In a recent article published by NPR, Gain Together, Lose Together: The Weight-Loss ‘Halo’ Effect, two studies were mentioned that suggest that our social networks have a significant effect on our overall health and well-being.  Since weight is oftentimes affected through behaviors (exercise, diet, smoking, drinking, etc.), those with whom we engage in those behaviors have a direct impact on the outcome.  It’s pretty simple when you think about it, but certainly, easy enough to miss.  We do know that your friends’ friends make you fat.

However, the article highlights another very interesting second-node response to those receiving treatment for obesity. While there may have been behavioral changes that were enacted by family members (first degree of separation) as they complied with the treatment plan for the patient’s (first-node) benefit, the article suggests that there may have been another influence on the weight of the patients’ family members – additional education.

This does add a new layer of influence that might create additional change.  If you are engaged in the treatment, even just on the education level, what possible changes might that make to your cognitive approach to the subject.  Said differently, even if your behaviors aren’t initially, directly adhering to the treatment plan, is it possible that through continuous education on the subject, you might potentially change your behaviors simply through thought pattern change? We do know in psychology that simply logging what you eat will result in weight loss. Where your mind goes, the energy goes.

Of course, the way Psychology views the Halo Effect – a cognitive bias that involves one trait influencing others in one’s judgment of another person or object – a little different than what is described in the study – but it would be interesting to see if perception of success of the patient had an influence on the outcomes of the family members.  In other words, if there were a Halo Effect regarding the overall interpretation of the composite qualities of the patient by the family members adhering and discovering success with a treatment plan, if that in turn could create the opportunity for a cognitive reframe of self-perception – a sort of, “they are doing it and maybe I could/should too.”

If anyone knows of an interesting article or study that has delved into the topic, we would love for you to share it.

To our health,