Your Bad Eating Habits Are Contagious

If the person you’re eating with orders a salad, do you as well? After crunching data on hundreds of thousands of meals, Eatery finds that healthy eaters make each other more healthy, while bad eaters just encourage each other.

Your friends are why you’re fat. The Eatery, an app from health technology startup Massive Health that lets users take pictures of their food and then asks them to rate photos of other users’ food based on perceived healthiness, has yielded lots of data since it was launched last year. In this infographic, Massive Health uses information from its hundreds of thousands of users to tell us just how contagious our eating habits can be.


Based on crowdsourced healthiness ratings of photos, Massive Health has deduced that friends (the ones connected to users on the Eatery, at least) influence the healthiness of what we eat by 34.5.%. If your spouse is obese, you’re 37% more likely to also be obese.

But those aren’t the most important factors: It’s your friends. If they’re obese, you’re 57% more likely to be obese. The lesson: Watch what you eat, but watch what your friends eat, too. This works both ways, though. Pick healthy friends and you’re bound to get more healthy. A study found that while women with unhealthy friends also start to make bad food choices, women with healthy friends eat better.

What’s the solution? Clearly social networks could be key in fighting obesity (and Massive Health clearly hopes Eatery is part of that). Since they’ve found that healthy eating people cluster together, the trick is to introduce nudges into more obese networks. Get one person, and the healthy eating could spread like a virus.

You can see the entire infographic below:

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.