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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Marriage and kids bad for your waistline, studies find

By Charles Stuart Platkin

It starts with the wedding cake: Togetherness in eating is part of why many couples pile on the pounds.

Gannett News Service

One of the most common goals for the bride and groom before the wedding is getting in shape.

Once the wedding bells stop ringing, the eating begins.

According to a study by Cornell University's Jeffery Sobal, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, newlyweds gain more weight on average than singles or people who are widowed or divorced.

Another study, in Obesity Research, reported an average weight gain of six to eight pounds over a two-year period after getting married.

We tend to take on the "bad" eating patterns of our partners. According to Sobal, one of the selection criteria used to pick your spouse is how he/she eats. "If you're a vegetarian, or a gourmet diner, you are more likely to feel comfortable with someone who shares your individual eating traits. Think about it — you're going to be eating with this person the rest of your life," says Sobal.

According to David Katz, a professor of public health at Yale University School of Medicine, one reason for weight gain after marriage is the "I've got him/her now, so I don't have to work so hard" mentality.

He also suggests that "increased responsibilities, decreased leisure time, increased stress/financial pressure, and reduced time spent on exercise" are all factors. Also, eating with another person "makes it OK" and more "fun" to consume "sin" foods such as cookies, ice cream, and chips.

And finally, marriage leads to more "regular" meals, at home and at restaurants, which means larger portion sizes and fatty foods.


In Obesity Research, Robert Jeffery of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis reported that individuals tend to lose weight after divorce or losing a spouse. Experts are hesitant to speculate exactly why, but "research has shown that dining alone leads to smaller portions and overall decreased consumption," explains Sobal.


According to a new study from Duke University Medical Center appearing in the Journal of Women's Health, researchers found that women face an average 7 percent increased risk of obesity per child born, and men an average of 4 percent.

"On top of the sleepless nights and irregular feeding schedules, there are real changes that couples undergo when starting a family that relate to their food and activity behavior. Couples spend more time at home and become less active, and this is the pattern that they tend to stick with," explains Dr. Lori Bastian, associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center.

As for exercise, who has the time?

Matrimonial mass

So, what can you do to avoid the Wedding Waistline?

Beware of Marital Sabotage: "One of the most common challenges to weight control in marriage is sabotage. This is when one of the pair is threatened by the weight-loss efforts of the other. The resultant behavior is an effort, subtle or not, to undermine the spouse, often by bringing 'seductive' foods into the home," says Katz.

Keep the family peace: Sit down with your family and have a discussion about why it's critical for you to lose weight. Explain that they don't have to modify their way of life, but they should at least support your objective.

"A partner should make it clear that not supporting his or her weight-loss efforts makes it much more difficult to lose," says Sass.

Do it together: Have your entire household eat healthier. Studies have shown that partners who diet together lose more weight than those who don't.

Make it separate: You don't always have to eat the same foods as your partner, meal after meal. Try to cook separately. For instance, you could both have chicken, one grilled and the other fried.

Avoid parental gain: To avoid gaining weight with each child, be conscious of your food choices. Instead of fast food, use low-calorie frozen dinners.

Prepare in advance: If your spouse is a "poor eater" and won't exercise, be prepared. Think about your meals in advance.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a syndicated health, nutrition and fitness columnist. Write to info@thedietdetective.com.