April 22, 2024

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Living as a couple gives many joys. Lucía BM knows it well that she defines her marital status as “happy arrejuntamento”. She leads a peaceful life, goes out a few days on the weekend, celebrates more dinners at home and eats twice as much sushi as she did when she was single. She doesn’t complain, but she waits for the optimal time to start a diet or at least recapture some of her maiden habits. She has gained a few kilos, and gone up a couple of sizes, but she prefers not to put it on a scale. Her partner, Antonio, believes that she is the same as always. “I do not get fat”, ditch.

If things go well, life as a couple is like a pizza: it makes you fat, no matter what time you eat it. Some studies even indicate that the greater the happiness, the more weight gain. If things go awry, it looks like we could lose those extra pounds in anticipation of getting back on the market.

Experts warn that studying weight gain in a couple is a particularly difficult subject. On the one hand, there is usually insufficient data on the couple’s intake, in the trials only one of their members usually participates, giving more or less inaccurate estimates of how much the other eats or weighs. It’s also not easy for researchers to collect data on the habits each had before the relationship. Finally, with living together other vital events usually come, such as a change of neighborhood, a new job, other friends or a more sedentary life. Difficult to calculate which of all of them can be decisive in weight gain.

The first study that associated life as a couple with weight gain was published in the journal obesity in 2012. According to their results, the more time a woman spent in a stable relationship, the more kilos she gained. For men, this risk skyrocketed in the first two years of cohabitation, and then stabilized, but a few years after starting cohabitation, women already doubled the risk of obesity compared to those who were still single or dating someone but without living

“If in the couple there is one who wants to take care of himself and the other does not, the most common thing is that bad habits win”

Pablo Zumaquero, dietitian-nutritionist

The endocrinologist Ana de Hollanda, coordinator of the Obesity area of ​​the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition (GOSEEN), gives her opinion on that work: “The study showed that sentimental couples who started a relationship had a tendency to gain weight, especially if the coexistence lasted more than a year. It is likely that a more stable situation will facilitate weight gain, since you are not looking for a partner. Probably, the increase in responsibility in marital commitments linked to an increase in workload, sedentary lifestyle and stress can also explain these changes in weight.

It was impossible for the trial authors to pinpoint a single culprit. Instead, they signaled a series of life changes: more complicated schedules and logistics that made it impossible to dedicate time to sports or a more active lifestyle, more eating out with friends at restaurants, and more time on the couch watching TV. Above all these factors, a characteristic of humans flies over: eating with good company makes us euphoric, so if we are with someone who eats more than us, we probably serve larger portions than when we are alone.

“Couples ask for more delivery to eat at home”, confirms the nutritionist Azahara Nieto, an expert in eating disorders and obesity. “And they usually order things that are not cooked at home: pizza, hamburgers, Chinese food, sushi… all hypercaloric,” she explains.

“Tell me who you live with and I’ll tell you how you eat,” sums up Pablo Zumaquero, a dietitian-nutritionist who has just published the book Monday I start the diet (Planet, 2022). “Junk food is more pleasant and if in the couple there is one who wants to take care of himself and the other does not, the most common thing is that bad habits win. On the other hand, when people go to live together, aesthetic concerns decrease. All the fish is already sold, ”he sums up. For the expert, the lack of control begins with snacking: “Take out a wine with some chips as an aperitif or watch a Netflix movie with an ice cream and some cookies.”

In 2016, another trial showed that the happier a couple was, the more fat they got. Those who were upset or about to get out of a relationship began to fight against being overweight, even before pronouncing the classic “we have to talk.” The research stated that couples who had lived together for more than four years doubled the risk of being overweight compared to those who were not very comfortable with their relationship. Over four years, the happy ones had gained an average of four kilos. “It is an indicator that people are comfortable and prioritize well-being over aesthetic and physical issues. The less happy ones are already motivated to go out on the market, and they want to attract a potential new partner, so they invest again in the gym and take more care of their diet, ”explains Sarah A. Novak, professor of Psychology at Hofstra University, and a of the co-authors of the study.

The “boycotter” of the couple

In couples it is common for there to be a boycotter. This is what the nutritionists interviewed for this report call someone who goes to the supermarket and buys everything that the other person does not want to eat, or someone who insists that they eat two meals because they do not like vegetables. “In my experience, the boycotters are usually men, women are more empathetic and facilitators, and they are more used to taking care of their diet; it is more difficult for them to adapt”, says Azahara Nieto.

In his office, Pablo Zumaquero sees a pattern repeating itself: men who eat poorly and are active and women who eat better but are sedentary: “They are used to keeping their mouths shut, to always being on a diet, men believe that as long as they go to the gym no problem”. Zumaquero has the habit of starting his consultations with a question: What does your partner think of you coming here? “Yes, because the changes have to be agreed between the three of us, them and me, and I have to know if I’m treading on hostile ground. It is very difficult for a couple to go on a diet”, says the nutritionist, who prefers not to recommend very radical changes to avoid rejection.

Ana de Hollanda, an endocrinologist and nutritionist at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, ​​affirms that when a family goes on a diet and loses weight, there is a “contagion” to the rest who were not subject to any diet to lose weight. “There are Spanish data that demonstrate it. If we have friends who play sports or are obese, we are more likely to play sports or be obese as well. For this reason, interventions to the entire family group can have a greater scope than individual ones ”, she points out.

“The good and the bad are contagious, and habits are re-educated,” summarizes Nieto and warns that nothing will be achieved if lifestyle changes are not maintained for more than six months or a year. Another issue is whether happy couples want to stop being happy to lose a few kilos.

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