Does ‘Relationship Weight’ Actually Exist?

February 13, 2019

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As we approach Valentine’s Day, we are reminded of all the reasons we love LOVE. Companionship, trust, affection and emotional support are just some of the things we’ve come to expect from a happy couple. Not to burst your dreamy romantic bubble, but there is one very real downside to expect in a relationship, and that would be “relationship weight gain.”

Whether you’re single, dating, or married, your love life can have a large impact on how much you weigh. Relationship studies across the board have shown a strong association between marriage and weight. Conversely, being single is associated with weighing less. Here’s what the evidence suggests:

  • Happily married couples tend to gain weight within the first four years of marriage according to a study published in the journal Health Psychology.
  • Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health found that living together increased the odds of obesity for women by 63 percent and 30 percent for men. Marriage doubled the risk of obesity for men and women.
  • In a 10-year Australian study, single women on average weight 4 pounds less than women with partners.
  • A Minnesota University study found that married men were more likely to be overweight or obese than their peers who were single, in a relationship, or engaged.

Why does weight gain in a relationship seem to be a universal phenomenon? The causes may vary depending to each couple, but researchers have seen similar types of behaviors associated with weight gain once a couple settles in together, like eating increased portion sizes and more fatty or high-calorie foods, and spending more time sitting watching TV or movies. One interesting study found that couples actually start to “mirror” their eating patterns by unconsciously matching ounce for ounce what they eat. This actually puts attached women at a greater disadvantage than men due to the ways women metabolize food, but due to the aforementioned behaviors, attached men do not escape relationship weight gain so easily.

A popular theory of why relationship weight gain happens may be due to the feeling that the search for unconditional love is finally over, and it’s safe to “let things go” a little. But if they are not careful, couples can find they’ve let things go too much, putting them on a road not only to obesity, but to related chronic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Does this make us down on LOVE? No way! One of the indicators of weight loss success is having a strong social support system that will encourage all of the healthy behaviors associated with healthy weight. This of course includes your significant other!

Here is how you can tackle the causes of weight gain as a couple:

Be Aware & Be Each Other’s Rock. It may not be the top item on your list to discuss as a happy couple, but it’s important. Acknowledge that there is a higher risk of unhealthy weight loss behaviors as long as your status is “In A Relationship.” Then, in addition to your vows of love, make a vow to support each other in engaging in the types of behavior that can get you closer to your “single status weight.”

Cook At Home. Many studies show that eating out is associated with heavier body weight. If you and your S.O. find yourselves living it up a little too often on the town, switch gears and plan for a home cooked meal. Or, if the kitchen is like a foreign country to you, order in from a restaurant you trust that uses healthy ingredients. Another tip to prevent the “mirroring” mentioned above is to have two different types of meals.

Get moving together. If you’re sitting on the couch watching TV with your significant other all the time, there’s a good chance you’re not getting enough physical activity. Exercise can give your metabolism a much-needed boost and keep the pounds off. Find activities that you both can enjoy together so you can improve your health and still spend quality time. We won’t ask you to divulge what those activities are (blush)…

Reduce Stress & Make Sleep A Priority. As a singleton it may have seemed hard enough to reduce stress and get good sleep, but now you need to tackle it x2! The links between stress, lack of quality sleep and obesity have been well established, so it’s extremely important you both talk about the best ways to manage these important areas in your life. Whether it’s his snoring that keeps you up at night or her wanting to quit her job to start her own company that give you stress, you need to talk about real solutions to keep you both high functioning humans at healthy weights!

The real message here is that once you’ve found your true love, you never want to let him or her go. Don’t let the slippery slope of relationship weight gain lead to the types of conditions that can threaten the love you share. Have a happy Valentine’s Day one and all, no matter what your relationship status, even if “It’s Complicated.” Hang in there, and stay healthy!

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