Is your relationship making you fat? 

Kate Taylor 7 September 2018

Science suggests happy couples are more likely to gain weight than singletons. If you want to maintain your relationship and a healthy weight, here are dating expert Kate Taylor’s top tips.

The struggle is real: you are scientifically more likely to put on weight after you get married or move in with your partner. 

Earlier this year, Queensland University in Australia released the results of a nine-year study, where they’d tracked the waistlines of over 15,000 adults—most of whom were in a long-term relationship.

The results revealed that couples were more likely to ditch unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking, but were also far more likely to have a higher BMI than their single peers. 

Similarly, a 2017 study by the University of Glasgow found that newlyweds each gain an average of 4-5lbs in the first year of marriage. And couples who move in together without marriage pile on the pounds even faster, gaining 3-4lbs in three months. Gulp. 

If this has happened to you, you’re not lazy or greedy. Most relationships are based around food. There’s a reason for it: instinctively, couples know that sharing food together increases their feelings of affection and trust. It’s also a strong way for a couple to symbolically “cement” their relationship to outsiders. Onlookers judge a couple to be committed when they see them sharing food or feeding one another. It’s a romantic gesture. 

However. It’s also a gesture that will turn your jeans into ankle socks if you’re not careful, so here’s the skinny on how to fight the flab while you fan the flame.

1) Eat proportionately

When you live together, it’s a good idea (as well as practical) to eat the same meals. A scientific study showed that eating the same food causes people to feel more connected to each other and to work well together as a team than if they eat different things. 

However, that doesn’t mean you should eat the same amount. You and your partner will have very different caloric needs based on many factors including your sex, age, weight, height and activity levels. Distribute your food according to those factors, or the flab will come for you. And it will find you.

You can calculate your caloric needs here. For fun, I ran the numbers for my husband and myself. He’s a strapping 6’ 3” man, nearing 50, who runs around all day in a hectic job. His caloric needs for the day are 3,149.

By contrast, I’m a mid-40s woman of 5’ 6” who types for a living. My caloric need is 1,909. If we have treacle tart for pudding tonight, he should get 1/3 more than me. (But don’t tell him that.) 

2) Eat less, move more—together

Instead of basing your date nights around takeaways or restaurants, start basing them around active interests so you can burn calories and boost your relationship’s strength at the same time. 

Learning new activities boosts your brain’s dopamine levels, which also affect how attracted you feel to your partner.

So, embark on a new hobby. Sports are perfect, as they’ll also increase your overall fitness levels and release feel-good endorphins.

Tennis lessons, golf holidays, or outdoor rowing classes are all engaging activities where you can still talk and connect. More romantic options are dance classes like ballroom or Ceroc, or massage lessons where you can rope each other in for some extra-curricular homework. 

Even just taking a walk together every evening can be a great way to keep in touch with each other and chew the fat, without literally chewing the fat. 

3) Sleep

Sharing a life with your partner inevitably means sharing a bed with them too. Which is obviously great for intimacy, but possibly bad for becoming "bikini-ready". Or indeed, mankini-ready. 

According to research, men’s quality of sleep is much better when they sleep alone. When they share a bed with a partner, they wake much more frequently. Women also suffer from snuggling up, especially if they’re sharing sheets with a snorer. 

What does this have to do with weight? When you’re tired, your body releases more of the natural appetite-booster gherlin, to encourage you to eat to boost your energy. It also decreases your levels of leptin, the chemical that tells your brain that you’re full.

Broken sleep can easily lead to broken diets: a survey of 70,000 women aged over 16, published in 2005, showed that women who slept five or fewer hours a night were a third more likely to put on at least 33lb than sound sleepers. 

If your partner is preventing you from getting a good night’s rest, consider following the Queen’s example and moving into a separate bedroom. You can set engagements with each other for cuddles and chats, but slink away to get eight hours’ undisturbed shut-eye in private.

It could boost your weight loss and your relationship. Sleeping alone has also been shown to improve men’s cognitive ability and stress levels, and reduce their tendency to argue. So he won’t even bicker when you grab a bigger slice of the treacle tart