Research shows that everyone in your orbit can have a big influence on how much weight you gain or lose. Ensure that those closest to you tip the scale in your favor by following these simple guidelines.
Your BFFA study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that your friends may increase your odds of gaining weight by 57 percent. "Women tend to match each other's behavior at the table," says Atlanta nutritionist Marisa Moore, R.D. Let your pal order first—she'll feel pressure to set a good example, and you'll likely follow her lead. And don't invite your whole clique— a recent study in the journal Appetite found that ladies who lunched with four friends averaged 150 calories more per meal than those who dined with three.
Your DogWalking your pooch will shrink your paunch. In a study at the University of Missouri-Columbia, volunteers who got 30 minutes of leash time five times a week dropped an average of 14 pounds in a year. On bad-weather days, play indoor games, like chasing your dog up and down the stairs, to help burn up his energy and your lunchtime burrito, suggests Robert Kushner, M.D., coauthor of Fitness Unleashed! A Dog and Owner's Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together.
Your GuyResearchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that women who live with a romantic partner increase their risk of becoming obese by 63 percent, and those who marry more than double it. But couples also have an easier time taking weight off: Duke University researchers discovered that people were 50 percent more likely to start exercising if their partner joined them. Get your guy to work up a sweat with you by bike riding, running, or ice skating. And have him help out on the food front by cooking together at home. An FDA report found that eating out more than five times a week (which couples have been known to do) adds about 290 calories on average to your daily diet—that's the equivalent of 30 pounds a year!
Your CoworkersA study in Eating Behaviors found that when female coworkers teamed up to lose weight, they were more likely to exercise and dropped more pounds early on. Ask your workplace to start an official fitness-incentive program. Studies have shown that they encourage employees to set and meet weekly fitness goals while also increasing productivity. Or kick off your own Biggest Loser-style competition complete with weigh-ins and lunch-hour challenges like power walks, spin classes, or yoga sessions.