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It's hard enough watching your own diet . Now research suggests you might want to watch other people's, too. Humans are social mimics, meaning we mirror the behavior of those around us, says Gavan Fitzsimons, PhD, professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University. "With more Americans overweight, scientists are very interested in the subconscious cues that influence our eating habits." There's no need to blow off dinner dates with your wire-thin BFF, but it may help to know why her presence could encourage you to order dessert. A look at how different people can impact the number on your scale:
The influencer: Your svelte friend
People tend to eat 1.5 times more in the company of a thin person who eats a lot than an overweight one, reports a study out of the University of British Columbia.
The influencer: Your date
Women consume 100 fewer calories when dining with a male date than with a female companion, according to research from McMaster University in Ontario.
The influencer: Your glass-half-full pal
Researchers from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, theorize that optimists are more likely to give in to temptation: They may nudge you to "live a little," too.
The influencer: Your husband
Married women are more than twice as likely to be obese as those who are single or dating, reports a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.
The influencer: Your friend's friends
Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that your risk of becoming obese increases 20 percent if a friend of a friend is also obese.
Next: The truth about fat cells
From the January 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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