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The Weird Way Your Friends Can Affect Your Waistline

You probably wouldn't jump off a cliff if your girlfriends told you to, but there's a good chance you'll fall off the weight-loss wagon if they do: When the people you're dining with order a high-calorie dish, you're likely to do the same, according to a new study review in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The researchers analyzed data from 15 studies of social eating behavior and determined that our food choices are highly influenced by the people around us, especially if we identify them as friends or as part of a "socially desirable" group.

MORE: Should You Tell Your Friends When You're Trying to Lose Weight?

In other words, ordering that Big Mac because your gal pals did may be an attempt to reinforce your place in the group. And the reverse also seems to be true: If your girlfriends are all ordering low-cal salads, you'll probably follow suit in order to fit in. The analysis shows that your meals may even be influenced by your friends' attitudes about food when you're dining alone, suggesting a subconscious social influence on eating.

So why do we copy the contents of other people's plates? Although fitting in is certainly a factor, looking "normal" is probably not the only driver behind our dining decisions: We may also seek dietary permission (e.g., "If she can eat that, I can, too") or guidance (e.g., "If kale has helped her get healthy, it will probably help me, too") from our closest friends and family.

Are your friends or significant other tempting you to eat crap? Try these three simple stay-slim strategies so you can stay on track—without annoying anybody.

MORE: The Weight-Loss Mistake You've Been Making

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