Previous studies have shown that when someone in a relationship truly commits to losing weight, their partner tends to lose weight as well, even if they don’t actively decide to do so. It’s a phenomenon psychologists call “the ripple effect.” This study shows that the ripple effect extends beyond our romantic relationships, and has the potential to change not only the life of one individual but also how we collectively think of body positivity.
“If more women try to focus less on their weight/shape, there may be a ripple effect shifting societal norms for women’s body image in a positive direction,” Miller said. “It’s also important for women to know that they have an opportunity to positively impact those around them through how they relate to their own bodies.”
The study is limited not only in its size but also in the fact that it chose to focus exclusively on women, even though the The National Eating Disorders Association reports that one in three people struggling with an eating disorder in the U.S. is male, and hospitalization and treatment for male patients suffering from eating disorders increased by 53 percent between 1999 and 2009.
But, given the previous studies on the ripple effect in heterosexual relationships, it’s not unlikely that the impact of the people around you on your body image is powerful regardless of your gender.