Worried about your family’s weight gain? The best way to help your family lose weight is to work on losing weight yourself. A recent study out of Stanford Universityhas shown that following a gastric bypass surgery, adult family members of the patient also lost weight. Although the study did not include people who lost weight through traditional dieting methods, it seems likely that the same effect might be seen.
The Stanford Study
The study followed 35 patients who had received the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. A year after the surgery, adult family members who participated were also, on average, eight pounds lighter. The adult family members weren’t the only ones who benefited; kids in the family also showed a lower BMI than would have otherwise been expected.
Senior author of the study, John Morton, M.D., director of bariatric surgery and associate professor of surgery at Stanford University, noted that the weight lost by family members was comparable to that expected from participating in a medically controlled diet, like Atkins or Ornish. The only actual participation on the parts of the family members was accompanying the surgery patient to pre- and post-surgery appointments.
Simply by accompanying the patient to the appointments, these family members had the benefit of getting the same diet and lifestyle counseling as the patient. The subjects discussed at these appointments included topics like the importance of a high-protein and high-fiber diet, avoiding foods high in sugar and fat, eating small and frequent meals, setting exercise goals, getting an appropriate amount of sleep, moderating alcohol consumption and having less screen time.
Changes in Family Members
Some of the changes noted in the family members included:
- A significant decrease in waist size
- A sharp decrease in alcohol consumption
- Less emotional eating
- Less uncontrollable eating
- Substantial increase in activity levels
How Does This Happen?
Evidence shows that lifestyle changes are socially contagious. This can be both positive and negative, since negative changes are just as likely to be contagious as positive changes. A husband is more likely to stop smoking if his wife quits but is more likely to gain weight if his wife does. So how can people harness this tendency and use it to create positive changes?
Making Positive Changes in Your Family’s Health
Threatening and cajoling are not likely to help when it comes to improving your family’s health. If you want your spouse and kids to join you in your quest to live a healthier life or lose weight, you will have to model the behavior you want them to emulate and expose them to information about living healthier.
If you are under a doctor’s care for weight, encourage them to come to appointments with you. They may benefit from the lifestyle counseling your doctor provides. Likewise, if you participate in a program like Weight Watchers, bring your kids to the meetings and encourage your spouse or other adult family members to participate with you.
Other positive steps you can take to encourage and support a lifestyle change in your family:
- Fix healthy and well-balanced meals for everyone in the family.
- Have your kids help in the kitchen, and talk with them about which ingredients you are cooking with and why you choose those.
- Stock the pantry and the refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid buying processed junk food.
- Break the soda habit.
- Find fun and energetic activities in which the whole family can participate. Some good choices would be swimming at a gym, practicing sports, rollerblading, hiking and skiing.
- Set limitations on screen time for the entire family. Encourage kids to play outside instead of hooking up to the computer or game console.
- Make sure everyone gets to bed on time, every night. Emphasize that this is not a punishment; it is a way to make sure you feel good the next day.
- Most importantly, stay calm. Screaming and yelling won’t encourage family members to participate. Set a good example, and soon your family will follow.