For Men, Being Married May Mean Being Overweight

A recent study shows that husbands are more likely to be the heavier ones in a marriage. Based on monitoring the eating habits, physical activity and the weights of 2,300 young men in the Midwest, married men were 25 percent more likely to be overweight than men who were single or in a committed relationship. About 60 percent of married men were overweight against about 40 percent of married women, according to the study.

The popular wisdom, which is so often wrong, holds that women “let themselves go” after they walk down the aisle. This study, which was published in the journal Families, Systems & Health, suggests that married men are larger than their counterparts.

The study examined “whether being in a committed relationship is protective for day-to-day health behaviors such as dietary patterns and physical activity.” The study reveals that married men were more likely to be overweight or obese compared to their unmarried counterparts. Interestingly, they also found that physical activity and eating habits were unrelated to relationship status. The findings suggests that being married may be a risk factor for overweight/obesity in men… but it may depend on the relationship.

Many studies point to the health and psychological benefits of marriage, but the new study published suggests that marriage may not be as great as it seems health-wise — at least not for men.

The scientists used data from Project EAT that monitored the diet, physical activity, and weight status of about 2,300 young adults in the Midwest. The Project EAT study aims to identify the environmental, personal, and behavioral determinants of nutritional intake, physical activity, and weight status among ethnically and socioeconomically diverse young people. Study components have included: focus groups with adolescents; school-based surveys and anthropometric measurements with middle school and high school students; interviews and surveys with parents; a five-year longitudinal follow-up as the EAT-I cohort transitioned to high school and early young adulthood, and a 10-year longitudinal follow-up as the same EAT-I cohort transitioned to early and middle young adulthood. About 35 percent of the total sample was single or casually dating, 42 percent were in a committed relationship, and 23 percent were married.

The results suggest that married men were 25 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than single men or men in a committed relationship. The scientists defined overweight as people having a body mass index over 25.

When both spouse make health a priority, and make it team approach, each can help each other develop life long healthy habits. A healthy regime includes scheduling activities (such as walking or swimming); splitting meals when dining out; cooking together (cooking at home is way healthier for you and cheaper); shopping at the farmers market (go local and  seasonal); getting organized (people are more likely to eat healthy foods when you can see them, make healthy snacks readily available and store them in clear containers in the fridge, pre-sliced, pre-washed and easy to eat)

One of the most surprising results from the study is that married women were much more likely to regularly eat breakfast. They were 47 percent more likely to eat breakfast at least five times per week than married men or men in a committed relationship.

There are benefits to eating breakfast, so the results of the study suggest that some married women may have a healthy edge.

This does not mean that being married means obesity for a man, or breakfast craving for a woman. There are many other factors at play beyond the scope of the study, including who is likely to get married in the first place, the duration of relationships, and the tendency for people to select a partner based on shared habits.

The scientists found that relationship status made little difference in other health behaviors like eating lots of fruits and vegetables, eating less fast food, and exercising. Next they hope to examine how the quality of the relationship affects the health behaviors of the couple.

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