If you’re like most women, your top New Year’s resolution this year (make that most years) is probably to lose weight–mainly by eating healthier foods and exercising more. Turns out there is another key element to whittling your waistline, according to a new study: your social life.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina found that relationships with friends and family are just as important as diet and exercise for reducing belly fat, controlling high blood pressure, body mass, and reducing inflammation (the precursor to such diseases as cancer and heart conditions).
In fact, your social networks plays this vital role throughout your life, from your teenage years to your golden years (tell your kids–and your parents). When you’re young and older, quantity matters more than quality. In other words, the bigger your circle, the better off you are. But when you’re middle age–roughly from your mid-30s to your mid-50s–QUALITY is key.
Researchers measured quality by how supportive the relationship was–and how it protected against stress. The more strain caused by friends and family (think tension, unresolved arguments, simmering conflicts and annoyances), the higher the odds of storing fat in your abdomen and increasing your risk of inflammation.
Of course, you can’t do much about that co-worker who gets on your nerve–or the sibling who’s overly critical. But you can control your reactions (even if it’s imagining yourself sticking your fingers in your ears). And you can focus on the folks who bring you joy and comfort.
Your waistline will thank you!