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Your friend can make you fat

If she is a shopaholic, a foodie or a snob, chances are you will end up with the habit or trait. Neha Sharma tells us more...

health and fitness Updated: Aug 19, 2008 18:03 IST
Neha Sharma

If your friend is fat, chances are your curves will become more generous. If she is a shopaholic, a foodie or a snob, chances are you will end up with the habit or trait.

A recent study — conducted on 12,000 people over 32 years — shows that habits are generally socially contagious and that social connect might play a greater role than genetics. People pick them up from those they spend lot of time with… sometimes getting addicted to them more than the friend. These include taking up or giving up smoking, turning into a couch potato or becoming an exercise or sports freak.

Psychiatrist Dr Rahul Chandhok says cases of peer pressure addiction to drugs and alcohol are common but, increasingly, picking up petty habits from friends is coming into focus. "There are cases of people starting to stammer because his best friend did or of someone buying costly art because his friend is fond of visiting exhibitions."

Says PR executive Mansi Chugh, “My friend Aditi used to watch TV serials while I was never a couch potato. She used to discuss all stories and soon I started watching more TV than her."

Media professional Rashmi Nagar said that after her wedding, she noticed how her husband always finished his food. "I picked up this habit too."

Experts say we befriend people because of a subconscious attraction. Thus the likelihood that we will eat the food they do, dress like them or indulge in shopping or go to the gym.

Psychiatrist Deepak Raheja said, “We look at some friends as role models and thus start behaving like them.” Psychiatrists warned that it is easier to pick up a habit from your friend than giving up one.

Psychiatrist Sunil Mittal says he has seen cases where people develop fake accents from friends and become dog lovers when they hated pets, but ironically no one quits a habit.

"Quitting a habit brings displeasure whereas taking it up is easy and gratifying. People want to explore, discover and win the approval of their peers without bringing discomfort to themselves."