Food and the Single Girl
Do you eat better when you are single or in a relationship? An interesting question. Not many people think of the sometimes drastic changes their diet may undergo when moving in with a partner. Having full control over your diet when being single may be a blessing or a curse.
Such is a benefit of living alone — at least for me. Because I cook for one, I can make whatever I want and not let the scent of a toasting bagel lure me away from what I need to eat to reach my health goals, which right now are to stay lean while training for my sixth marathon, which I’ll run in May.
There has been two recent studies conducted that look at how your relationship status impacts your intake. The results were completely opposite. People who are single can go two ways, I find – they only have themselves to care for and so it is easier to prepare nutritious meals without being influenced by someone else’s preferences. On the other hand, no one is around to judge what poor choices they make and cooking for just one can be off putting.
Food and singledom is the subject of two recent studies that come down on either side of whether or not bachelorhood does a body good. One found that single people lean toward being skinnier than those who cohabitate. The other found that living with someone means you tend to eat healthier than if you live alone.
The first report, published recently in the Journal of Family Issues, looked at 20 years of data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a long-running federal study of Americans who were 14 to 22 when they were first interviewed in 1979. It found that in general, living alone was associated with lower body mass index compared to living with someone else.
There have also been numerous other studies to indicate that those who are single feel it more important to stay in shape in order to attract a mate.
The study’s author, Jay D. Teachman, a professor of sociology at Western Washington University, conjectures that married people get into routines, but also that the nonpartnered may have more of an incentive to stay fit and trim because they are in the dating market. Plus, without someone else there to judge, singles “might be more likely to just open the refrigerator and grab a yogurt and call it good,” he said.
The second study indicated that single people had less variety in their diets and missed out on a few key food groups. As mentioned before, for some there is less drive to eat nutritiously when you only have yourself to look after. Additionally, many people find it difficult to shop for one and use all of the fresh produce up before it perishes.
In the other study, published in August in Nutrition Reviews, researchers from the Queensland University of Technology looked at 41 English-language studies that examined the relationship between food intake and living alone. They found that, in general, people who live alone have lower diversity in what they eat and that they eat fewer fruits and vegetables and less fish than people who are partnered.
Ultimately, “it really depends on the individual person,” said Katherine W. Bauer, an assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, who was not involved in either study. “How much importance do they place on healthy eating, regardless of living status?
I’ve been on both sides of the “living status” line. When I lived with a boyfriend, some of my food choices revolved around compromise: What did I want to eat that would appease him too? But last spring, when I set out to lose some weight, I did so without someone else watching over my shoulder or asking that I make things that I didn’t want to eat. I felt no pressure to add a side of pasta to my salad, or rice to the bottom of my bean dish, because no one else was there to care. I gave up alcohol for August, too. I didn’t need to keep booze in my house because another person wanted it, and therefore I wasn’t tempted by it. I could also experiment with dishes without another person being affected by a recipe failure. And if I did fail, I sometimes did what Dr. Teachman described: I’d just grab some yogurt and call it a night.
Despite the finding of the two studies, it really comes down to the person. However, it is still interesting to look at the research and the reasons people reported for eating less or more healthily. Some people are more inclined to eat healthily regardless of their relationship status, which is likely why the two studies showed two opposite outcomes. However, it is easy to fall in to the trap of eating the same portions as your partner or being tempted into eating their potato chips, etc.