(Edit: When a friend told me today that 75% of the people who were called up in the past for military service were too heavy and out of shape to pass the physical, I thought of some of the reasons obesity is such a problem, according to Shahreen Abedin’s article in Time Magazine, Thursday, Sep. 03, 2009.)

Really, an “obesity bug”? In 2007, Harvard researcher Nicholas Christakis and his colleagues analyzed 32 years’ worth of data from an interconnected social network of 12,000 adults and found that a person’s chances of becoming obese increased 37% if a spouse had become obese, 40% if a sibling had and 57% if a friend had.

Socializing with overweight people can change what we perceive as the norm; it raises our tolerance for obesity both in others and in ourselves. It’s also about letting your hair down. Past research has shown that adults tend to eat more around friends and family than they do with strangers. They shed their inhibitions about how it looks when they go back for thirds or order the alfredo sauce instead of the marinara.

Finally, there’s the idea that we like to hang with people who are like ourselves. Cornell food sociologist Jeffrey Sobal explains that “especially among two overweight people, there’s a sort of permission-giving going on. We’re encouraging each other to eat more.”

Clinical psychologist Sarah-Jeanne Salvy, who is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the State University of New York at Buffalo, refers to this phenomenon as a sort of feedback effect. Conversely, she suggests, overweight diners are more likely to tone down how much they eat in front of skinny people to avoid the stigma of overeating.

You can read the whole article by clicking on the following link: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1919885,00.html?iid=tsmodule