Will Marriage Make You Fat? How to Avoid the 'Love Chub' Trap

Marriage brings many changes, and weight gain tops the list

Mariah Carey, Britney Spears and Khloe Kardashian—even the most buff and beautiful have packed on a few pounds after getting married.

No matter who you are, it seems, it’s not unusual to gain some weight after you walk down the aisle. In fact, you don’t even need to exchange vows to suffer the effects: A 2008 study in the journal Obesity showed that couples that lived together more than two years—whether married or not—were more likely to be obese, inactive and sedentary.

It’s no secret that couples tend to spend more time sitting on the couch (maybe sharing a pint of ice cream) than out dancing in the clubs or going for long, moonlit walks. (Sound familiar?) Being in a marriage—or being part of a long-term, cohabitating couple—changes the rhythm of your life, says behavioral psychologist Mike Bishop, Ph.D., executive director at Wellspring Camps, the weight-loss retreats based in Tampa, Fla. For those who do walk down the aisle, a wedding can be a great incentive to shape up. But once the pressure and spotlight are off you, there’s less motivation to stick with the program. If you went gangbusters at the gym to fit into that slinky wedding dress, you may feel that now you’ve earned the chance to relax. Once you stop or slow down the work outs, though, the pounds can start to creep on.

Then there’s the simple fact that people in love enjoy sedentary activities: cuddling and channel surfing; sleeping in on a Saturday morning (instead of, say, getting up early to hit the gym); spending long hours sitting and sipping at outdoor cafes. The more you lounge, the less you move. And that means you burn fewer calories, and are more likely to be snacking on some empty ones. There’s also this: Marriage, particularly the first year, is stressful. And what do a lot of people do when they’re stressed? Eat. And not well. “Rarely do you hear somebody saying, ‘Oh, I’m so stressed. I’m going to go eat a big plate of broccoli,’” says Bishop. “Usually, stress eating involves chocolate or pizza.” Has getting cozy—or getting stressed—helped you put on a few pounds? If so, have faith: You can still be in a couple yet rediscover your inner, slimmer single girl. Here’s how three couples who got familiar with love chub succeeded in turning the scale in the other direction.

A Personal Trainer Brings Accountability
On her wedding day, Revee Torledo weighed in at 135 pounds and wore a size 4. Three months later, thanks to the holidays and too many nights spent snuggling on the couch, the scale was getting closer to 150 pounds than she was comfortable with. When she had to start searching the back of her closet for size 6s, she knew something had to change. She wasn’t the only one. “I was looking at my husband one morning and said, ‘You need to get rid of that little Buddha belly,’” Revee says. “He’d picked on me when I couldn’t zip up a dress too. We never had any major disagreements about [our weight gain], but we didn’t want to get to a point where we did.”

So in January 2010, Revee and Eugene made a resolution to lose what they’d gained. They both returned to what had worked for them in the past. Eugene took up capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian form of self-defense training. Revee wanted a personal trainer, but not someone she’d only see once a week. She needed a trainer who could double as a life coach and was easily accessible. Her trainer, Jen Cassetty, was available any time of the day by text, Twitter or Facebook. If Revee didn’t want to work out, Jen told her to stop procrastinating and get going. If her fitness routine felt boring, Revee could look at the iPhone fitness app Jen designed for some new ideas.

“I emailed her to say ‘I’m struggling, I’m not losing,’” Revee says. “At one point I felt as if I was working really hard and not losing a single pound. She told me to keep going. She told me to stop with the little snacks in between meals. She told me, ‘keep it up.’” Revee listened. So far both she and her husband have lost 10 pounds each. “I needed someone who could motivate me,” Revee says. “Someone who’d talk to me and say, ‘You’re not a failure, it happens to the best of us.’ My trainer helped me develop a routine and find my motivation.”

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Cutting the Carbs and Adding Leafy Greens and Lean Proteins
For Adam Saunders, 33, the happy pounds started appearing in 2006, after he met and married Jenna, the woman he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Before their wedding, at 225 pounds and at 11 percent body fat, he looked every bit the nightclub bouncer that he was. But within a year after the wedding, he was up to 276 pounds “of pure fat” and went from a 32- to 42-inch waist. Jenna, 31, went from a size 8 to a 14. How did it happen? “We just got comfortable with each other,” says Adam, who lives with Jenna in Wellington, Fla.

Adam’s wake-up call came when he saw himself on a video dancing around the house with his kids. “You see me coming down the hallway and it just looked like I’d been stung by a bee 50 times,” Adam says. “My clothes weren’t fitting. I was always out of breath, always sweating. It wasn’t a pretty sight.”

Because he works 70 hours a week, an exercise-intensive weight-loss program wasn’t going to work. Adam knew he needed to find a regimented diet that relied on cutting calories and didn’t require exercise to lose weight. He tried Smart for Life, a plan that reduced the carbohydrates in his diet and replaced them with lots of leafy greens and other vegetables, plus lean protein. Gone was his habit of collapsing on the couch after work with a tub of ice cream or bag of chocolate. Vegetables, and especially leafy greens, became the centerpiece of their dinner plates. Beverages were limited to water, diet soda or green tea. Adam went from 275 to 205 in less than six months. And he wasn’t the only one to benefit from his newfound healthy eating habits.

“He started losing weight and I didn’t want to be known as his fat wife,” says Jenna, who is down to 135 pounds after shedding 60. “I was cooking for him anyway, and so I just started eating the way he was eating.”

Losing the weight has also helped them feel better about themselves as a couple. “We had gotten to the point where we didn’t want to go and hang out with people,” Adam says. “We didn’t feel good about it. We didn’t want to be the fat couple in the crowd. But now people tell me it looks like I shed 15 years in age. And now I just feel good.”

Teamwork Helped Her Walk the Weight Off
The first five pounds crept on after Jacqueline Holder got home from her honeymoon. She hated slogging to the gym every day, so she cut down her routine to twice a week. She happily stocked the cabinets with snacks her husband loved and found herself noshing on them, too.

Then she got pregnant and those five pounds she initially gained soon turned into 75. Though she was at her heaviest weight after giving birth, her husband didn’t see the pounds and neither did she. “My husband was constantly making sure I was eating enough and telling me I was beautiful,” Jacqueline says. “So I didn't feel any pressure about my weight.”

When her son Noah was 6 months old, though, Jacqueline decided enough was enough. She felt uncomfortable, sluggish and wasn’t happy with what she saw in the mirror. So she joined a walking club and started training to walk in a half marathon. Noah is now nearly 2, and Jacqueline has walked three half marathons and run four more since she started training. She is now within five pounds of her wedding weight. Her husband gained a few post-wedding pounds and is working on losing them as well, mostly by cutting down on snacking. (Banning junk foods from the house has helped, Jacqueline says.)

“For me, just saying I would go to the gym or do an exercise DVD wasn’t enough,” Jacqueline says. “When I joined a team in training, I became responsible to the team. I had a certain amount I had to walk every day. And my husband is super-supportive too, staying with Noah on Saturdays mornings so I can meet up with my team. Having something set in concrete (on my schedule) like that really helped.”

However you choose to do it, Bishop says keeping your weight in check is really just a simple formula. “Weight management is about limiting the calories you put in your body and then burning calories that you have consumed,” he says. “If you’re neglecting either side of the equation, whether it’s calories in or calories out, that’s a formula for gaining weight.”

When young couples come to him for help with weight issues, he advises them to schedule in fitness just as they would dinner dates and office meetings. Sit down together and figure out when you’ll go biking, hiking or hit the gym.

“Especially for young couples, you’ve got to make fitness a family tradition,” Dr. Bishop says. “And you’ve got to start early by creating healthy habits [that will benefit] your family as you move forward.”

So even if you’ve put on a few post-wedding pounds, don’t fret. With a healthier diet, and some more physical activity, can ensure that you’ll always be able to fit in that wedding dress.

Did you gain weight after getting married? Chime in below!

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