You may have heard about the “Freshman 15,” the weight gain common among first-year college students due to the all-hours food culture of the college dorm lifestyle. But have you heard about “love weight”? According to new research, the tendency to gain weight when married or in a romantic relationship is a thing … and a significant one at that.
A poll of 2,000 Americans who are married or in a relationship, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Jenny Craig, found that more than three-quarters of respondents—a full 79 percent—have gained weight since being married or in a relationship. In fact, the study found the average person has gained 36 pounds since being with their current partner, with 17 pounds gained in the first year alone.
The poll found that men are particularly susceptible to “love weight.” Sixty-nine percent of male respondents reported gaining weight during the first year of a relationship, compared with 45 percent of women. And they put on nearly twice as much weight as women during the first year of marriage, with an average of 22 pounds and 13 pounds gained, respectively.
However, it’s five years into marriage when people of both sexes tend to gain the most weight, the survey found, with starting a family being the No. 1 reason for weight gain.
But there is hope. “The data shows that while people have gained weight in a relationship, they are recognizing that they need to lose it, and that is great news for their health,” says Monty Sharma, president and CEO of Jenny Craig.
In other words, putting on weight in a relationship is not a foregone conclusion—and if you do gain “love weight,” that doesn’t mean you’re destined to keep it on forever. Most respondents—55 percent—say they have lost weight in the past year, with the average person having lost 16 pounds.
And that’s good news for both of you. “There are long-term negative side effects of weight gain—such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and more,” says Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chairman of the Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board. “But by engaging in healthy habits earlier in your relationship, couples can potentially prevent these problems while also building a strong foundation for optimal health and wellness.”
Read on for ways you and your partner can help prevent love weight together … and help make you, and your relationship, healthier—and maybe even happier—in the process.
1. Make a commitment to better health with your partner.
If you’ve ever felt you were susceptible to your mate’s less-than-healthy habits, you’re not alone. Researchers have found that married couples, as well as those living together, are at risk of adopting each other’s unhealthy habits, such as those related to exercise, food consumption, sleep patterns and smoking.1
But that doesn’t mean you’re destined to become unhealthy. A study on “social contagion” among married or romantic partners found that while having an obese spouse or live-in partner increases your risk of obesity by almost 40 percent, couples can also have a positive influence on each other, especially related to diet and exercise.2 For instance, the researchers found that new couples are likely to develop healthy changes together, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing their fat intake and avoiding fast food. They also found that if one person is trying to lose weight, their partner may undertake positive weight-loss behaviors as well. If one partner has good exercise habits, for example, the other is likely to develop a healthy level of physical activity too.
2. Consider working out with your significant other.
The poll conducted for Jenny Craig found that more than one-third of respondents—34 percent—had adopted a less active lifestyle since being in their current relationship. So why not make a commitment—together—to increase the amount of exercise you get? Even better, try working out with your significant other: Research shows that exercising with your partner can make you more likely to exercise than if you were to work out alone. It can also improve your mood.3
Working out with your better half may also help improve your relationship, especially if you try a new activity together. Studies have shown that couples tend to feel more in love with their partner, and more satisfied with their relationship, after taking part—as a couple—in a novel physical challenge or activity.4
3. Develop healthy eating habits.
To ensure a healthy eating pattern, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends that you limit saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium. You should also be sure your diet includes the following foods5:
- Vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, and starchy types.
- Fruits, especially whole fruits.
- Grains, at least half of which are whole grains.
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy, including milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
- A variety of protein foods, including seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, nuts and seeds.
If you’re looking for ways to incorporate healthier meals into your routine, Jenny Craig follows expert guidelines with chef-crafted, nutritionally balanced, ready-made meals.
4. Eat in more often.
A full 70 percent of the Jenny Craig poll respondents reported that their weight gain was caused in large part by eating out often and trying new food and restaurants together. Research bears this out, as eating out has long been implicated as a factor in Americans’ battle with obesity.6 In fact, research shows that people tend to consume 200 more calories per day when they eat out, compared to when they eat meals at home.7 Meals eaten out also tend to contain more cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium, the researchers found.
If you have difficulty finding the time to cook (and 30 percent of married respondents do), you can still eat healthfully while keeping the shopping, food prep and cooking to a minimum. “The best way to start weight loss is with the right nutrition and exercise, and Jenny Craig incorporates both into our program alongside dedicated support for each individual,” says Sharma. “Our program helps couples develop a healthy relationship with all foods, which we know is something people want today.”
5. Keep your relationship strong.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner can bring untold benefits, including less stress, healthier behaviors and a greater sense of purpose.8 What’s more, research shows that having a good marriage can actually help keep you from gaining weight.9 Researchers found that the better and more supportive a person’s marriage is, the less likely that person is to become obese in middle age.
As you and your partner get on the path to good health, keep this in mind: People who eat healthfully and exercise with their significant other are more than twice as likely to report that they’ve lost weight in the past year than people who don’t, according to the poll conducted for Jenny Craig. What’s more, couples who exercise and eat healthy together are almost twice as likely to say they’re consistently happy in their relationship than couples who don’t.
Peeke adds, “We know that close relationships affect the health outcomes of individuals. This data is a clear indicator that couples who support each other in a healthy lifestyle together can reap the benefits of happiness together as well.”
Do you or your partner want to find a healthier path together? Contact Jenny Craig to get started on your journey today!
Carole Anderson Lucia
Carole is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California who specializes in health and wellness topics. Her work has appeared in Parents, Fit Pregnancy, Mom & Baby, Yahoo News, Viv magazine and Lifescript. She's won several national awards for her work including a National Science Award and two National Health Information awards. A frequent contributor to Jenny Craig’s Blog, Healthy Habits, she enjoys gardening, spending time at the beach and adopting far too many rescue animals in her spare time.
Favorite healthy snack: jicama dipped in homemade hummus.
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