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August 3, 2007

The family that eats together


...often gets fat together. Friends, too. If one person at the table overeats or indulges in high-cal snacks, that is. This not-so-startling news that made BIG headlines in The Chicago Tribune over the weekend—and probably in the papers most of you read, too, as the story was based on a report from The New England Journal of Medicine.

Here’s the skinny on the results of a study of the spread of obesity, which watched and weighed people over more than three decades: Your chances of becoming obese increase by 57 percent if you have a friend who puts on pounds. It drops to 40 percent if it’s your adult sib who plumps up, 37 percent if it’s your spouse.

The backlash from the weight lobby was fast and furious in follow-up stories and letters to the editor, charging “fatism.” And, yes, we are a culture that is unfair to fat people in many ways. But it also is true, isn’t it, that too many of us carry more weight than we should? (Count me in on tipping the scales too far.) Aren’t obesity and its related diseases an enormous burden on our health-care system?

I also know that when I’m with friends I’m more likely to put a fork into something “sinfully delicious” than when I’m alone. And on a Friday night, how easy to order a pizza and watch The Whole Thing disappear while my husband and I relax with “Monk” and “Psych,” our two favorite mind-candy shows.

But that’s only part of the story. Haven’t you been told that if you’re really serious about starting a diet, tell somebody close to you so they can help you be honest? And can’t we be just as good friends by encouraging each other not to gorge—but to enjoy healthy food in appropriate portions?

We who are members of the ELCA have a terrific resource in the “Live well...Healthy Leaders Enhance Lives.” Check it out. And if you’ve got some stay-slim-together strategies, please do pass them along.

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