Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is incredibly fattening. Believe it or not there are a slew of psychological, biological, physiological, and plenty of other "-ogicals" to blame for the added weight you’ve gained over the year(s) because of your relationship. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology backs it up.
Researchers followed nearly 4,000 couples ranging in 45–65 years of age for 25 years (some beginning in 1986, others 1989). After an initial exam, participants had three follow-up visits roughly three years apart, then a fifth exam between 2011 and 2013.
At the start of the study, 23 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women were obese. Non-obese men whose wives became obese over the course of the study were 78 percent more likely to become obese during that period than if their wives hadn't gained as much weight, the researchers found. Likewise, women whose husbands became obese were 89 percent more at risk of developing obesity.
This pattern works conversely, too. Though not many people who started the study out obese lost enough weight to be considered non-obese, when they did, their wives were more likely to become non-obese as well.
Turns out a partner really does come with a lot of baggage—and it’s most likely hanging around your midsection. Why else are they called love handles? Read on for more reasons why your relationship is making you gain weight with explanations from relationship expert and author, Wendy Walsh, Ph.D.
You’re spending your time differently
“A new relationship takes time—time you used to spend at the gym,” Walsh says, “so sociologically, there’s going to be a factor of weight gain just in the fact you don’t have as much free time.” Think about it: Unless you’re a gym junkie and you absolutely cannot get through the day without banging out 50 burpees or slamming through some deadlifts, your gym regimen can easily be derailed by the prospect of sex—especially in a new relationship. You want to spend as much time together as possible, so you’re more apt to skimp on the activities you used to fill your day with before you got a lady friend. If you can relate, check out these 10 ab workouts under 10 minutes, too; there's always time in the day, you just have to find or make it.
You’re playing into the sensuality of the relationship
The main hormones at play when people are having sex, at the onset of a new relationship, or falling in love are oxytocin and dopamine, Walsh says. But they act more like drugs in your system. They reduce stress, induce relaxation, and calm your entire body. "You don’t get up out of bed after having sex with somebody and say, 'I’m gonna go on a run, that was great!," Walsh says. "You want to take a nap after." What's more, it’s easy to get caught up in the feel-good endorphins and emotions; part of this sensuality is igniting all your senses. ”You want to go out to a high-fat dinner, drink delicious wine, and eat chocolate—foods that increase the entire sensual experience,” she says. Because let's be real, you’re not going to say to a new girl, 'hey, let’s stay in and make salads.'
Evolution is Getting the Best of You
Evolutionary psychology is compelling and super influential. “When you’re single, there’s an unconscious stress where you’re competing against other people of your same sex for mates,” Walsh explains. You’re intrinsically more motivated to work out and look your best when you’re single (nothing like a bad breakup to spur you into the best shape of your life). Obviously if you’re hunkered down with a partner for a hefty portion of your life, it’s easier to fall into a more lackadaisical lifestyle.
On that same token, when you lock down a relationship and get past the "honeymoon phase," you get comfortable around each other and may not feel the need to impress your girlfriend or wife with your six-pack abs or massive biceps like when you first started dating. You also get comfortable in another sense, namely, you grow comfortable spending your weekends being comfortable on the couch. And we all know a Netflix marathon goes best with takeout and alcohol. You can see where this is going... Be on the look out for changes in your behavior so "Netflix and chill" doesn't become de rigueur.
(Un)Healthy Habits Are Contagious
Health habits are highly contagious. How many times have you been on a health kick that's been derailed by a pushy friend with a penchant for milkshakes and late-night Taco Bell? The good news is that it does work the other way around, too. "If you’re not a healthy person, hooking up with someone who’s extremely healthy can increase your health," Walsh says. The cook of the house has tons of power to tip the scales, too. If your girlfriend or wife cooks every night and it's not Paleo-approved or a shining example of healthy grub, odds are you're not whipping up your own meal on the side. (But you could: Try 50 of the Healthiest Recipes Known to Man.)
Love is Fattening
"In casual, short-term relationships, it’s more about the lust than the love," Walsh says. You're not invested in each other's eating habits. Not to be blunt, but you don't care if she's getting too much sodium and not enough protein. You're in each other's lives briefly before you're back on the "mating market". Love is different, but there are similar pitfalls. You're okay with each other gaining some pounds over time because you see beyond the physical, but a few pounds here and there can snowball to 20. Walsh says the most important thing to realize is your health habits are contagious and this unhealthy phase should turn into a "get-to-work" phase where the two of you bond but work to get back to the habits and shared interests that are healthy.