November 12, 2008

"Ripple Effect:" Weight Loss Among Couples

Maybe you heard about a weight loss "ripple effect" among couples over the past few months; the story had crossed my radar, but I didn't realize the study's author was a psychology professor at UConn. 

There's an article in the Nov. 10 issue of the UConn Advance, highlighting Amy Gorin's published study in the International Journal of Obesity which demonstrates that if one member of a couple goes on an "intensive weight loss program," their spouse will probably lose weight too.

Gorin's study looked at 357 pairs of participants in Look AHEAD, "evaluating the impact of intentional weight loss on cardiovascular outcomes in overweight individuals with type 2 diabetes" (quote from article abstract) to see the effect of this weight loss program on the non-participating spouse. In fact, the Advance notes that "[s]pouses of individuals enrolled in the more intense program lost an average of five pounds, even though they did not participate in the weight loss program themselves."

Why does this happen? The Advance quotes Gorin:
“When we change our eating and exercise habits, it can spill over in a positive way to other people. This is evidence that if you change your own behavior, you may motivate others around you and get them motivated as well.”
The article's abstract concludes:
The reach of behavioral weight loss treatment can extend to a spouse, suggesting that social networks can be utilized to promote the spread of weight loss, thus creating a ripple effect.
Yay for social networks!

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