Want to avoid weight gain? Stay single!

According to the title of a study in the journal Obesity , “Entry into romantic partnership is associated with obesity.”

Although marital status is often tied to improved health, greater longevity and lower prevalence of unhealthy behaviours, such as smoking, being in a romantic partnership is also a recipe for weight gain.

First it is important to note that BMI status has long been shown to be highly correlated between spouses. It is hypothesized this correlation is due to the following:

1) Assortative mating – likelihood of individuals to select romantic partners who are similar to them in behaviour as well as appearance. This explains why Brad Pitt is with Angelina Jolie and why Danny DeVito is with Rhea Perlman.

2) Shared household environment – live in the same place and thus the same environmental cues which cause one partner to be inactive and eat unhealthy influence the other.

However, this recent study specifically looks at the likelihood of gaining weight or becoming obese when people enter into relationships and co-habitate.

In one of the analyses, the authors report that over a 6 year follow up of over 11 000 individuals transitioning from being single or just dating to being married doubled the risk of becoming obese over those who did not marry.

In another analysis, the authors also found that “cohabiting and married couples had less healthy profiles for obesity, physical activity, and screen time than dating romantic pairs.” In particular, living together for more than 2 years seemed to up the risk of most unhealthy and obesigenic behaviours.

So what is it about being in a stable and long-term romantic relationship that seems to make us fatter? One theory suggest that there is a general decline in the desire to maintain body weight or general appearance for the purposes of attracting a mate.

So what’s the solution to the apparently inevitable weight gain? Stay single!

On a more serious note, we had previously discussed a paper which reported that obesity (or at least the behaviours that lead to it) are transmitted via social networks – marriage being one of the strongest social ties we can develop. On the other hand, such thinking also suggests that healthy behaviours can also be transmitted from partner to partner.

So if you’d like to be in a relationship and yet avoid the impending weight-gain, maintain a healthy lifestyle and you and your partner will live happily and healthily ever after.


The, N., & Gordon-Larsen, P. (2009). Entry Into Romantic Partnership Is Associated With Obesity Obesity DOI:

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7 Responses to Want to avoid weight gain? Stay single!

  1. Brad says:

    Other theories include that there is more effort put into preparing meals and they become larger (ie. multiple courses) when they are made for two, there is more likely to be alcohol at the meal, and w0men might start eating the same amount of food as their partner (despite women’s calorie needs generally being lower).

    • Excellent thoughts, Brad. I can certainly vouch for the likelihood of the last scenario you proposed, where the female partner ends up consuming similar amounts of food to her male partner despite different energy needs. This has certainly happened in my relationship. However, it has ended up that my intake has gone down a bit, while that of my partner’s has increased so that we meet somwhere in the middle.

      • Karen says:

        I agree that I eat more now that I’m married, but if it’s true that the woman eats more to catch up, how come all married people tend to gain weight? Wouldn’t it be significantly weighted (heh) toward the females?

        I can also testify about the healthy influence a spouse/partner can have, though; my husband doesn’t drink, so I drink much less. Maybe that will make up for all the cookies he makes….

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  3. Funny this topic appears today, since this is my 5th wedding anniversary! I’ve struggled with my weight for years, but I’ve finally reached my goal weight this year. But we both are interested in eating healthy and exercising, and that helps a lot!

  4. Heather says:

    My hypothesis is that sex makes you fat. You burn a few calories, but it gives you a raging appetite and you eat more.

    Unrequited love, on the other hand, makes you skinny. You moon and pine and feel awful and not like eating.

  5. Harley says:

    Quality knowledge! I have been browsing for everything such as this for some time currently. Thanks!