In today’s groundbreaking research news, a study in the July Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy shows that heavy women have lower quality relationships, but the same is not true for overweight men.
In related news, the sun is a giant ball of burning flames floating high in the sky.
OK, here’s how the study went down. Dr. Janet Latner at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and New Zealand clinical psychologist Dr. Alice D. Boyes partnered to explore the link between women’s weight and the quality of their romantic relationships. Fifty-seven couples were involved in the research (Keep in mind, this is a very small sample size. I don’t remember everything I learned in grad school biostatistics but I think I recall 200-500 being at the lower end of reliable when it comes to studies and sample sizes.) Looking at possible associations between body mass index (BMI) and relationship quality, researchers found that heavier women had lower quality relationships, which they themselves predicted were more likely to end. They tended to partner with “less desirable men and thought their partners would rate them as less warm/trustworthy.”
Continuing with the sad findings, the male partners of heavier women were reported to have judged their female counterparts’ bodies less positively and rated heavier women as “less ideal” in terms of attractiveness and vitality.
Not surprisingly, when the roles were reversed – that is, when the man was the heavy one in the relationship – the same did not hold true. Men's BMIs were not associated with relationship functioning.
"Prejudice and discrimination are commonly directed at overweight individuals,” Latner said. “However, few previous studies have examined whether weight stigma occurs within established romantic relationships. Our results suggest it does.”
I’m torn with these results. There could be so many other factors at play here besides weight. What about the QUALITY of the man and the woman involved in the relationship? These men could all be complete and total idiots who haven’t morally or emotionally evolved past fourth grade. Perhaps their reports of finding their heavier partners less-than-ideal reflect the media’s influence on what they deem sexy. As one commenter on Jezebel wrote: “I just skimmed the research article. Part of the lower relationship quality was that the men rated their overweight wives as not as close to their "ideal" and not having a "nice body." I suspect that this tells us more about men internalizing what society tells us is "nice" and "ideal" than about how their actual relationships function.” Maybe the couples aren’t happy in general with each other and weight has become an easy scapegoat. Maybe the women aren’t happy in their own lives and are eating to find comfort. Or, hey, maybe the women ARE happy and simply aren’t teeny tiny. I’d like to see if the researchers asked couples about the dynamics of their relationships, if they were in love (because if you’re truly in love, your partner’s BMI really doesn’t matter, does it? Of course, if their health is at risk, you can fear for them and want them to lose weight to reduce their risk, but you still LOVE them!)
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