By Mary Perry, Zone Director of Clinical Trials
People often ask my husband what it’s like being married to a dietitian, thinking he’s most likely healthy and deprived. Even though striking a balance with food in your relationship can be tough, making healthy options available more often than not leaves room for the occasional indulgence so you don’t have to feel deprived.
While marriage may bode well for adding years to our life and happiness, when it comes to our waistlines, it’s not so much the fairy-tale ending we were hoping for. A study published in the Journal of Obesity a few years back showed that individuals who are married or living with one another in a romantic partnership for more than two years are more likely to become obese compared to those who are just dating (1). Not so fast! There is no reason to swear off your partnership yet. Here are some ways that both you and your mate can avoid packing on the pounds together and still reap the happiness that comes from being together.
1. Keep each other in check: The last thing you want to do is feel like you are being policed or policing your partner for how they are eating but get on the same page with one another and tell your partner what you need from him or her in order to feel supported in your goals. Write down what your goals are and check in with your partner on a frequency that works for the both of you. This will prevent your significant other from sabotaging your efforts, and just the accountability and support will help to get you to your goals.
2. Get Physical: Find activities you both enjoy doing together, whether it’s running, kayaking, swimming, biking or just walking. Instead of gravitating toward the couch every night after dinner, go out for a walk or go to bed early so you can get up in the morning and go for a run or get to the gym together. It might be tough initially, but once it becomes a habit, you won’t think twice about it.
3. Avoid the Mindless Eating: We’ve all opened that bag of chips or crackers before our favorite show only to have it gone by the end. This is mindless eating. Whether you sit side-by-side with your dueling laptops or watch TV for hours on end, avoid having food around so you aren’t just eating to eat versus being aware of how much you are actually consuming.
4. Eat In: Getting take-out or eating out regularly makes it easy for our portion sizes to get distorted and to over-consume calories. Start cooking together. Alternate nights that the two of you cook or devote one or two weekend nights to finding a recipe, grocery shopping and cooking together. If you spend time on the weekend making a new recipe, you can then incorporate it into your weekly meals.
5. Avoid the Simple Carbs: When the majority of our diet is made up of simple carbohydrates in the form of candy, pastries, desserts, breads and pastas, it can wreak havoc on our bodies by making us fatigued, hungry, and causing our blood sugar to rise and fall rapidly. Try to aim for lean protein at each meal along with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Keep simple carbohydrates to condiment-size portions or as an occasional treat.
6. Get on the scale: Hopping on the scale at the same time each week is helpful to monitor trends. Establish a red zone. Once the scale hits the 5-pound mark, you know that you need to start cutting back or changing habits. Knowing your number keeps you in check and avoids you gaining too much weight without knowing.
7. Enlist Your Friends: A little healthy competition goes a long way. If you have a bunch of couples you hang out with each weekend, switch up the routine a bit with a friendly football game or start a pool on who can lose the most inches, the most weight, or change their cholesterol level the most. Getting your friends on board in a fun atmosphere makes it easier to stick to your goals without feeling isolated when you get together on the weekends.
- The NS1, Gordon-Larsen P. Entry into romantic partnership is associated with obesity. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2009 Jul;17(7):1441-7. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.97.