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Can we make light of this?

If a person becomes obese, his or her friend has a 171 per cent increased chance of becoming obese too. Will this information influence our choice of friends?

india Updated: Jul 27, 2007 23:47 IST

Now the fat’s really in the fire. You are really known, or shall we say weighed in the balance, by the company you keep. A study done by the New England Journal of Medicine reports that obesity can spread from person to person like a virus. When a person tends to gain weight, close friends follow suit. Will this change friendship as we know it? We grew up with the notion that friends are those who stuck by you through thick and thin. Now it turns out it is more in thick than thin. And the worst part is that the evidence of this is not all that thin on the ground. It is based on a sample of 12,067 people monitored over 32 years. We can’t take that lightly now, can we?

The worst part is that it is not necessary that we hang out with the friends who will eventually lead us to piling on those kilos. They could well be very far away but the influence remains. Before you bite into that chocolate doughnut, chew on this. If a person becomes obese, his or her friend has a 171 per cent increased chance of becoming obese too. This is information that will hang heavy on our heads. What do we do now? Junk those friends whose waistlines are thickening but whom we love. Acquire new stick insect-like pals whom we may not share too much in common with but that size zero dress?

But there is logic behind this sympathetic adiposity. You change your idea of what an acceptable body type is by looking at people around you. And in the process you either get dragged down into obesity or drag your friends down. This could effect a paradigm shift in our reactions to people we meet at work or outside. If they are portly, we may just have to beat a hasty retreat never to fraternise with them again. If they are sylph-like, we will embrace them to our bosom and bond with them for life.

What about human instinct and emotions, you may ask? Well, make up your mind. Either you go the Shakespeare way when he wrote in Julius Caesar “Let me have men about me that are fat,” or decide whether you will forever have to shop in the extra large sections in stores. This could also revolutionise the diet industry. For those of us who have followed blindly varied permutations and combinations from the Atkins’ Diet to the Beverly Hills one, the answer was staring us in the face, sorry mouth, all the time. We just needed a change of company. Or let’s just follow that fatter-than-most actor Marlon Brando who once said, “I don’t mind that I’m fat. You’d still get the same money.” Well, Brando certainly didn’t lack for friends. Let’s thank the lard, sorry Lord, for that.