04/09/2015 11:12 am ET | Updated Jun 09, 2015

Life Between Curfews and Kids

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"The years between curfews and kids are the most difficult to manage my weight," said a young 30-something professional woman whom I have been seeing to help her with her wellness and weight loss. I am 20-something years ahead of her, and the truth is, whenever there is a change in lifestyle, if you are not mindful of your eating, there is also a change in body weight. Too often that change is weight gain. But her comment, '"Years between curfews and kids" needs to be explored.

For many young adults, curfews end when college begins. Many go away to school and experience freedom from parents and rules. There is dorm living, a reinvention of self, and food that is mass-produced for all students, not to mention the alcohol. Many students experience the, "Freshman 15"the weight gain associated with the first year of college.

This weight gain can mean the student may not have the coping skills needed to conquer the lifestyle changes they are now experiencing. "Socialization is easier when food is around. Calorie-dense alcohol can stand in for self-confidence," states Carol Holland, PH.D.

But let's consider the years between curfews, kids, and then beyond, because at any age, socializing includes food, and alcohol can give self-confidence. Each year the pounds creep on, and you're left wondering why or how you gained weight.

During your single years you are conscious of your weight and appearance, you'll want to be attractive to a potential partner. The challenge with the single years is that most dates consist of food and drinks. Today with online matchmaking it is safer to meet in a public place. Many meet for a drink, in a coffee shop with sugar laden drinks, or at a restaurant. Food and drink will always be a part of dating. A survey by UK researchers found that 62 percent of respondents gained 14 pounds or more after beginning a relationship. This weight-gain appears to be a direct consequence of typical date night activities.

As you move into planning a wedding, it's often crash-diet to the rescue to lose the weight that is left from college and your single days. A bride who pressures herself to lose weight before the wedding day will usually gain weight within the first six months of her marriage.

Newlyweds bring two separate eating patterns together and often two different nationalities or races. Each partner has their favorite food that the other partner now accepts along with their own. A 2013 study in the journal Health Psychology shows that happily married couples tend to gain weight in the four years after getting married. It also suggests that these couples get complacent about their appearance.

The subsequent years can bring childbirth, raising children, and your kids departing for college, leaving you feeling lonely. Some adults find they are single again later in life. Life is full of changes. We need to learn the coping skills so food does not become your companion during sad, stressful, or happy times, and alcohol does not become your self-confidence.

If you become complacent about your appearance, it means you have also become complacent about your health. It is never too late to be responsible for your eating, health, and weight.

  • You matter. Everything you eat and drink matters. Excess food or alcohol will fog your thoughts and define how you will handle yourself in various situations. It also will dictate your health in future years. Every time you find yourself using food or alcohol in place of facing a situation, remind yourself that you matter, and you can handle anything with a clear mind. Spend time building your self-confidence so it comes from the inside by always acknowledging each strength and accomplishment.

  • Get Moving. Regardless of your age or stage of life you need to be active and include a form of exercise into your daily routine. Your exercise may or may not change as the years progress, but an activity plan will always benefit you, your weight, and your health.
  • Be Aware. Your eating patterns have to change as you age. Be aware when your current eating patterns no longer benefit you. Your body changes in each stage of life and food that once did not have an effect on your weight, does now. Eat food that nourishes you, and learn to incorporate a healthy, balanced diet into your day
  • Globally, there are 1.5 billion adults who are either overweight or obese. Don't sit back and wonder how it happened to you. Take charge and be healthy.