The study, published in Obesity, tracked the weight loss progress of 130 couples over a six month period. They discovered that when one person in the partnership committed to getting in shape, approximately one third of the participants significant others also lost three percent or more of their body weight without intervention.
The study’s lead author, University of Connecticut Professor and behavioural psychologist Amy Gorin, called it a “ripple effect.”
“When one person changes their behaviour, the people around them change,” Gorin said. “Whether the patient works with their healthcare provider, joins a community-based, lifestyle approach like Weight Watchers, or tries to lose weight on their own, their new healthy behaviours can benefit others in their lives.”
The results also showed that the rate at which couples lost weight was also similar. When one cut kilos at a steady pace, so did their partner. When one struggled to slim down, so their partner.
“How we change our eating and exercise habits can affect others in both positive and negative ways,” Gorin continued. “On the positive side, spouses might emulate their partner’s behaviours and join them in counting calories, weighing themselves more often, and eating lower-fat foods.”
The researchers said that they will be looking into whether this “ripple effect” extends to other household members in further studies. Roomies, we’re looking at you.