Marriage May Add Pounds
"A great spouse loves you exactly as you are. An extraordinary spouse helps you grow; inspires you to be, do, and give your very best." -Fawn Weaver
Perhaps there's more to this quote than meets the eye. When we take our marriage vows and pledge our love to our betrothed, it should be one of the happiest days of our lives. Ideally, that marital satisfaction will only grow from those early, exciting newlywed months. However, all those lucky couples who are truly happily married may be growing in a more literal way as well. According to new research, excess weight gain is common in the first few years of marriage, but mainly among those who are content together and in happy marriages.
The study, which was conducted at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, found that satisfied spouses who are content in their marriages put on more excess weight during the first four years of wedded bliss than their counterparts who are unhappily married and thinking about leaving their spouse.1 The participants were 169 couples who had just gotten married. Over the course of a four-year period, each spouse answered questions twice a year regarding their satisfaction with married life and whether they were taking any steps toward getting divorced. Height and weight measurements were also provided at the same time, enabling the researchers to determine the subjects' body mass indices (BMIs) and keep track of fluctuations in weight.
Overall, the partners who expressed more satisfaction about their happy marriages were more likely to gain excess weight during this four-year experiment. In contrast, those who felt less satisfied by their marriages and were considering separating from or divorcing their partner gained fewer pounds in the same time frame. This contradicts the school of thought that says when we are happy, we are healthy--and that when we are unhappy, we eat more out of stress. However, it now seems that while contentment can definitely have its benefits, it is not necessarily linked to maintaining physical fitness for many people.
Instead, these findings would appear to suggest that--at least within this relatively small sampling of the population--keeping weight down and staying in shape may be more about attracting a mate than having anything to do with health. Presumably, the participants were at a weight they felt was appropriate and appealing when they had their weddings. Then, it would seem, those who were most satisfied being married weren't bothered by a weight gain because they were no longer looking to find a mate and their spouse (hopefully) loved them for who they were underneath the added pounds. Health and fitness were not part of the equation; rather, the gain might have been all about a level of comfort.
The unhappily marrieds, on the other hand, did not gain weight--or at least gain as much--perhaps because they believed that they might be back on the market again some time soon. A fit appearance was more important to them in order to attract dates in the near future. And again, health was not at the forefront of their motivation.
A 2007 study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that marriage goes hand in hand with weight gain, with newlyweds gaining between six and nine more pounds in five years than their single friends.2 The current study took the findings one step further to produce some insight as to why this happens. Or not, in the case of dissatisfied couples. As for them, while it's a shame that their marriages are not working out, at least there is the side benefit of gaining fewer excess pounds.
As for the happily married folks, it's time to take your health into consideration too. If you look forward to spending a long, wonderful life with your spouse by your side, consider making those sides a little smaller. Some minor lifestyle changes can nip the weight gain in the bud. Wouldn't it be better to grow old together without having to deal with ailments or diseases that being overweight can lead to, such as diabetes, heart attacks, and certain forms of cancer?3 Besides, spending time together grocery shopping for nutritious foods, cooking them, and taking long walks or bike rides together all add up to more quality time with the one you love.
- 1. "Marriage Can Threaten Health: Study Finds Satisfied Newlyweds More Likely to Gain Weight." Science Daily. 3 April 2013. Accessed 11 April 2013. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130403200416.htm
- 2. Hellmich, Nanci. "Gain a Spouse and You'll Likely Gain Pounds, Too." ABC News. 23 October 2007. Accessed 12 April 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=3764122&page=1#.UWicqxxnrtQ
- 3. "What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?" National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 13 July 2012. Accessed 12 April 2013. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/risks.html