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Wednesday, April 14, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
The Diet Detective
By Charles Stuart Platkin
In fact, according to a study by Cornell University's Jeffery Sobal, published in Social Science and Medicine, newlyweds gain more weight than singles or people who are widowed or divorced. Another study in Obesity Research reported an average weight gain of 6 to 8 pounds over a two-year period after getting married.
Why? We tend to take on the "bad" eating patterns of our partners.
One of the criteria often used to pick your spouse is how he/she eats. "If you're a vegetarian, or a gourmet diner, you are more likely to feel comfortable with someone who shares your individual eating traits. Think about it you're going to be eating with this person the rest of your life," says Sobal.
According to Dr. David Katz, professor of public health at Yale University School of Medicine, one reason for weight gain after marriage is the "I've got him/her now, so I don't have to work so hard" mentality. He also suggests that "increased responsibilities, decreased leisure time, increased stress/financial pressure, and reduced time spent on exercise" are all factors. Also, eating with another person makes it OK and more fun to consume "sin" foods like cookies, cakes, ice cream and chips. And finally, marriage leads to more "regular" meals, at home and at restaurants, which means larger portion sizes and fatty foods.
Other major life events may lead to weight changes. Among them:
Divorce: Robert Jeffery, from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in Minneapolis, reported in Obesity Research that individuals tend to lose weight after divorce or losing a spouse. Experts are hesitant to speculate exactly why, but "research has shown that dining alone leads to smaller portions and overall decreased consumption," explains Sobal.
Parenthood: According to a new study from Duke University Medical Center, researchers found women faced an average of 7 percent increased risk of obesity per child born, and men, an average of 4 percent.
"On top of the sleepless nights and irregular feeding schedules, there are real changes that couples undergo when starting a family that relate to their food and activity behavior. Couples spend more time at home and become less active, and this is the pattern that they tend to stick with," explains Dr. Lori Bastian, an associate professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center. And fast food, nibbling here and there, and eating anything that's fast and tastes good become the norm. As for exercise, who has the time?
So, what can you do to avoid "The Wedding Waistline?"
Also, many of our major activities involve food romantic dinners, popcorn at the movies, socializing at restaurants and "a partner can feel threatened that family fun will be thwarted. This builds a lot of resentment, making it a very emotional issue," says Cynthia Sass, author of "Your Diet Is Driving Me Crazy" (Marlowe & Company, 2004).
Ideas for slimming down:
Keep the family peace: Sit down with your family and have a discussion about why it's critical for you to lose weight. Explain that they don't have to modify their way of life, but they should at least support your goal. "A partner should make it clear that not supporting his or her weight-loss efforts makes it much more difficult to lose," says Sass. Just make it clear you don't want them to "police" your food choices.
Do it together: Have your entire family eat healthier. Studies have shown that partners who diet together lose more weight than those who don't. You can make it fun, taking "healthy" cooking classes, shopping for tasty low-calorie foods, and taking long romantic walks.
Make it separate: You don't always have to eat the same foods as your partner, meal after meal. Try to cook separately. For instance, you could both have chicken, one grilled and the other fried. When getting takeout, there is no rule that you have to order from the same place. And finally, when it comes to dining out, you could compromise, taking turns choosing the restaurant.
Avoid parental gain: To avoid gaining weight with each child, be conscious of your food choices. Instead of fast food, try low-calorie frozen dinners. Babies need fresh air, too take long walks using your stroller.
Prepare in advance: If your spouse is a "poor eater" and won't exercise, be prepared. Think about your meals in advance; prepare for social occasions such as eating out or going to parties. Come up with strategies to help you stay in control like keeping low-calorie fudge pops in the freezer.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a syndicated health, nutrition, and fitness columnist and author of the best-selling book, "Breaking the Pattern" (Red Mill Press, 2002). This column is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Nutrition & Behavioral Sciences. Write to email@example.com
Copyright 2004, Charles Stuart Platkin
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