If you’ve found yourself sporting your favorite baggy sweats more often recently, you’re not alone. Holiday weight gain is real. But there may be another reason why you can no longer squeeze into those butt-hugging jeans you love.
According to a recent poll of 2,000 Americans, more than three-quarters of respondents said they’d gained weight since getting together with their significant other. In fact, the average person gained 36 pounds since they first started dating their current partner.
The survey, conducted by One Poll on behalf of weight-loss support company Jenny Craig, also found that men were more susceptible to this so-called “love weight,” and that they put on nearly twice as many pounds as women during the first year of marriage. Men on average gained 22 pounds while women gained 13 pounds.
So, yes, lovebirds: Love does, in fact, come with added calories.
It’s easy to see how being in a relationship leads to larger waistlines. It’s all too tempting, for example, to adopt the unhealthy habits of your partner once you move in together. A 2011 study found that while straight men were nearly always considered “a bad influence” when it comes to a couple’s health habits, gay and lesbian couples also experienced an “unhealthy habit synchronicity.” Just because he can snack like 12-year-old boy without so much as a blip on the weight scale doesn’t mean you can too. But just having junk food in your house can be a deterrent to fitting into your dream wedding dress. It starts with one Dorito and before you know it, you’ve consumed half the bag. (Trust us, we know.)
Interestingly, research that was published earlier this year from Central Queensland University in Australia found that couples tend to live healthier lives—defined by measures such as eating their fruits and veggies, avoiding smoking and cutting back on fast food—than single people. Yet they were more likely to be overweight.
Another reason for those additional pounds? People who are married or in serious dating relationships don’t feel pressed to impress. Sixty-four percent of the respondents in the Jenny Craig survey said they no longer felt they needed to look their best all the time because they felt comfortable in their relationship.
The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices are just as contagious as unhealthy lifestyle choices. As the authors of a 2016 study point out, being in a serious relationship provides many opportunities to observe your partner’s behavior, whether it’s “the immediate taste reward of negative behaviors like fast food consumption, or the long-term benefits of regular physical activity on health and body size.”
In a statement, Dr. Pamela Peeke, an assistant clinical professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chairman of the Jenny Craig Science Advisory Board, noted: “We know that close relationships affect the health outcomes of individuals. This data is a clear indicator that couples who support each other in a healthy lifestyle together can reap the benefits of happiness together as well.”
That is to say, if you’re concerned about your pre-wedding or post-wedding weight, just ask your partner to work out with you. Added bonus: Not only will regular exercise benefit your health, but it is also known to improve your sex life.