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Avoid Weight Gain After the Wedding

If you’re getting married, you’re probably imagining a future full of romantic images - long walks on the beach while holding hands and gazing at one another lovingly through the trials of life. What you don’t imagine is the two of you sprawled on a couch 10 years later, 30 pounds overweight. While we’d much rather imagine a more svelte future, the reality is a little different. Weight gain is common as we get older, but married people may gain 6 to 9 pounds more than single people, a fact that may make you want to lace up your running shoes and sprint down the aisle just to burn a few more calories.

Putting On the Marriage Pounds

There are a number of theories for why we gain weight after we get married, but it’s always the husband’s fault, or so my female clients tell me.  One study published in Obesity found that a shared environment may "increase the likelihood of becoming obese, influence partner concordance and may be an important target for obesity intervention." Other reasons may include:

  • Less incentive to stay thin once we’ve found a partner
  • Post-pregnancy pounds stick around and may multiply for both parents
  • Eating out more or cooking larger meals
  • Couching it. Married couples tend to watch more TV than single people
  • Busy schedules leave less time for physical activity and cooking healthy meals

Another problem is that the weight gain often creeps up and you may not even realize you're watching more TV or that you’ve skipped your Sunday morning run for several weeks. Before you take on your partner's habits, take some time to plan a future that's healthier for both of you.

Avoid Post-Wedding Weight Gain

1. Establish Good Habits Early On

As many married couples can tell you, what you do together often becomes a habit and one favorite habit involves a couch, a television and your behind. If you watch TV every night, chances are good you’ll be doing that many years from now as well. Some ideas for avoiding this:

  • Stick to your workouts –It’s easy to get off track with your workouts after the wedding. Make exercise priority as soon as you get settled in. Letting too much time pass makes it harder to get back on track.
  • Do things together – It’s easy to collapse on the couch every night, but it’s just as easy to establish more active habits. Decide you'll take a walk after dinner, playing active Wii games or taking the dog for a romp in the park.
  • Make exercise part of your marriage - If you both like to exercise, you’re lucky. Many couples battle with one another because one likes to exercise and the other doesn’t. If that’s the case, dig around to find something you both enjoy–-bike rides, hiking or a tennis match on a sunny weekend. You may have to learn a new sport, but who says hitting a tiny white ball with a club a million times on a sweltering day is boring or frustrating? Not you!
  • Set ground rules – Make it a rule that you can only watch TV certain nights of the week or for a certain period of time. If video games are a factor, decide together what’s a reasonable amount of time to play without driving the other person crazy. Finding ways to enjoy downtime without letting it take over is the very essence of balance.

2. Deal With Your Eating Styles

You may be tempted to abandon your healthy eating habits after the wedding or to force the other person into abandoning his or her eating habits in favor of yours. Adapting isn’t always easy, especially if you have different dietary approaches. If she used to keep a freezer full of corn dogs and Snickers, she won’t be too happy to open the door to your frozen tofu-tree-bark-lemon-wedge surprise. On the other hand, you may have a hard time resisting temptation if you constantly see that Snickers every time you look in the freezer.

I’ve worked with a variety of clients with this issue and they've found different ways of negotiating the meal minefield:

  • Every man for himself - One couple I worked with had a fend-for-yourself approach to meals, where each person made his own meal. In this scenario, you each get what you want but, if you’re eating at different times, your meals may be a little lonely. One option is to make dinner together, even if you make separate meals.
  • The chef is the decider - Another couple I worked with followed the rule that whoever cooks the meals decides what to make. This works well if a healthy cook is in charge and the person who’s eating is willing to eat anything. As the husband told me, "She tells me what to do and I do it. There. You’ve just learned the secret to a happy marriage."
  • Separate meals - One client I worked with made two meals every night, a healthy one for her and a less healthy version for her husband. This is extra work on the chef but, for some couples, it works.
  • Make meals together - Nothing bonds a couple together more than poring over a cookbook and wondering, "What does ‘blanch’ the green beans mean?" Making meals together gives you a chance to influence what’s cooking and make it healthier. Now you can say, "Maybe we could just use a teaspoon of olive oil to sauté the green beans instead of a whole stick of butter. Just a suggestion."
  • Avoid too much eating out - If neither one of you is a great cook, you may end up making the other mistake married couples make: Eating out all the time. One couple I worked with solved this problem by taking a cooking class together and making new recipes each week.

However you work things out, talk about how you can make it easier on each other. If he’s a junk food addict and you can’t be around it, give him his own secret cabinet and agree that he’ll only eat it when you’re not around. If she’s forcing her tofu-tree-bark-lemon-wedge surprise on you at every meal, make a rule that you’ll try it once and, if you don't like it, she’ll have to try a tree-barkless recipe.

We often abandon our old lives when we get married and, in some ways, it’s good to create new routines to bring you closer together. Making sure those routines are healthy can be tough, but well worth the effort if it helps you avoid those post-wedding pounds.

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