Eating Disorders

Marital Bliss and the Waist Line

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Marital Bliss and the Waist LineI remember it quite well. We were not as yet married and we were both had thin waist lines. Then, 41 years ago, my wife and I got married. My wife has always been a really good cook. Sure enough, as time went by so did our thin waist lines. Marital bliss brought to both of us added pounds and expanding waist lines. We did not become obese, but, we were no longer thin. What happened? This is what a 2008 study revealed:

A 2008 study in the Journal of Economics and Human Biology examined data from 12,000 men and women ages 18 to mid-40s. Compared with when they were single, the body mass index (or B.M.I., a height-to-weight ratio) of married men increased by 1.5 percent above and beyond what they would normally gain as they aged, and that of women shot up 2 percent.

There are many theories that explain this tendency to marry and gain weight. However rather than going into theories, let me explain what I believed happened in my marriage and you can decide whether or not it makes sense for you?

First, married life seemed to make both of us more sedentary. When I was single, there was a greater tendency for me to go out rather than stay at home. Now that I was married, there was no compelling reason to do the things I did as a single man. In fact what I remember is that we were both happy to be at home and in the company of each other. Yes, marriage does bring with it a "certain type of exercise" that was now available to us! However, food and bliss seemed to bring with it a contentment to sit on the couch, munch popcorn and watch television.

Now that we were a couple, my wife and I made many social visits during weekends and holidays. These included visits to family and in laws. Do you know what family likes to do to a young couple? You are correct, they love to feed the new marital pair. Every visit to family, near and far, was accompanied by a feast. I still remember my then very elderly Grandma telling both of us, "Eat, eat, you need your strength." I often wondered why she thought we needed our strength unless she meant my wife needed her strength to put up with me (Smile).

One of the major things that changes for newly married people is that they stop worrying about how they look to the opposite sex. What I mean by that is there is no longer a self perceived pressure to look good as a way of luring a partner. I have known many young men who, after marrying, developed a "paunch" up front. The same thing happens to many women. There is a tendency for all of us to have a second portion of dinner or to have some dessert afterwards. My favorite in those long ago days was apple pie and vanilla ice cream.

At later stages of marriage, additional forces unite to add to the weight problem. Pregnancy, parenting, work career development, finances and more, all add to stress that is often and mistakenly dealt with by over eating. In fact, I suspect that for many married people the problem is not binge eating but not eating regularly during the day, resulting in over eating at dinner. The obligations of parenting often brings with it little or no time to exercise.

It is now a well established fact that inadequate sleep leads to weight gain. The daily pressures of life, work, children, bills, and etc. leads to sleep deprivation. In other words, too much stress interferes with sleep which then causes weight gain.

Sadly, if people divorce, they lose weight. However, there are healthier ways to lose weight than going to divorce court. It is important to integrate an exercise schedule into the daily routine. In addition, eating three meals per day, with small snacks in between helps prevent the sensation of starving at night. That starving sensation is what causes too many people to have second or third portions at night.

It should be emphasized that drinking alcohol in the form of wine or cocktails at dinner also adds to calories and weight gain. Limiting alcohol intake reduces calories and can help reduce that waist line.

By the way, my wife and I both lost weight and without getting divorced. Eliminating desserts and drinks, except for special occasions, and getting some exercise, helped lose pounds. Raising two children also helped.

Many people, both married and single, have problems with over eating. What are your experiences and you questions and comments?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD.




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