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Relationship Weight Gain Is Real, And It's A Problem

Watch out for those "love pounds."

12/04/2017 11:48 EST | Updated 12/05/2017 12:50 EST

It's not unusual to gain weight when you enter into a new relationship — after all, there's less incentive to watch what you eat when you already have a partner who's attracted to you. But according to experts, that's not the only reason we put on the extra pounds.

In fact, weight gain is due to mealtimes becoming a central part of a relationship, specifically for those who cohabitate. As a result, couples can gain up to three or four pounds in the first three months of living together, and newlyweds can gain an average of four to five pounds during their first year of marriage, says Dr. Catherine Hankey, a nutritionist at the University of Glasgow.

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This makes a lot of sense considering sharing a meal is often the focus of many couples' first dates. And, as relationships progress, sitting down to dinner is another way couples strengthen their bond.

However, Hankey told The Times that relationship weight gain is becoming a growing problem because couples not only eat more, but become less active.

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"This is a huge cultural issue," she told the site. "People moving in together really need to watch their weight. Becoming obese is bad for self-esteem and can damage relationships too."

Plenty of past studies back up Hankey's claims that living with a partner increases the risk of obesity. In fact, research from 2007 found that relationship weight gain is contagious, as partners tend to model each other's behaviour. Thus, if one partner becomes obese, the other has a 37 per cent higher chance of also becoming obese.

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Additionally, 2013 research conducted by the Southern Methodist University (SMU) found that the happier couples are, the more weight they gain over a two-year period, while those who are unhappy maintain their weight.

Happiness and weight gain correlate because the more satisfied you are with your partner, the less pressure you put on yourself to maintain weight. And, as the SMU study notes, maintaining weight "is motivated primarily by the desire to attract a mate."

It's interesting to note, however, that studies have shown women tend to gain more weight than men in relationships. This is due to a number of factors, such as female metabolism and the fact that women tend to prioritize their relationship's needs over their own, The Health Orange reports.

So watch out for those "love pounds."

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