THE BLOG

Can Being in Love Make You Fat? Plus, 10 Suggestions for Losing Marriage-Induced Love Handles

02/15/2015 02:37 pm ET | Updated Apr 15, 2015

My married friends love to ask, "When are you and [insert boyfriend's name here] going to tie the knot already?" Single people, back me up here. I'm sure you get this all the time too, right? I'd like to think it's because my friends just love me and want me to be happy and not because they want another person to commiserate with about the old "ball and chain."

What I really want to tell them is, "What's the rush?" Not having a ring on it definitely has its perks, for instance, when it comes to staying fit.

Being in love of course is a many splendored thing. But once you get hitched, you can become susceptible to a phenomenon I'll call "marital fat creepage," which is highly contagious amongst blissfully-married couples. Numerous studies have been published in recent years that show significant weight gain is common amongst married people. According to a 2013 study of newlyweds, the happily-married couples gained more weight over a four-year period compared to the less-happily-married couples. Clearly if you suspect you're going to be back in the dating pool sometime soon, you know you had better keep yourself together.

And it's not just here in the U.S. with our penchant for binge watching TV while binge eating take out. A recent Australian study showed that brides-to-be, feeling pressure to lose weight before their big day, gained more weight shortly after the wedding. In their defense, that can happen to anyone who is stressing out about weight loss so Bridezillas, you're off the hook in my book. But guys, you're not exactly exempt. A recent 10-year study of young adults in the Midwest found that married men were more likely to be overweight or obese compared with men who were single, dating or in committed relationships.

Apparently once you're off the radar for being eligible dating material and start wearing sweats with Uggs on nights and weekends instead of leggings with stilettos, it's easy to let a little extra comfort food accidentally slip down your gullet. It's also easier to make excuses to stay home, on the couch and eat mindlessly. A 2004 study found that married couples tend to get less exercise than their single counterparts.

It's sweet to be supportive of your spouse when they're feeling bad about themselves after polishing off the last few servings of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food without you. As their muffin top turns into a bread loaf hanging over their Seven jeans you say, "That's okay honey, there's just more of you to love." Cute, right? Not really.

When one spouse is puffing up and the other is not, it's easy to notice. You can see and feel the, let's call it, "ratio" change. That's a good time to nip it in the bud and start triage. But often times couples gain weight together, gradually, which might be harder to notice because the size ratio between you stays the same.

By turning a blind eye to your spouse's weight gain, you're not really doing them a favor. The health risks that come with weight gain and potential obesity will surely affect you both in time, like increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, etc. It may be a difficult topic to broach if only one of you is tipping the scale. Especially if your partner is eating for emotional reasons, and even more so if those emotional reasons are partly because of you. Perhaps you're not giving them enough love, encouragement, compliments, attention, etc. If that's the case, speaking to a licensed therapist or certified health coach could help. There are ways to be supportive without being pushy or showing disapproval when you know your spouse needs to get on a healthy, weight loss program. The wrong techniques can backfire and make it worse.

If you're gaining weight simultaneously, solutions may be easier to find. Just like taking your marriage vows, you have to commit to a common goal and support each other when one slips up. If you really want to put off "til death do you part," remind your spouse you want them to be around a long time. Although, I hear the dating scene in retirement homes is quite vibrant.

Here are some simple ways to get in shape together:

  1. Fitness vacations are a growing trend. Plan your next vacation to include exciting activities you've always wanted to try in a destination you've always wanted to see.
  2. Go on a spa retreat that offers all-inclusive fitness activities and healthy meals.
  3. Don't go on a cruise or to an all inclusive beach resort where you might spend too much time basking in the sun and eating/drinking all day.
  4. Join a gym or studio together and make dates to meet there after work or go together in the morning before work. Once you both get on a roll, you may not need each other as a support system, but if one of you does, be a good spouse and hold their hand until they're ready to go it alone.
  5. Hire his and her personal trainers so you each get the workouts customized to your needs.
  6. Take a healthy cooking class together and dump the junk from your cupboards.
  7. If one of you tends to bring contraband into the house, get rid of it. It's too tempting when comfort foods are lurking nearby and the prime time TV shows start airing.
  8. Take dance classes together or learn another sport that you can practice together.
  9. Sign up for a few 5K or 10Ks, obstacle course races or charity bike rides. That will require you both to keep up a training routine.
  10. Have more sex with the lights on and mirrors around. That will surely get you motivated to choose one of the previous nine suggestions.

Have you experienced relationship weight gain or loss? Please share your tips and experiences below.