Marital Bliss And The Waist Line

I remember it quite well. We were not as yet married and we were both had thin waist lines. Then, 41 years ago, my wife and I got married. My wife has always been a really good cook. Sure enough, as time went by so did our thin waist lines. Marital bliss brought to both of us added pounds and expanding waist lines. We did not become obese, but, we were no longer thin. What happened? This is what a 2008 study revealed:

A 2008 study in the Journal of Economics and Human Biology examined data from 12,000 men and women ages 18 to mid-40s. Compared with when they were single, the body mass index (or B.M.I., a height-to-weight ratio) of married men increased by 1.5 percent above and beyond what they would normally gain as they aged, and that of women shot up 2 percent.

There are many theories that explain this tendency to marry and gain weight. However rather than going into theories, let me explain what I believed happened in my marriage and you can decide whether or not it makes sense for you?

First, married life seemed to make both of us more sedentary. When I was single, there was a greater tendency for me to go out rather than stay at home. Now that I was married, there was no compelling reason to do the things I did as a single man. In fact what I remember is that we were both happy to be at home and in the company of each other. Yes, marriage does bring with it a "certain type of exercise" that was now available to us! However, food and bliss seemed to bring with it a contentment to sit on the couch, munch popcorn and watch television.

Now that we were a couple, my wife and I made many social visits during weekends and holidays. These included visits to family and in laws. Do you know what family likes to do to a young couple? You are correct, they love to feed the new marital pair. Every visit to family, near and far, was accompanied by a feast. I still remember my then very elderly Grandma telling both of us, "Eat, eat, you need your strength." I often wondered why she thought we needed our strength unless she meant my wife needed her strength to put up with me (Smile).

One of the major things that changes for newly married people is that they stop worrying about how they look to the opposite sex. What I mean by that is there is no longer a self perceived pressure to look good as a way of luring a partner. I have known many young men who, after marrying, developed a "paunch" up front. The same thing happens to many women. There is a tendency for all of us to have a second portion of dinner or to have some dessert afterwards. My favorite in those long ago days was apple pie and vanilla ice cream.

At later stages of marriage, additional forces unite to add to the weight problem. Pregnancy, parenting, work career development, finances and more, all add to stress that is often and mistakenly dealt with by over eating. In fact, I suspect that for many married people the problem is not binge eating but not eating regularly during the day, resulting in over eating at dinner. The obligations of parenting often brings with it little or no time to exercise.

It is now a well established fact that inadequate sleep leads to weight gain. The daily pressures of life, work, children, bills, and etc. leads to sleep deprivation. In other words, too much stress interferes with sleep which then causes weight gain.

Sadly, if people divorce, they lose weight. However, there are healthier ways to lose weight than going to divorce court. It is important to integrate an exercise schedule into the daily routine. In addition, eating three meals per day, with small snacks in between helps prevent the sensation of starving at night. That starving sensation is what causes too many people to have second or third portions at night.

It should be emphasized that drinking alcohol in the form of wine or cocktails at dinner also adds to calories and weight gain. Limiting alcohol intake reduces calories and can help reduce that waist line.

By the way, my wife and I both lost weight and without getting divorced. Eliminating desserts and drinks, except for special occasions, and getting some exercise, helped lose pounds. Raising two children also helped.

Many people, both married and single, have problems with over eating. What are your experiences and you questions and comments?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.

  • jc

    First of all, congrats on being married so long! I enjoyed this article, and the reminder about getting enough sleep was good for me to hear. The only thing the article is missing, I think, is the hormone issue women in their mid-40s begin to have. I'm 42 and definitely cannot eat what I did at 32 and not gain weight. I stress-eat, but I did that when I was younger too. I exercise more than I did then, so it's not that. I was even told by a personal trainer to lose the weight now becaus it's harder after menopause. Congratulations on the weight loss too! I suggest continuing to support your wife in her efforts to maintain her weight, because I can almost guarantee she's still working very hard. Congratulations to you, too, for your weight loss.

  • Cathy

    Gee, where do I begin. Number One would be that I did not groom myself and try to stay fit and healthy to attract a man but for myself so within the time limits of working full-time, raising kids, pets, etc. I did not become "thick". Number Two would be that despite what a study may say, I don't necessarily think that it applies to general population. I don't think much of studies where you take a small percentage and draw general conclusions. People become overweight because they don't follow a healthy diet and don't exercise with a sprinkling of the "poor me" in there - explosion!

  • JR

    Hi, Allan,

    I have been gifted with a fairly brisk metabolism, so I have to confess that my weight problems are entirely self-imposed. My most notable weight increase came, not when I married, but when I first went to work. Before that I had been a "starving student" - not that my mother would have accepted the point - but I was "controlling" my own diet, and it could have been described as "student light". When I did get married (at 28 years old), there was no major weight-shock. Mind you, I did move from a situation in which the dominant female in my life (De Mammy) would not let me cook most of the time, to one in which Herself expected me to take a 50 per cent share in the cooking. For me, this was a welcome (and expected) change, and I did not baloon.

    If I have had weight problems in the later part of my life, I put them down largely to drinking alcohol. Apart from the fact that alcohol is itself fattening (about the second most fattening thing one can consume apart from fat itself), drinking the stuff in excessive quantity tends to go with bad-pattern eating and eating junk food (to "soak up" the booze). As a result, I hit a weight of about 2.5 stone overweight while drinking - and I am only 5.8 tall, and of small general build. Fortunately, since I stopped drinking, I have well back from that. And even my wife is happy. Well, a little bit, anyway. No point in expecting too much ...

    Thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking article,