Have you ever given a thought to the fact that while eating out with friends you generally order what the majority of them are ordering, even though the food ordered might be unhealthy?

According to a new study from the University of Illinois, “Peer pressure may be to blame for your lack of control when ordering out.” Human behavior is being guided by a perceived group norm, so the implicit cultural beliefs make you decide ahead.

Researches from Harvard Medical School and the University of California found that when one individual becomes obese, the chance that his or her friend will become obese increases by 57%. Other members of people’s “social network” were also affected: their siblings’ risk increased by 40% and their spouses’ by 37%.

Eating is a social experience. For some of us it’s the only activity we do with our friends. For whatever occasion, a birthday celebration or either you lost a job or no matter what the crisis, your most supportive relationship turns you into a situation to eat and eat more. Over-drinking and over-eating are the most common ways to cope when you’re under stress.

Obesity is socially contagious. It is spread through the transmission of behavior and social norms. People within a social network often get engaged in unavoidable health impacting behavior, such as weekend parties with too much wine and cheese or buffet lunches of a variety of unhealthy foods or binge drinking parties. These parties or social norms may result in weight gain, especially if they become habits. Even more importantly, within a social network the comparison factors play an important role.

If unhealthy behavior is contagious, so is healthy behavior. Instead of going along with your friends’ unhealthy habits, make them get on the path to a healthy lifestyle. If this happens, your friends’ and you can manage to influence many others. Here are some ideas to follow so that your healthy habits are contagious to your friends and family: 1] Join a gym, yoga, aerobics, or swimming classes with a buddy. Join kickboxing or zumba if you want something more interesting. 2] Choose social activities that are physically active like evening walks with a friend, indoor rock climbing, bicycling, etc. 3] For stress or depression, exercise. Exercise is a potent weapon against depression. 4] Eat slowly and savor your food. Watch your portions at every meal. 5] Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. 6] Select healthy food options when eating out. You don’t always have to eat unhealthy when eating out.

Staying healthy and fit is a personal choice. And if you make an effort to take the path of health, you might benefit people around you, by encouraging them to do so too.