Does the “buddy system” really encourage weight loss?

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(Natural News) Recent research suggests that the “buddy system” approach to losing weight can encourage participants to stick with their weight loss program and achieve significant results. However, it doesn’t boost morale by instilling a sense of camaraderie among people who are trying to shed weight. Instead, it inspires participants through the achievements of top performers.

One of the most popular goals for self-improvement happens to be losing weight. Many people start working on this during the winter season so that their ideal beach body is ready when summer comes.

There are many ways to slim down, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and reflexology treatment. But a good number of people prefer to enroll in a weight loss program that features a “buddy system” approach to losing weight.

The buddy system is a technique used to improve the efficiency of two individuals by making them work together. It works on the principle that individuals who share the same goal can encourage each other to work harder when paired together as a single unit. (Related: Three weight loss obstacles you’ve probably never considered and how to get around them.)

Taking a closer look at the buddy system in weight loss programs

Researchers Kosuke Uetake from Yale University and Nathan Yang from McGill University in Canada evaluated the impact of social interaction in a weight loss program. Whereas most studies would look at the amount of weight lost by the participants, this study focused on how individual participants lost weight during their participation in a commercial weight loss program.


The researchers drew their data from a sizable weight loss program based in the United States. The number of participants in the program came close to two million.

The unnamed weight loss program implemented a calorie budgeting system. It did not outright forbid the consumption of specific food groups so the participants could eat any food that they wanted. The only restriction was that they should not go past the total number of calories budgeted for the day.

The program showcased not only the average weight loss among a peer group, but also the highest amount of weight lost by individual participants.

“The use of peer effects, otherwise known as the ‘buddy system,’ can have an impact on weight loss,” remarked Uetake. “But those peer dynamics can have either encouraging or discouraging effects, so it is important to know what works and what does not.”

The biggest weight losers inspire other people but peer pressure has a negative impact

In their paper, Uetake and Yang confirmed that showcasing average weight loss among a peer group could exert a negative effect on a participant’s actual weight loss. If a participant compares his or her progress with those of peers, he or she may find it discouraging.

On the other hand, announcing the results of the top performers in the weight loss program produces a beneficial effect. Participants tend to be inspired by people who achieve the most significant results.

“Meeting leaders can use the weight loss successes of top performers to provide inspiration to the group, and perhaps avoid using the overall group’s success as the benchmark,” remarked Yang.

He added that the overseers of commercial weight loss programs should set up the composition of peer groups so that participants benefit more from the encouraging results of top performers. Conversely, they need to minimize the participants’ exposure to the discouraging effects of average performers.

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