Being happily married has a number of health benefits. Research shows that people who are married enjoy better mental and physical and a longer lifespan. Studies have even linked marriage with a decreased risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer. There are some downsides to a happy union. It turns out that marriage may not be so good for your waistline. According to a new study carried out at Southern Methodist University, people who are happily married are more likely to gain weight.
Marriage and Weight Gain: Is There a Link?
A recent study followed 169 newly married couples for 4 years, tracking their marital satisfaction, marital-related stress along with their weight. They found that couples who were in a mutually satisfying marriage were more likely to put on significant amounts of weight compared to those who were not happily united.
How did they explain these findings? Couples who are happy and committed to their marriage are less focused on how they look and how much they weigh than unhappy couples who want to enhance their appearance in case their current marriage doesn’t work out.
Other research also shows a link between marriage and weight gain. A study carried out at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that females gain an average of nine pounds during the first five years of marriage. Women may be particularly prone to weight gain after marriage. When couples eat meals together they often mirror one another’s eating habits. Females who match the eating habits of their male partner are likely to gain weight since they require fewer calories because of their smaller size and less amount of lean body mass.
It’s Important Not to Be Complacent
It’s easy to get comfortable in marriage and let your healthy lifestyle habits “slide.” Sometimes it’s cozier to snuggle on the couch watching television than it is to pick up a pair of weights or do a workout DVD. There’s also a tendency to cook larger, more elaborate meals once you’re married and to put more focus on eating –and eating out. What’s important to keep in mind is why you’re eating healthy and working out. If you’re happily married, it’s important to maximize your health and the health of your partner. That won’t happen if you let your exercise routine and healthy eating habits fall by the wayside. Research shows that when one person in a marriage gains weight, the other is more likely to put on weight too. It’s important to take steps to keep this from happening.
Are you eating healthy and working out for the right reasons? People who work out for the health benefits of exercise rather than how it affects their appearance are more likely to stick with it. When you’re married, you may not mind having a less than perfect body but consider the impact being sedentary has on your health and the health of your spouse before spending too many evenings on the couch.
How to Avoid Marriage Weight Gain
Realize you both need to eat healthily and stay active to feel your best and avoid future health problems. If you do most of the meal preparation, choose healthy ingredients and cooking methods to reduce how many calories both of you take in. Find healthy recipes you both enjoy. You don’t have to indulge in high-calorie offerings to savor a meal together.
Some couples make the mistake of eating out too much. Try to limit restaurant visits to once or twice a week. Restaurant meals are almost always higher in calories, fat, sugar, and salt than what you can prepare at home. Plus, not all restaurants have eliminated trans-fat from their offerings.
Don’t let your workout routine become a distant memory. Try to incorporate exercise into your marriage. Instead of watching television, slip a DVD in instead and do a workout together. Plan more activities that keep both of you moving when you spend free time together. Hike, bike or pick up a sport you both enjoy. Even if your spouse won’t exercise, set a good example by doing a regular workout yourself. When they see how good you look and feel, they’ll be more motivated to do it themselves.
Don’t be complacent. Your spouse may love you regardless of your weight but don’t take the relationship so much for granted that you let yourself go from an appearance and a health standpoint. It’s a sign of love and respect for your partner that you take care of yourself. Do it for yourself and for your partner – and encourage your spouse to do the same so you’ll have many more happy years together.
Health Psychol. 2013 Mar 11. [Epub ahead of print]
New York Times. “Is Marriage Good for Your Health”
Science Daily. “Marriage Can Threaten Health: Study Finds Satisfied Newlyweds More Likely to Gain Weight”
Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Jul;17(7):1441-7.