Getting Fat? Science Confirms your Happy Relationship is to Blame

Nope, you’re not crazy for thinking that. You’re right, marriage does make you get fat.

There are various studies that actually back it up – if you live in a happy, satisfying and stable relationship you’re likely to start packing on the pounds.

Read on to understand why…

The Weighty Studies on Happy Buddies

Yep, it’s all your in head. Well, the reasons anyway. The fat is more tangible- it’s on your hips, belly and ass.

There’s a great article on the Psychology Spot website that backs up the concept with some these facts-

Researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia, followed 6,458 women for 10 years. So they discovered that women aged 20 to 30 years old, without children, who were married or living in a stable relationship with their partner, were fattened more than singles. Apparently, stable and happy relationships made earn an average of 13 pounds, 30% more than singles. Some even came to gain an average of 4 pounds per year.

The same article is quick to point out that it’s not just women-

Another study by the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, followed 169 newlywed couples for a period of four years and reached the same conclusions: both women and men increased weight. Also another research conducted at the University of New York found no significant differences between men and women regarding weight gain during the relationship.

So that’s the study. But why?

Let’s look at one more sturdy and then we’ll dig into WHY IT’S HAPPENING…

Marital satisfaction predicts weight gain in early marriage

A scientific study was conducted to determine whether marital satisfaction is positively or negatively associated with weight gain.

The health regulation model suggests that if you’re in a satisfying relationship you’d probably be more healthy, all things considered. On the flip side- That would also mean that marital strain would most likely lead to weight gain because of the stress that interferes with self regulatory behaviors.

In contrast, the mating market model would lead us to believe that maintaining a healthy weight is more in line with attracting a suitable partner.

The study abstract states that:

Thus, spouses should be least likely to gain weight when either partner is less satisfied because they should feel an increased need to attract a new mate. This longitudinal study of 169 newlywed couples evaluated each possibility. Methods: Spouses completed measures of height, weight, marital satisfaction, stress, steps toward divorce, and several covariates biannually for 4 years

Source: PsycINFO Database Record

Findings challenge the idea that quality relationships always benefit health

The newlywed couples in the study were followed for four years and completed measures in many different including height, weight, marital satisfaction, stress, steps toward divorce and others.

The results were as follows:

Supporting the mating market model, own and partner satisfaction were positively associated with changes in weight, and this association was mediated by steps toward divorce: Spouses who were less satisfied than usual or had partners who were less satisfied than usual were more likely to consider divorce and thus less likely to gain weight.

And here are the conclusions:

These findings challenge the idea that quality relationships always benefit health, suggesting instead that spouses in satisfying relationships relax their efforts to maintain their weight because they are no longer motivated to attract a mate. Interventions to prevent weight gain in early marriage may therefore benefit from encouraging spouses to think about their weight in terms of health rather than appearance.

Source: PsycINFO Database Record

So WHY? (Do you even psychology bro?)

So we know it’s happening. The studies show that.

Why it’s happening? Well, there’s much less consensus on that. He’s what we dug up…

Sociology professor Zhenchao Qian offered this possible explanation:

Married women often have a larger role around the house than men do, and they may have less time to exercise and stay fit than similar unmarried women….On the other hand, studies show that married men get a health benefit from marriage, and they lose that benefit once they get divorced, which may lead to their weight gain.

Author Sarah Treleaven at has this theory:

I think there’s another fairly simple possible explanation at play. People in relationships get comfortable and content, they often love to cook and eat big meals together, they have less time for the gym, and they’re perhaps less worried about maintaining optimum levels of svelteness, having already snagged a partner.

Back the Psychology Spot article I cited above, this one makes more sense to me:

It was also noted that couples tend to spend more time and effort to the preparation of meals. If we live alone it is likely we skip a few meals or snack something quick, but living in pairs we tend to prepare more abundant dinners, with dessert or alcohol included. In married life, meals have a more important role because are also the moments when we get together.

For a more “way out there” theory, I ran across this reader’s comment on Vicki Larson’s OMG Chronicles:

From my experience, my wife added the poundage because she already had her man and didn’t want any attention from other men – or so she claimed. She also told me to expect much less sex than I was used to. Things went downhill steady thereafter until I quit caring about sex with her. When she wants it, she gets it. No strain on my part as I get six to twelve weeks to recuperate from my ten minutes of heavy breathing.

So I see the weight gain as a control mechanism. Women constantly complain their men are horn dogs who are no good at sex, so putting on the pounds is a great way to slow him down if not stop his advances completely. And if he strays, divorce will take care of his action!

Heck, he may be right. But what do I know? My wife and I have been happily married for 32 years and we’re both blessed with thin athletic builds. I’m the wrong guy to ask.


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Lisa, Yoga Coach
eatlocalgrown / wisemindhealthybody

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Rick D.