Call it the “honeymoon handles” or “love blubber”: New studies find that newlyweds are more likely to report weight-gain than those who stay single.
Professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill examined longitudinal data from nearly 8,000 men and women-following these men and women from teenagers through their young-adult years. Prof. Natalie The and Prof. Penny Gordon-Larsen wrote, “The results suggest that sharing a household environment with a romantic partner may predispose individuals to become at risk for obesity and obesity-promoting behaviors.” This follows a study from a few years ago that showed that both men and women report average weight gain of six to eight pounds over a two-year period after getting married or starting a serious relationship.
Food and Love
The intersections between food and love, body image and self-confidence, weight and desirability are fraught with tension whether you are male or female, single, dating or married:
“If only I lost 10 pounds, then I could meet a guy.”
“Women don’t go for scrawny guys like me.”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter, I’m married.”
“I’m constantly on a diet—and I’m always cranky, too.”
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
“She used to be so beautiful-but that was two kids ago.”
This is the first in an occasional series about body image, weight, relationships and spirituality. My hope is that you’ll participate in the dialogue and share your personal experiences. I wanted to start this conversation during the Christmas season, when food and eating are so central to our celebrations. We’ll continue the discussion into the New Year, when so many of us make resolutions to go to the gym more often or eat fewer desserts.
Body image is a personal topic for all of us-including me. In the weeks before our wedding, I shed pounds every day. Maybe it was the stress of the upcoming nuptials, or the two-hour workouts I was doing to get my upper body in shape for the strapless gown, but on my wedding day I was a skinny minny. As I write this column, bundled underneath thermal underwear in the Iowa winter, well, I’m not so skinny anymore.
Here’s what happened:
As newlywed, I wanted to show Peter that I could cook, and cook well. So, right after the honeymoon, I started making casseroles, roasts and homemade deliciousness. I received lots of cookbooks as wedding gifts, and I made meal after meal from these yummy guides. The usual serving size is for four, but I figured that meant the two of us could have lunch or dinner leftovers the next day. I’d make the meal, scoop equal heaping portions onto our new, large plates (the wedding china that I’d so painstakingly picked out) and then, since it was good, Peter and I would go back for seconds. So much for having leftovers for lunch the next day.
Then, when the weekend rolls around, we’d go out with friends-have a few drinks, go to a party or two. Sometimes things got busy and we’d order in food, and eat all of it while talking and watching TV. A few months in to this routine, I realized I hadn’t used any of my new bakeware, so I started cooking Peter’s favorite desserts, too. And as we approach our six-month anniversary, the pounds have started to come on for both of us.
Sound familiar? While there’s nothing wrong with any of these individual gestures—home-cooked meals are great, and making desserts in brand-new baking dishes is fun—but I’ve come to realize that I’ve been equating food with love, and it isn’t a winning strategy.
We all need food to live. Food is pleasurable, and food can be sacred. The breaking of bread together has a long tradition of faith, friendship and good feelings. Making dinner for—and with—your significant other or spouse is a beautiful gesture of unity, but in a society where so many of us struggle with weight issues, it’s important not to link food and love too closely together.
You can say ‘I love you’ without heavy cream. You can say ‘I love you’ on a long walk around the neighborhood. You can say ‘I love you’ with salad and non-fat dressing. You can say ‘I love you’ side-by-side on the treadmill.
Peter and I are trying to learn how to balance healthy eating habits with our desire to break bread together each night. And toward that goal, I gathered wisdom from health-conscious experts.
From The Experts
TAKE THIS SURVEY!!
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Have you ever lost or become estranged from friends because you were at different phases of your life? If you answered yes, please share a story about this experience.
It’s 7 p.m. on a Thursday and your evening plans just fell through. Are you more likely to call a single friend or a married friend to see what they are up to?
a) single friend
b) married friend
c) equally likely to call either type of friend
When you have a dinner party, how important is it for you to have equal numbers of guys and girls?
a) very important
b) somewhat important
c) somewhat unimportant
d) not important at all
You want to offer some advice to a friend about how to handle his or her relationship. Are some topics off limits when friends are in serious relationships?
Please explain what kinds of advice might be off limits, and whether you have ever had an experience with this challenge.
This Christmas season, if you’re in that fat-and-happy stage, too, here’s some advice:
1) Divide the recipes in half. Many recipes are for four-six-or even eight serving sizes, and this can get us into trouble. Try cookbooks with servings for two, like Healthy Cooking for Two or Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook or use that elementary school math to divide fractions and cut that recipe down to size.
2) Ladies, you do not need as much food as your man. Don’t put the same amount on his plate as you do on your plate.
3) Serve a small amount on your plates, and wait 10 minutes before going back for more. You are probably not as hungry as you think you are.
4) Just because your beloved cooked the food, doesn’t mean that you need to have seconds-or thirds-to show that you enjoyed the meal.
5) Don’t take on your spouse’s “bad habits”. Do you like to eat low-fat meals, but your husband is a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy? Do you normally say no to desserts, but your wife has a big sweet tooth? Do your best to stick to what works for you.
6) If you aren’t very hungry, cereal is still an acceptable dinner. When you were single, if you weren’t hungry, you might have just had a bowl of cereal or a bit of something leftover in the fridge. Meals didn’t have to be sit-down affairs, because it was just you. While sitting down together for a meal is important, sometimes lighter and more casual dinners are in order. Don’t force-feed yourself just because your spouse is hungry!
7) Easy on the alcohol. There’s the temptation to make weekday dinners a bit more celebratory with some wine or beer, but those calories add up.
8) Go for a walk after dinner. Your parents or grandparents probably did this, and there’s really something to it: Just a 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood helps your body efficiently process the calories.
Do you have more tips for how to battle those “love bulges”? What eating and relationship issues would you like me to explore in the new year? What are your holiday and New Year’s resolutions about your weight or body image? Write me at email@example.com