Love makes you Fat

They say being in a loving relationship gives you happiness but research has found that it also piles on the pounds! Couples in the UK are putting on weight more than they did when they were single and growing love handles more quickly. We look at the research and how it can affect us.

"I cannot seem to get it under control"

Research has found that women and men who are in a loving relationship are prone to putting weight on more than single people.

A study has found that the average person from the UK will put on half a stone in weight, especially, in the first year of a relationship. And then subsequently, the weight can continue to pile on if nothing is done to address it. Couples are likely to gain an average of 18 pounds together in a 10 year relationship. The survey found that three-quarters of 3000 people polled said they put on weight in a happy relationship.

The key reason being that people indulge in eating more whilst in a relationship. Going out, eating at restaurants, drinking more alcohol and having cosy nights in with a large pizza instead of a small one, are all of the activities that are making couples more fat. Other reasons include the comfort factor of being in a relationship and the associated sense of security, which leads to eating what you like than what you should.

Another set of research was done in Australia where the study covered more than 6,000 Australian women over a 10-year period ending in 2006. After adjusting for other variables, the 10-year weight gain for an average 140-pound woman was 20 pounds if she had a baby and a partner, 15 if she had a partner but no baby, and only 11 pounds if she was childless with no partner.

Maureen A. Murtaugh, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Utah who has published widely on weight gain in women, suggests, a more active social life may help explain why women with partners gain more weight. When a couple go to a restaurant, the food servings are usually not different for genders.

Dr. Murtaugh said:

“They serve a 6-foot man the same amount as they serve me, even though I’m 5 feet 5 inches and 60 pounds lighter.”

The study included only women, but the researchers cited one earlier study that showed an increase in obesity among men who had children, adding further evidence that social and behavioural factors are part of the explanation.

Here are some typical facts about weight gain whilst in love:

  • It’s way more fun to eat indulgent restaurant food with a partner than on your own.
  • We are more like to have more than one course when eating with a loved one.
  • We’re more likely to order dessert when we’re in good company.
  • It’s easy to order more glasses of wine in the company of an enabler.
  • It’s quicker to order take-out when having a night-in than cook.
  • Alcohol is sometimes seen as the tonic in the relationship.
  • You give more chocolate and sweets to show affection.
  • To spend more time together, you might skip the gym.
  • Buy a lot of big snack bags for those comfy nights-in.
  • Junk food is seen as the time saver.

Although being in a relationship doesn’t affect metabolic changes, it does result in ‘altered behaviour’ in couples, which consequently causes the weight gain. In our minds, ‘altered behaviour’ is a vague scientific way of saying “sharing a large cheese pizza.”

Obesity is linked to many common health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer. But the UK is one of the most obese countries in the world, and many people are not heeding doctors’ warnings. Our love of fried foods, high fat take-outs, sugary drinks and high alcohol consumption are factors that many by couples indulge in, to contribute to their weight gain.
Many people decide to ‘let go’ once they find someone who tends to ‘accept them for who they are’ but this is not always the best attitude to have because putting on weight affects your health in many ways. Also, there a many cases of where relationships do end due to weight gain, especially for women because the man in the relationship has found someone slimmer and more active.

One woman who has experienced such weight gain said: “I have spent the majority of my adult life wanting a fulfilling love life. A partner to love and adore me (mentally and sexually). Therefore I always looked after myself. I read a lot and exercised to watch my weight.”

The she adds: “I fell in love six months ago and am deliriously happy but now put on weight like there is no tomorrow. I keep telling myself that I should take care of myself as my partner would not want me to get hugely fat, but I cannot seem to get it under control. I put it down to feeling satisfied and spending a lot of time at home cuddling on the sofa and stuffing our faces.”

So how can such weight gain be tackled? Here are some tips:

  • Eat more vegetables and fruit – explore and try new fruits together.
  • Cook more healthy meals together – an active way of keeping an eye on the calories that you consume at dinner time.
  • Reduce take-outs to one day in the week.
  • Take up exercise together – join a gym. Encourage each other.
  • Play more sports together. Badminton, Squash, Swimming and Tennis are all examples of good couple sports.
  • Go for long walks in the park or countryside. Even after dinner.
  • Buy a set of bikes and go cycling at weekends.
  • Play exercise orientated games on consoles like the Wii, Play Station, X-Box Kinect etc.
  • Go for a sauna or try the steam room, and burn some calories.
  • Walk where you can and leave the car parked.
  • Go dancing. Join classes to have fun dancing.
  • Clean the house and cars together.
  • Buy clothes for each other with weight targets to lose before fitting into them.

There are many other things blamed for weight gain in women whilst in a relationship. One is sex. It is a very popular belief that women gain weight on their breasts and hips once they start making love. However, this is an absolute myth. There is no physiological reason why the breasts or hips should become enlarged or disfigured after a woman starts having sex. And the weight gain has nothing to do with sex for either gender. If, anything it’s medically proven that sex is a great form of exercise and therefore, should be helping you lose weight not gain it!

Every time we make love it’s a mini workout that burns an average of between 50 and 100 calories. Having sex three times a week is the equivalent of jogging for 30 minutes. It also suppresses levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is known to disrupt blood sugar levels and increase food cravings. A growing number of studies have linked high cortisol with obesity.

Therefore, any exercise including sex is seen as one way of managing the weight that you can easily put on whilst in a loving and happy relationship. The key is to have an active lifestyle, good diet and to support each other in positive ways to keep fitter, leaner and to live longer for each other.

Priya adores anything to do with cultural change and social psychology. She loves to read and listen to chilled music to relax. A romantic at heart she lives by the motto 'If you want to be loved, be lovable.'