Weight gain has become ever increasing with over 60% of Australian’s being overweight or obese . One influencing factor for weight gain can be relationship status. The weight gained can be a matter of a couple kilos or quite commonly, a more significant gain. The chances of this occurring increase as the relationship goes on.
About relationship weight gain
The aim of this article is to raise awareness of this phenomenon and either prevent it from happening or to educate on ways to get back to your pre-relationship weight.
Why does it happen?
This point is most relevant to females. When a female starts dating a male, her portion sizes often increase to mimic that of her partner’s. This is particularly a problem when a couple moves in together and it becomes a permanent change.
Many males can have a significantly higher energy requirement than females – therefore they can afford to eat a lot more. Some reasons for this can be height difference, a more physically demanding job and increased amounts of metabolically active tissue. By matching meal sizes (particularly if it extends across all three meals), a female can exceed her energy requirements much quicker and this will gradually encourage weight gain.
Eating out / increase in social obligations
Food plays such a big role in socialising that it is no surprise that it also plays a big role in relationships – particularly new ones. Dating often revolves around dinners, desserts and wine. It can become very difficult to maintain a healthy weight or to lose weight if you are frequently indulging in meals out, alcohol and sweets. Typically people will eat a lot more than they usually would, the food will be much higher in kilojoules and there can often be left overs for the following day – straying far from your regular diet.
Poorer food choices
Often an individual will swap their regular snack of an apple for the chips that their partner is eating. Or they will forgo their daily sandwich to share in their partner’s pizza lunch. Unfortunately many people do not find their healthy options as appetising when their other half gets to enjoy foods like pies, kebabs, Thai and hot chips. Therefore; if one of the partners makes poorer, energy dense food choices, the other partner is more inclined to eat similarly as they do not want to miss out.
However, if you too increase the amount of packaged foods or take away options you are eating, the weight can come on very quickly! This can be irrespective of increased portion sizes.
The following examples may put in to perspective the additional calories you could be consuming (values are based on popular brands/ outlets):
- A regular box of Pad Thai can have 5,583kJ (1,336 calories), 39.5g of total fat of which 8.4g saturated and 3,420mg sodium. A small serve contains 3,635kJ (870calories).
- Four slices of meatlovers pizza equates to 3,388kJ (812 calories), 30g of total fat, 14g saturated fat, 1852mg sodium
- A 45g pack of honey soy chicken chips equals 927kJ (222 calories), 10.g total fat, 1.4g saturates, 234mg sodium
- A sandwich with multigrain bread, lettuce, tomato, 1TBS avocado and 60g of grilled chicken equals 1,566 kJ (373 calories), 9.5g total fat, 2g saturated fat.
There is much more nutrition in this option, the energy content is much lower and as you can see, the total fat content is much lower with most of it coming from the 2 healthier kinds – mono/poly unsaturated fat.
- An apple equates to 282kJ (67 calories), 0g fat, 3mg sodium
Less pressure to stay in shape
Often when individuals become comfortable within their relationship, they lose the motivation to be more careful with what they are eating. Ultimately, healthy eating and exercise should be driven by health. Unfortunately, a lot of the time it has more to do with aesthetics. For this reason, couples feel less pressure to stay in shape once they are “off the market”. Whereas those who are single place more importance on being in shape. In saying that, being thin is not always indicative of being in shape!
This theory has been supported by a number of studies – one such study ‘For Better or Worse: Relationship Status and Body Mass Index’. The study looked at individuals who were married, divorced or just cohabiting. The results showed that women and men who were married were heavier than their weight when they were single . It was also found that those cohabiting with their partner were also heavier than their single weight but to a lesser degree than the married couples, likely due to less stability/ permanence . The study concluded that there is a direct correlation between marriage (and to a lesser extent cohabitation) and a significant increase in the likelihood of overweight/ obesity .
Decrease in physical activity
Often there is a decrease in the amount of activity a couple does. This can be due to the desire of wanting to spend more time together, having more social occasions to attend or a number of other reasons. So not only does energy intake frequently increase but energy expenditure decreases.
What can you do?
- Keep in mind what a realistic portion size looks like for you. Do not be influenced by how much your partner is dishing up. Eat slower so that you do not finish well in advance of your partner which may lead to seconds! Alternatively, serve your portion on a smaller plate so that is appears to be more. Prepare food so there is only enough for 2 practical serves or portion out your meals and store the rest away immediately.
- Reduce the frequency that you eat out. Cooking at home can greatly decrease your consumption of kilojoules, sodium, fat and sugar and save a lot of money. Try and save eating out for social obligations, skip the desserts and entrées and cut back on the alcohol – doing this alone can make a significant difference!
- How to get around the temptation of your partners unhealthy food choices? Be strong! Better yet, reform them so that they are eating healthier as well. Even if they can manage to maintain a healthy weight, it will be in their best interest if they perform an overhaul on their diet and make healthier choices too. Doing it as a team can really help. Otherwise, some will power will be required to say ‘no’.
- If the incentive of good health isn’t enough to keep you in shape then why not make a pact to keep in shape for each other? This will help to keep you both in top health further in to the future. It’s wonderful to be comfortable within your own body but it is important to remember that it’s not a matter of striving to be “skinny” but rather placing the emphasis on achieving a healthy weight for optimal health, in the short and long term.
- Keep up the activity. Work it in to your schedule and stick to it. It’s great if you can get your partner involved as well.
- National Health and Medical research Council. Obesity and Overweight. Australian Government. Jan 2014. Available from; http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/your-health/obesity-and-overweight
- Averett S, Sikora A, Argys L. For Better or Worse: Relationship Status and Body Mass Index. Econ Hum Biol; 2008 Dec;6(3):330-49.
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This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have any questions about nutrition related issues, you can make an appointment with Belinda today. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine, targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!