Many women report gaining weight after they move in with a boyfriend, fiancé or husband. Can living with a sweetheart really make a woman fat, or is this a popular myth?
According to recent studies conducted at the University of North Carolina and Ohio State University, women DO tend to gain weight when they begin living with a man. In fact, the results of the UNC study, which were published in the July 2009 issue of Obesity, suggest that women cohabitating for five years or fewer face a 63% increase in obesity risk.
What are the reasons behind women’s post-nesting pudge? Some researchers say that, although women’s health habits are usually superior to men’s, women may begin eating more and exercising less when they move in with a man, shifting time away from “me” activities to “we” activities. Others say that women tend to “relax” once they settle down, and therefore make eating right and exercising lower priorities.
Researchers have found that men, on the other hand, do not risk significant weight gain when they begin living with a woman. They do, however, risk weight gain when they divorce. Scientists believe that the absence of a wellness-minded woman at home may increase men’s risk.
Wherever you are on the gamut of health and fitness, if you’re thinking of settling down with your beau, try these suggestions for holding onto a healthy weight, good exercise habits and sensible food choices:
1. Bring him into the wellness fold. Be the healthy-lifestyle LEADER in your relationship.
- Men often take their health cues and habits from women, so invite him to join you in becoming healthy and fit. (And compliment his progress to keep him going!)
- Pick some fitness activities that you both enjoy or discover new ones that you enjoy enough to do together on a regular basis.
- Taking up a joint sport or activity is a great way to work on something and perfect something together.
- Even walking or biking after dinner is a great way to get to know your neighborhood and catch up with each other in the evening.
2. Eat the amount of food you need, not the amount HE needs.
- Learn the number of calories that each of you needs in a day to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Then follow recommended portion sizes and stay within your calorie limits.
- Check out the sample diets that are designed to meet individuals’ calorie needs at www.myplate.gov.
3. Pledge to support, and not sabotage, one another’s eating and fitness habits.
- Scientists have learned that partners who support and encourage each other in terms of diet (avoid these 4 diet mistakes) and fitness habits are more successful at achieving their goals than individuals who try to “go it alone.”
4. Don’t become a drinking buddy.
- It’s easy to crack open a beer or two (or three…) with your guy, especially after dinner in front of the TV. He will like relaxing the way he used to and will probably appreciate your company. Your waistline will soon show these extra calories.
- Limit yourself to a drink a day or better yet, if you would like to have a drink, go out for it and make it a date. Paying restaurant prices for every drink (times two!) should curb both of your desires to overindulge.
5. Promise to help each other relieve stress instead of stressing each other out. Remember, stress alone can contribute to weight gain.
- If you need your hour at the gym in the evenings, let your partner know it and keep up your routine. If he feels left out, invite him to come along.
- If your beau needs similar time to de-stress and stay healthy, support him, and join him any time he welcomes your company.
Christen Cupples Cooper, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in Pleasantville, NY. She is founder of Cooper Nutrition Education & Communications, providing schools, families and businesses with nutritional services and information geared to get people eating better and moving more. Visit her on the web at www.coopernutrition.com or follow her on Twitter @CooperNutrition.
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