Pay close attention to your spouse’s weight gain. Those excess pounds may be coming your way.
Men whose wives become obese are 78 percent more likely to become overweight themselves. Women with husbands who gain excessive weight are at an 89 percent risk of becoming obese.
The research, published in the 2015 American Journal of Epidemiology, tracked nearly 3,900 married couples for 25 years beginning in the late 1980s. Participants were 45 to 65 years old when they entered the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Twenty-three percent of the men and 25 percent of the women were obese at the onset.
The data noticed similar trends in activity levels. Couples were much more likely to meet fitness recommendations if their spouses were physically fit, too.
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Marriage has long been associated with weight gain. One study in the March 2014 journal Body Image showed brides gain an average of four pounds within six months of their weddings. A 2011 report from Ohio State University showed people (especially women) gained an average of 20 pounds after saying “I do.”
There are lots of reasons why this happens. Judy Gaman, director for Executive Medicine Texas, says that after people wed, lifestyles and responsibilities change, leading to more food consumed and less activity. Married couples also watch more TV together.
Marital happiness is another factor. According to Andrea Meltzer, a social psychologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, “Spouses who are more satisfied tend to gain more weight, and spouses who are less satisfied tend to gain less weight.”
Obesity experts are also familiar with what they term “the ripple effect.” That’s when one spouse’s behavior has a direct impact on the health habits of the other.
The takeaway message is clear: Caring for your loved one means caring for yourself. There are two lives hanging in the balance.
Improve health as a couple
- Make health and fitness a priority. You needn’t be fanatics or Olympians. But you can give your health the attention it deserves.
- Eat nutritious meals. Choose foods that are low in calories, high in fiber and packed with vitamins.
- Manage your waistline. Don’t let the pounds creep up on you. It’s easier to avoid gaining weight than it is to take off.
- Put down the remote. Limit time watching television. Find other activities to share.
- Meet like-minded friends. Seek out other couples who are active and fit.
- Make movement a natural part of your day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car far away from your destination.
- Make fitness a joint activity. Rent kayaks. Walk the dog. Take dance lessons. Go birding.
- Never nag. Loved ones who are overweight or inactive don’t need scolding. They need support and encouragement. Say “I love you” often. Focus on their strengths.
- Don’t become disheartened if your partner isn’t active. One healthy person in the marriage is better than none. And who knows? Your spouse may become inspired.