You and Your Partner
The person you live with affects your weight and your weight affects that person. Part of your weight is determined by your genes, so you are more likely to be overweight if one or both of your parents were heavy. While genetics do play a role, so does living together. Weight patterns and the likelihood of overweight run together in spouses and partners and also in households of other people who are living together but do not share a blood link.
In studies looking at men and women during their first year of marriage, weight gain is common for both partners. This pattern of weight gain with marriage, especially for men, is so universal that a paper from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that an effective public health strategy to prevent weight gain may be to counsel men about the risks of marriage!
The togetherness of weight lasts beyond the first year of marriage. The connection between the weights of spouses seems to last for as long as the marriage does. Not surprisingly, the reason spouses seem to have similar weight classifications—healthy or overweight—is at least partly due to their shared environment. Living together, talking together, eating together, and sharing leisure time certainly affects weight in both direct and indirect ways. Studies done on the weight/marriage connection indicate that the effects may be due to the influence of eating meals together, a shared commitment or lack of commitment to controlling weight, or both. Regardless, the decision to lose weight has an impact on both your ability to lose weight and the environment you share with your partner.
Because the life you share with a partner is so linked with everything that you do, it makes sense that spouses and partners who decide to lose weight at the same time have better success.Weight-loss programs that include couples find that the weight loss of each member of the couple is significantly better at the end of the program and for several months afterward when compared to the people who attend the same kind of weight-loss program alone. It seems that couple-attended programs provide a different kind or quality of social support.
Certainly the benefits of losing weight as a couple are clear. But there may be less direct benefits to the partner who is not actively attending a weight-loss program, especially if this person is a husband. The husbands of the women participating in the reduced-fat diet section of the Women’s Health Trial lost more weight over three years than the spouses of women in the control group. While the absolute weight loss was not large, it is interesting because the men were unknowingly eating less butter, margarine, eggs, and red meat. And the more meals the couple shared, the bigger the effect. So even if you think you are changing your eating patterns and food choices as a lone effort, you may be helping your mate.
While it helps weight-loss success if you can do it as a team with a spouse or partner, it is not a requirement. In a study that looked at this specific aspect of weight loss, marriages that had moderate levels of friction were not an insurmountable barrier to successful weight loss. When it comes to marriage and weight loss, your partner can be a big help, but he or she does not need to be an obstacle to your achieving your goals.