Friday, March 26, 2010

Healthy is Contagious

At the TED Conference this February, Nicholas Christakis, a Harvard social scientist, posited that our social networks can shape our lives. He spoke about the obesity epidemic in the US and how your friends' friends' friends can make you fat (3 degrees of separation). I think that may also hold true for healthy habits.

Living with diabetes, our entire family had to learn how to inject with syringes, work a glucometer and understand how to break down an insulin pump in the wild. Good diabetes management, we have learned, also requires knowledge of nutrition and exercise. After all, exercise and the kinds of foods we eat can affect blood sugars levels. We've learned to count carbs, read nutrition labels on cereal boxes and have learned portion control. By taking care of Cassie and her diabetes, our entire family has grown to eat healthier diets.

Last week, we kicked off a new soccer season. Cassie had hemmed and hawed about try outs and really wanted "out" of this spring sport. But we persisted and encouraged her. We feel that school sports are great for her fitness and are a wonderful opportunity to socialize with friends outside of facebook. Afternoon exercise is also a good way to keep her blood glucose levels regulated in the afternoon. As Cassie works out, we have all begun working out regularly as well. Our whole family has ended up in better shape.

What's weird is that our behavior has had a positive effect on our friends' lifestyles and our friends' friends lifestyle. We ask them out to go to the gym with us. When we order out at restaurants they also sometimes try some of the healthy dishes we've grown to love (tofu can be yummy- really!).

So it may seem counter-intuitive, but can diabetes make everyone healthier? In our case, it seems so.

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