Review by Scott Keith

Do you notice that if your best friend is fond of cheeseburgers and fries, you, too, lean a bit too heavily on fast foods? If so, you are becoming aware of how social networks affect our eating habits.

Miriam Nelson, Ph.D., and Jennifer Ackerman,  have co-authored The Social Network Diet, a  book that shows you a new approach to developing a healthful life style – an approach that examines the importance of social networks.

Nelson, a professor at Tufts University in Boston who has focused on  nutrition, physical activity and public health for over two decades, says research has been showing the impact of social networks on one’s health. “The reality is that 67 percent of the population is either overweight or obese. Even more of the population is unfit. This has a huge impact on quality of life…This influence of the person’s social network is really quite powerful,” says Nelson.

In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Ackerman says research shows your body weight is closely related to that of your closest friend. Ackerman, a science and health writer who has contributed to the New York Times, National Geographic, Parade and other publications, says, “The thinking behind it is that it’s really about social norms. When friends become overweight, it becomes more socially acceptable…We just can’t help but imitate our peers, and this is true for adults as well as children.”

There is a flip side to social interaction – and it can benefit your health. Nelson, interviewed by Men and Health, says people can lose weight if they join a group that promotes a heathier lifestyle (perhaps a group engaged in exercise).

In addition to encouraging a healthful social support system, this enjoyable and easy-to-follow book gives plenty of tips to help you make the correct food choices. The 1-Day Challenges will help you take baby steps on the way to better health. The first challenge helps you monitor added sugars. “You have to actually read the labels and look at the foods being served,” says Nelson.   Another challenge has you look for refined grains, the largest source of calories. The third challenge explores how you can fit 30 minutes of moderate activity in your daily routine. The challenges lead to The 7-Day Jumpstart, explained in chapter 4.

If you feel overwhelmed and confused about starting a new, healthful life, consider some Simple Acts in chapter 6. Nelson and Ackerman teach you how to Start With Your Immediate Circle, Be Picky in Purchasing Your Foods, and Be Choosy About Where You Shop; you can also learn how to Invite A Neighbor To Do A Walking Errand.  Nelson says, “When a person makes changes in their own lives, there is a ripple effect that is beyond them. It impacts their social network, it impacts their family, their colleagues. These simple acts are sort of taking that the next step further…to create the change that we so desperately need in this country.”

Nelson adds, “When you make those (healthful) changes, you need to surround yourself with a supportive network. When you do, your changes will become permanent…That change will have a ripple effect and help support the health of many, many others.”

Pricing & Availability
“The Social Network Diet” is now available for $12.95 – as well as in e-book format for $7.99 – at FastPencil ( and at Barnes and Noble and other major bookstores as well as online retailers such as Amazon.