If you recently said so long to singledom, you might want to be on guard against a few extra pounds of pudge. A 2008 study from UNC Chapel Hill put some scientific might behind anecdotal stories that newlyweds pack on the pounds. Over the course of about five years, men who got married gained 6 more pounds, on average, than those who stayed single. Women made out even worse — those who said “I do” put on 9 more pounds than their counterparts who hadn’t settled down.
Why the association between relationships and weight gain? Well, I think a number of factors are at play. Most importantly, if you’ve settled down with someone, you’re no longer facing the competition of the dating field. That means you may have less incentive to stay in shape and look your best. Plus, your lifestyle starts to revolve around food a bit more. As a couple, you probably stay in and cozy up (with food) on the couch more often than you did when you were single. Plus, you’re at risk of picking up all of your sweetheart’s bad food habits. I think this is especially dangerous for the women out there who were pretty good about watching what they ate when they lived alone, but now get tempted by their hubby’s or boyfriend’s perpetual snacking on “man-sized” portions of fast food, chips, cookies and ice cream (I love my husband dearly, but his Mallomar cookie addiction is killing me!). And when I got married, I had to immediately nix his Buffalo wings and Cap’n Crunch from the house — I knew all too well I’d be munching on them too!
Of course, falling in love doesn’t have to mean falling out of shape. Here are seven simple steps you can take to keep yourself — and your partner — in line:
1. Stay loyal to your positive habits
Just because your honey overdoes it on the snacking doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. If you're happy with a plain-Jane scoop of vanilla ice cream, don't fall prey to your partner’s preference for oversized hot fudge sundaes.
2. Attention, women: Lose the sweats and spandex!
It’s hard to gauge weight gain when your clothes are expanding with your body. You don’t have to give up your favorite sweats or pj’s altogether. Just make sure you slip into a pair of form-fitting jeans every couple of days to give yourself a weight reality check.
3. Make the TV room a no-eating zone
Chances are, one of your favorite pastimes is snuggling up next to each other on the sofa to watch your favorite shows … which goes hand-in-hand with nibbling on buttered popcorn, tortilla chips and other high-cal snacks. Mindless munching in front of the television is a dangerous habit, and the calories really start to rack up as a result. Instead, relax and enjoy each other’s company, without involving food. If you take turns giving each other back massages, you’ll burn a few extra calories (about 70 calories for every 15 minutes) by working those muscles in your upper body and hands.
4. Nurture your relationship, not your appetite
On slow evenings spend some quality time together solving crossword puzzles, playing a board game or doing a jigsaw puzzle. Keeping your brains and bodies active will help quell the urge to sit and munch on a big bag of chips.
5. Spice things up in the kitchen
Cooking dinner together is a fantastic way to reignite your romance and unwind after a long day. By choosing healthy, low-fat recipes to prepare at home, you’ll save yourself cash and calories. Enhance the ambience by playing some music and lighting a few candles.
6. Use your ‘couples advantage’ when dining out
Oversized restaurant meals can easily contain upward of 1,000 calories. Next time you and your hubby treat yourselves to a meal at your favorite bistro, order your own appetizer and split one entrée (and ask the server to divide the meal into two portions). If you opt for dessert, make sure you split that too. You still get to enjoy a romantic dinner out, but it costs you only half the calories (and half the price tag) of your usual meal.
7. Move together vs. chew together
Find creative ways to get fit as a couple. A client of mine came up with a fabulous idea for herself and her husband — a “Fitness Book Club.” They both download a selected audio book onto their iPods, and then follow the rule that they can only listen to the audio book while walking or working out on a fitness machine. Later in the week, they discuss the book over dinner! Other enjoyable ways to work in a little physical activity include planning an adventure vacation (skiing, hiking, kayaking … whatever excites you); taking dance lessons together; or signing up and training for a 5K marathon for a charity that’s near and dear to your heart.
For more information on losing weight and eating healthy, visit www.JoyBauer.com