I am what you eat: can you 'catch' a bad diet from the people you surround yourself with?

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Can you 'catch' a bad diet from the people you surround yourself with?
Can you 'catch' a bad diet from the people you surround yourself with?
Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
  • Can we 'catch' a bad diet from the people we surround ourselves with?
  • Integrative fertility coach, Tarri Gavson, looks into the relationship between food and the company we keep. 
  • According to one study, certain eating patterns can be 'socially transmissible' across relationships. 



Research from the American Journal of Public Health investigated the link between food choices and the company we keep. They found certain eating patterns to be 'socially transmissible' across relationships. 

Married couples consume similar nutrient profiles, and females tend to have more influence over their male counterparts when it comes to their food selection. They also found that across all peers, the eating pattern most likely to be shared socially was alcohol and refined snack foods. In excess, these foods are named and shamed with other unhealthy lifestyle habits associated with diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

READ MORE | The last 5 kilos really are the hardest to lose. Here's why, and what you can do about it

Chronic diseases gone viral

Our dietary patterns are undeniably linked to our health outcomes, and now we see that the company we keep plays a role in how and what we eat too. Chronic diseases, which are preventable through healthy lifestyle behaviour change such as physical activity, nutrition, sleep, smoking and substance abuse, account for 74% of all deaths globally (WHO).

Poor lifestyle habits are effectively 'taught' to us as social norms as we observe them all around us: at home, school, work and while socialising. They are byproducts of a western, urbanised society where stress, busyness, multitasking, screentime and convenience trump mindfulness, movement, nutrition, connection and time in nature.  

Stop the blame game

Since social influences on eating are powerful and pervasive forces, it represents an opportunity to educate ourselves about lifestyle change and develop practical tools and resources. These will help create new healthy habits to improve our health and those around us. 

This daunting process can be made easier by working with a health and wellness coach who understands the pitfalls and perils of changing habits ingrained in us since childhood.  

A pregnant pause

It is always a good time to make better lifestyle decisions, but it is possibly the most crucial time when parenthood is imminent. Lifestyle choices during pregnancy have a multifactorial effect because they influence the mother's health and that of three generations of future offspring via foetal programming and epigenetics.

Over 40% of women of reproductive age have a chronic disease and have more than one dietary deficiency, the most common of which are potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, choline, vitamin A and vitamin D.

We know that dietary patterns change very little from preconception to pregnancy, and therefore it is important to address dietary patterns as early as possible prior to conception. An integrative fertility coach who understands how to prepare and optimise the body and mind for fertility and beyond can help you achieve this. 

READ MORE | What if food labels let you know how much exercise is required to burn off the consumed calories?

Conclusion

We all operate within a living system where our environment, social circles, and self-care practices control our lifestyle choices. Our physical body determines the actions and behaviours we engage in, and those actions and behaviours then determine the larger social systems that arise.

Pregnancy offers a unique opportunity to influence the health of the family nucleus positively and that of many future generations to come, not only physiologically but psychologically, as they 'catch' healthy lifestyle habits from their parents.


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