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Love (Handles) and Marriage

Turns out, marriage—and divorce—can cause you to pack on the pounds.

| August 22nd, 2011
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Marriage and Weight Gain

Maybe there’s a new reason that bulge of fat escaping from the sides of your jeans is called “love handles.” Many newly married couples—more focused on marital bliss than hitting the gym or watching portion sizes—find that they’ve not only gained a spouse but also a few extra pounds.

A new study backs this up, showing that marriage, as well as divorce, can lead to unhealthy weight gain. But men and women don’t put on pounds equally (shocker). Women are more likely to gain weight in a marriage, while men are more likely to tip the scale after a divorce, especially if they’re both over age 30, according to new research presented at the 106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

QUIZ: Are You at a Healthy Weight?

In the study, the researchers looked at data, including BMI (body mass index), on more than 10,000 people surveyed from 1986 to 2008, and followed the study participants up until two years after a martial transition—namely, marriage or divorce. They found that both men and women who married or divorced were more likely than never-married people to have a small weight gain—about seven to 20 pounds, based on a 5’ 10” adult—in the two years following their marital transition. Men were more likely to have large weight gains—more than about 21 pounds, based on a 5’ 10” adult—after divorce.

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“Clearly, the effect of marital transitions on weight changes differs by gender,” Dmitry Tumin, lead author of the study and doctoral student in sociology at Ohio State University said in a statement. “Divorces for men and, to some extent, marriages for women promote weight gains that may be large enough to pose a health risk.”

So why do the pounds pile on differently for men and women? “Married women often have a larger role around the house than men do, and they may have less time to exercise and stay fit than similar unmarried women,” study co-author Zhenchao Qian, a professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said in a statement. “On the other hand, studies show that married men get a health benefit from marriage, and they lose that benefit once they get divorced, which may lead to their weight gain.”

MORE: The Right Bra Will Shave Off Five Pounds!

In other words, women gain weight in marriage because they are taking care of everyone but themselves, and men gain weight after divorce once their wife isn't around to keep the beer and pizza away from them anymore.

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