Catching Fat!

Sensationalism is defined as the use of shocking details to cause a lot of excitement or interest.

The news and the internet are FILLED with sensationalized stories. This post is a jump off from yesterday’s regarding the study done on how you can no longer be fat and fit.  Precisely, this post was to be an offshoot from the comparison of obesity to terrorism. I needed more clarification on that and have since downloaded about 10 PDF files from my college’s library database. What I have discovered is that this is a huge topic and will need to be dealt with in more than one post.

Until I can further divulge myself into the world of the obesity crisis and its terror threat; I will share with you a study that claimed obesity is basically contagious and is spreadable like a virus.


Which one of you did I get it from? I need answers!

Unless… I was the one that spread it… In that case I apologize!

You can find it here is you so choose to read it. The Spread of Obesity in large social networks over 32 years

I will sum it up to the best of my abilities.

This study, from 2007, was prepared by researchers Dr. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. They wanted to determine whether or not obesity might be spreadable from person to person. They believe that people are influential by the behaviors of others around them. In that case weight gain in one person might influence weight gain in another.

“Having obese social contacts might change a person’s tolerance for being obese or might influence his or her adoption of specific behaviors (e.g., smoking, eating, and exercising).

We evaluated a network of 12,067 people who underwent repeated measurements over a period of 32 years. We examined several aspects of the spread of obesity, including the existence of clusters of obese persons within the network, the association between one person’s weight gain and weight gain among his or her social contacts, the dependence of this association on the nature of the social ties (e.g., ties between friends of different kinds, siblings, spouses, and neighbors).”

They found the following:

Mutual friends were more likely to affect one another than acquaintances.

Same-sex friendships affected one another more than friends of the opposite sex.

Among married couples, when one became obese, the spouse was more likely to become obese. Husbands and wives appeared to affect each other similar.

Siblings of the same sex were more likely to affect one another than pairs of siblings of the opposite sex.

Weight gain of immediate neighbors did not affect the chance of weight gain.


They concluded that the spread of obesity in social networks appears to be a factor in the obesity epidemic. They suggest that if people modify their social networks such as weight-loss interventions, support groups, and learning healthy behaviors, the spread of obesity will slow down. They state that this is due to the fact that “people are connected, and so their health is connected.”

In 2011,Gina Kolata’s, Catching Obesity from friends may not be so easy, brought up studies that refuted these claims. The researchers have received a great deal of criticism from “other scientists who claim that the studies’ methodology was flawed and the original data completely inadequate to estimate the role that contagion might play in the spread of these behaviors.”

The problem was not with the concepts of “you choose friends like yourself,” or “that people are affected in the same ways by the environments they share with their friends.” The issue lies with the suggestion that obesity was a contagion. The biggest question mark was “How certain can anyone be about conclusions based on observations of how people behave?”

“The explanations have different implications for public health. If behaviors cluster together because of homophily or shared environments, there is no need to regard other people as potentially harmful.

But if contagion is real, it might also follow that people who are fat should stay away from fat people to control their weight.”

This right here! This is the problem! By using such language as “obesity is contagious” they are basically saying people should stay away from fat people. You might catch the fat!  What a horrible idea! Let’s create an even more hostile environment…Now we are contagious! Let’s all go live in bubbles because no one should be held accountable for themselves when you can just blame it on others!

The “relief” here is that critics are not convinced that it is possible to separate homophily from contagion with observational data. Statisticians have come forward with studies that show “it is mathematically impossible to use observational data to establish that contagion is a major reason behaviors spread.” There are just too many variables in observational studies that need to be taken into account.


6 thoughts on “Catching Fat!

  1. I’m going to play a little bit of a devil’s advocate here: I totally understand how our behaviours influence other people. Like, personally, I have adopted a lot of behaviours from my mom. She starts diets and then after a week quits them when they hit a snag. I kind of have the same defeatist attitude sometimes. I grew up watching her make meals for the family so I will base my own nutrition and meals off of what I have learned from her, there by continuing the cycle of being overweight. HOWEVER as an adult I can CHOOSE to change my habits. I can choose to be more determined and focus in my quest for health. I choose what foods I cook for myself etc. But the whole “its contagious” crap is just NONSENSE! Like Laura said, there is so much bad science out there. And the internet thrives on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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