Relationship weight gain: the perils of becoming too comfortable.

Synonymous weight gain in couples is a commonly seen phenomenon. Research shows that weight gain in a relationship is associated with factors including the length of your relationship and living together. For married couples, data shows us that the average weight gain is 6-8 lbs over a 2 year period.  It also tends to be higher in women than men (HMPH!)!
We can all agree that relationship weight gain is largely rooted in habitual changes. Each person’s dynamic with food and activity is modified and lifestyle routines are disrupted.  Eating becomes central to how you’ll spend time together: there is more dining out than usual, more alcohol intake, and your previously scheduled weekend morning runs might turn into mornings lounging in bed followed by an indulgent brunch. Over time, the relationship develops its own pattern of habits. Sedentary behaviour like television watching might become more frequent, evolving into snacking and indulgent nightly habits. You might also find yourself eating when your partner eats despite not being hungry. In a nutshell, the factors favouring weight gain in a relationship are numerous.
Having met my husband in 2014,  my weight has for the most part maintained itself. This is all the more shocking since he lived atop my all-time favourite patisserie shop. Imagine rolling out of bed to the smell of croissants – this is the temptation that starts my day, everyday. I suspect that my ability to decline such offerings daily is that we’ve never made pastry shop visits a regular occurrence – my husband isn’t a dessert guy which makes it all the more easy to say “no” to sweets when presented the opportunity. Ha! Jokes aside, there is much more I’ve learned about maintaining each other’s health in a relationship. I’m really proud of us, and am happy to share with you some of my tips for how we managed to stave off excess weight while together.


1) Outline your health goals from the get go
One of the best things my husband and I did from the beginning of our relationship, was consistently discuss the aspects of our health that were important to us.  We have check-ins based on our goals regularly. We’ve always maintained that regular physical activity and healthy eating were cornerstones. As such, we each commit to eating at least one meal that is a salad per day, and have at least 4 days of the week that we are physically active. It’s a nice way to feel accountable to someone else and to motivate each other. 
My plate on the left, his bowl on the right.
2) Do not go plate for plate
Men naturally burn more calories than women because they inherently have more muscle mass and require more fuel, even at rest. According to the Centre for Disease Control, the average woman and man’s heights are 5’4 and 5’9.5 – if you both have medium frames and are moderately active the male partner will require about 40% more food than you each day to maintain a healthy weight. That means that going halvsies on every sha
red plate isn’t all that practical!
3) Be clear about what foods to have in the house, and snacking etiquette
If you’re living with your partner, it can be hard to eliminate cravings if he or she tends to be a grazer. It might not even have occurred to you that you wanted icecream until you saw it being brought out, did it?  Being sensitized to pleasure from food due to cravings, boredom, or the environment can make weight control hard. Be clear to your partner about not purchasing tantalizing foods for home. Also, express sensitivity about having it around you if you’re not itching for snacks in the first place. 
4) Accept different eating patterns or schedules
Customize your plates. You can do this by making different meals together with similar ingredients. For instance, on taco nights, my husband will have regular corn tortilla wraps while I make a taco salad or have lettuce wraps. Alternatively, if one wants to eat and the other isn’t hungry then get comfortable with one partner eating alone. Eating doesn’t have to be done in unison.
5) Start the habit of focusing quality time around physical activity 
Make physical activity a habit – to a point that it’s unusual if you’ve both been sedentary too long. It’s easier to continue to be active together when you build it into the foundation of your relationship rather than trying to make an outright lifestyle change together. My husband and I began taking up rock climbing when we started dating, which then evolved into regular weekend running, and weeknight tennis outings. We are now new members to a tennis club and are anticipating formal tennis lessons together this upcoming summer. I find being active with my husband a phenomenal way to spend time with him. And that’s not to say that we can’t make a date out of it – weekend runs can easily turn into a stroll through a fun part of town and a morning coffee, and  tennis matches can turn into a super casual dinner on a patio if we aren’t up for cooking. I’m happy that fitness is now second nature for the both of us.
6) Celebrate each other 
Make a point to continue to motivate your partner in their efforts towards good health. When one is recognized for his or her work, their natural tendency would be to continue what they’re doing. I always commend my husband for his discipline. He regularly wakes up at 6am for his squash matches before work. Imagine this: putting on a 3-piece suit, changing out of said 3-piece suit for squash, and having to put it back on again. That’s a lot of effort! In turn, he regularly commends me for preparing my lunches for work and on my weekly stair climbs despite how much I dread them. Alternatively, an easy tip would be to remind each other how attractive you find them. Other than wanting to feel good and stay free of chronic disease, there’s no better motivation than to want to stay healthy for yourself and the one you love!

In good health,
Dr. Sandy