, Dan weighed 239 pounds. For him, the pressure of weekly weigh-ins started him in the right direction.

“I had the fear of the white lab coat. A doctor going to be peering over my shoulder, moving the little scale thing along and me worried about, 'Did I lose anything? Did I gain anything?'” Dan said.

Marc I. Leavey, MD, a primary care physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, has worked with obese patients throughout his forty year career. He’s a big believer in positive peer pressure or the diet buddy system.

“If I can get a husband and wife to diet together, exercise together, it’s almost always more effective,” Leavey said.

Studies from Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University show partnering with someone who is serious about slimming down increases your chances. If you feel tempted to cheat, phone or text a friend for support. Delay the treat for fifteen minutes. You may erase the craving.

For Dan, having his doctor hold him accountable has worked. His blood pressure is normal, down from a high of 150 over 90. He has also maintained a 60 pound weight loss for thirty years.

“I’ve changed my relationship with food. And, now we get along together a lot better,” Dan said.

Leavey also suggests weight loss partners help each other stick to the numbers needed to drop weight. To lose a pound a week, cut back by 500 calories a day, increase exercise to burn 500 additional calories or the doctor suggests doing a combination of both.