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Love, Marriage and Weight Gain

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The other day, I read a Sparks blog talking about the relationship between getting married and weight issues--

Apparently some studies have shown that men tend to be healthier when they get married but tend to gain weight when they get divorced, where as women tend to gain weight when they are married and lose it if they get divorced.

For the record, I would not use these studies to influence your decisions to get married or get divorced, but I think it might be helpful to think about WHY this tends to happen so that we can be proactive about addressing these issues. For example, one of the reasons men tend to be healthier married is that they are more likely to go to the doctor. I know that my husband *hates* going to the doctor and in the 9 years we've been married, he's only once taken himself to the doctor without me suggesting (heavily) that he do so. But that doesn't mean that a single guy is destined to poor health; just that he needs to be proactive about it and not depend on the women in his life (such as his wife or mother) to push the issue.

Another article that the blog links to lists 9 reasons that women in particular gain weight when married:

"We are no longer trying to attract a partner
Pregnancy occurs
We cook for gratification
We eat as much as our partner
We put our family's eating preferences above our own
We become the family's garbage disposal
Our partner sabotages us
We are in an unhappy marriage and turn to food for solace
We have unresolved issues"

I thought this was an interesting list, though not terribly relevant to my life, I'm afraid. I did gain weight--about 50-60 pounds--after getting married; that's the same weight that I'm struggling with still to get rid of even a fraction of it. But not the for the reasons cited above.

First of all, the biggest cause of my weight gain was only related to my being married because I hurt my hip because of our honeymoon--first by doing even more walking than normal at Pennsic because I was trying to save money by taking my breakfast with me and going back to camp for lunch and dinner, and then by compounding it by walking all over Scotland on my honeymoon on a bad hip. Going for an active lifestyle to a completely sedentary one--plus rounds of medication, including steroids--was the single biggest cause of weight gain.

The second major factor, for both my husband and I is that we had money for food. While we were in college, we were really tight financially. I was so poor the last few years that I couldn't afford even food. I laughed hysterically once at a sparks blog about eating healthy food on a budget that suggested raspberries as a good bang for your buck food. Seriously? Raspberries--which I adore--were a luxury, I-did-soemthing-awesome-and-wa
nted-to -celebrate food. I couldn't afford carrots, or chicken, or pretty much anything. I ate a lot of pasta because it was cheap. So you go from the ramen-based (can't beat 20 cents a meal) diet to one that actually included--luxuries!--ground beef, and chicken, and tuna, and green peppers, and yes, raspberries more than once a blue moon, and it's no wonder that I gained weight. Looking back, I had been sustaining my active lifestyle on about 1200-1400 calories a day, and most of those calories were from carbs.

The third major factor is that my husband has a ton of food allergies, which makes eating a healthy diet a real challenge. We have always made an effort to limit fat as much as possible, but his main sources of protein are, out of necessity, beef and pork (he's allergic to fish, legumes, nuts, cheese and yogurt and has problems with chicken and turkey; as it is he has to have organic beef/pork), so while we buy low fat cuts, that's not ideal. Plus, he's allergic to most of the readily available vegetables in the US. We mostly eat turnips, spinach, and parsnips (and if I could think of more ways to serve them, I'd be so happy! I get really tired of the same 3 or 4 vegetables sometimes.) We've expanded that somewhat thanks to sparks (we eat kale now, for example) and he has an easier time with fruit (he can't have melons or bananas, but that still leaves a lot of things he can have). He's also allergic to some grains that commonly appear in heart-healthy whole grain or multigrain foods, like oats. So it's hard, and definitely a work in progress. I've had people suggest that I cook separate meals, but it's hard enough producing one meal in our small kitchen, not to mention that we are also trying to see that my husband gets a healthy (or at least healthier) diet, not just me. Yes, I still eat lots of food he's allergic to, especially for lunch (tuna is on the docket for this week, for example) but it's just not a viable option to cook separate meals if we are to eat together.

The fourth major factor is that the first 7 years we were married (we've been married 9 now) I had no space to exercise at home (seriously; I barely had room to walk through the apartment; it drove me nuts) and I had gone from a pedestrian/biker friendly campus environment to an environment very unfriendly to them. Urban planning meant that all businesses were in malls/strip malls much too faraway to walk or bike for errands, and even if I wanted to, the roads had no sidewalks, no real shoulder, and had heavy traffic going 45-55 mph (I hated--seriously hated--the traffic there. Horrible.) I could walk around the entire apartment complex in less than 15 minutes and that was about it. There was a pool open in the summer--that's where I started "swimming" (I'd swim a half lap and then walk about 4 laps before swimming another half lap). We did look into a gym, but we just couldn't afford it. In addition, I went from walking regularly to classes to working almost exlusively on my computer at home.... my commute went from a 20-30 minute walk (one way) to the walk from the bedroom to the office or the living room.

Thankfully, that issue was addressed when we moved--we're back in a pedestrian/biker friendly area--still can't really bike anywhere to run errands, but at least I can go for walks or rides without taking my life in my hands. We also have a small community fitness center (my "gym" and a community pool, at least in the summer. And while we're still tight on space, we have a little more room to work out at home, too. I still work at home, but at least now I have more options; I just have to figure out how to find the time.

My husband tends to blame himself (specifically his food allergies) for my weight gain, but realistically it was one factor out of many, and most of those factors had relatively little to do with being married per se. Getting married was a major lifestyle change, true, and it did influence both my diet and my activity level, but not by itself.

So what about the rest of you who are married or living with your signifcant other? Has this affected your weight gain/loss?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Did I gain weight after getting married more than 50 years ago? Yes, some. From 103 to 115 the first few years, before the babies. After 3 babies I weighed about 125 for a while. Then the weight started gradually edging upward to a high of 158. Why? Some of the reasons in your list. Especially eating as much as my husband, who was extremely skinny when we married. He also began to gain weight. His reasons were different. Mainly, a deprived childhood. He grew up poor and when he started making some money he spent it on whatever foods he wanted. Then there is the cooking foods other people like rather than what I wanted. Becoming the garbage disposal, cleaning up what the kids did not eat. Being influenced by DH telling the kids, "I paid good money for that. You need to eat it." Though he did not say the same to me, I felt I had to be an example for them. And I blame the changes in restaurant marketing - especially fast food places that offer meals by the number at better prices than ordering one item at a time and containing more food than a person really needs to eat.

    The children grew up and things changed, then my main problem was following my husband's bad example, as well as having friends who loved to eat unhealthy foods and too much of it. It has only been since I joined SP that I "took back my power". Now I make my own decisions instead of doing what DH or my friends want me to do.

    Does all this matter to anyone? I hope so. I'm thinking many people are like me, influenced by family, friends, and restaurants to eat food that keeps their weight at an unhealthy level. I hope I am a good example, having got my weight down to my goal of 125.

    3415 days ago
    My relationships have influenced things, for sure, but in different ways. My weight stayed totally consistent from the time I met 'Yote until we'd been living together about a year...then I gained between 10-20 pounds after our girlfriend moved closer, largely - I suspect - due to the stresses in that relationship. Now I'm losing, because I'm happy in the rest of my life so I feel I can take care of ME now, plus he is so amazingly supportive (though he needs to GAIN weight himself), I feel good and it reflects in other areas of my life.

    Interesting articles.
    3416 days ago
    It's funny---when Ben and I got married (about 2 years ago) was when we decided we wanted to start losing weight. But when we first met and started dating (and living together) about 5 years ago, THAT'S when the weight started getting packed on. We had found the person we wanted to be with, and it didn't matter what we looked like. We totally let ourselves go, we ate what we wanted, and we were also extremely broke---pasta was the meal of choice (and necessity) for years. Those "healthy" meals on a budget ARE a joke. I should make a list for a college-kid trying to eat healthy on a budget. I have found many ways to eat healthier, but they're not completely ideal, and we have to repeat a lot of foods. I think it's all about what you can afford and what sorts of deals are in your area (living in Australia is a lot more expensive than the US, but we have figured out how to make it work.) Nice blog! Got me thinking!
    3416 days ago

    And if I ever-somehow, miraculously-find myself with a SO, I'll let you know about the weight.

    And yeah, I have to laugh about the raspberries-I love them, but they are one of the more expensive fruits, so not very realistic for those on a tight budget.
    3416 days ago
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