Does Marriage Lead to Weight Gain?

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Dear Coach:  My spouse and I are both gaining weight, and I know it’s time to make some serious dietary changes.  My spouse isn’t convinced and it’s causing some tension between us.  How can I get my spouse to eat healthier?  Terry

Dear Terry:  It’s great that you recognize the need for some changes!  Have you ever heard the expression: A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still?  The saying applies to your case, because until your spouse is convinced that healthier eating is necessary, it may be an uphill battle.

Interestingly, studies continue to show that marriage goes hand in hand with weight gain.  According to a study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, women gain an average of 24 pounds in the first five years of marriage, and men gain 30 pounds.  Lifestyle behavior and activity patterns typically change after the wedding, leading to less activity and more food intake.  Married people tend to watch more TV together instead of going to the gym or playing a sport; now they’re watching not only their own shows, but their spouse’s shows as well.    

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Also, having a spouse who is a good cook can lead to more extravagant meals and patterns of eating much more than they did when they were single.  And if your marriage is a happy one, you’re actually more likely to gain weight than if your marriage was unhappy.  It’s important to be aware of how your eating habits and lifestyle patterns have changed to match your spouses.  Couples who are aware of what’s going on can use their “patterns” to their advantage by shifting to influence each other in a positive way.  It’s much easier for someone to lose weight if the behaviors of the entire household change.  The couple can both contribute to a healthy environment and offer each other social support. 

Below are a few tips that could help your situation:

  • Lead by example. Influence from family and friends has a strong impact on our own health behaviors….so develop and adopt your own healthy habits, and perhaps your spouse will too.
  • Sanitize your environment of the high fat junk foods and sugary snacks that contribute to the cravings. If there’s a bowl of mini candy bars or bags of cookies in sight, chances are that’s what will be wolfed down.  Set healthy snacks in plain view, such as applesauce containers, hummus and veggies, bowls of fruit or cup up melon, apple slices with peanut butter, salsa and pretzel crisps, or make your own trail mix with nuts, raisins, and dairy-free chocolate chips.
  • Stock up on healthy foods. Stock your cupboards with whole grains (brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal), fresh fruits and veggies, potatoes, canned beans, hummus, frozen veggie burgers and healthy soups.
  • Brown bag it. If you or your spouse are eating fast food for lunch, offer to prepare and pack healthy lunches for the both of you.
  • Continue to experiment with new recipes and if possible, cook together and make it fun!
  • Instead of watching TV after dinner, ask your spouse to join you in a quick walk around the neighborhood first.

Remember that even if you make changes only for yourself, you are worth it!  I know many couples who are ‘divided’ when it comes to diet.  They’ve come to resolutions about how to make it work in their household, and so it CAN be done.  Agree upon who will be shopping for whom, who will be cooking for whom, and where the unhealthy foods will be stored (it may be best to have separate cabinets).  Each one of us is responsible for our own health, and so I encourage you to not let another person’s poor choices prevent you from changing your own diet and health.  Be loving but firm in your resolve, and join with like-minded groups or friends who will support you.  (Cyd can be reached at www.cydnotter.com).